By Chief Mass Communication Specialist Travis Simmons
Military Sealift Command (MSC) Civil Service Mariner Abraham Asante, first engineer aboard the Spearhead-class expeditionary fast transport vessel USNS Carson City (T-EPF 7), reunited with his wife and family members during an Africa Partnership Station (APS) deployment to the Gulf of Guinea in Tema, Ghana, July 24-26, 2019.
“When I heard about our schedule I thought it was a dream, because most of the deployments are far away from this region,” said Asante, who currently lives in Ghana and travels back home when the MSC schedule allows. “I met my wife in Accra.”
Accra, the capital and largest city of Ghana, is about an hour drive from Tema.
“I was born in Washington, D.C., but I don’t remember living there,” he said. “Most of what I remember of my childhood is from Ghana and some from New York City.”
His grandparents were living in Accra when he moved in with them as a child and started school.
“I remember the airport and food vendors,” he said. “That’s where I got most of my food from. My grandma took me to Kwame Nkrumah circle in the center of Accra. It’s where a lot of activities took place at the time.”
Asante spent half of his school years in Ghana before returning to the U.S. and graduating from Bishop Ford High School in Brooklyn, New York.
“In Brooklyn, mostly I went to the movies, to Eastern Parkway, and the botanical gardens,” he said. “Growing up in Brooklyn in the 90’s isn’t what it is now. It’s much nicer now.”
He then went to study electrical engineering at SUNY Maritime Academy in the Bronx, New York.
“It was tough, but good to go through,” Asante said. “It taught me a lot, especially a lot of work ethics.”
After 10 years with MSC, he’s worked up to first engineer. MSC provides logistics and strategic sealift, as well as specialized missions, anywhere in the world to support the full spectrum of U.S. military operations.
“I am responsible for the proper operation, maintenance, and preservation of all engine department machinery and equipment,” said Asante. “This includes, but is not limited to, main engine, generators, water-making plant and treatment, sewage system, electrical systems, and so forth.”
Asante stands bridge watch, where he sits behind the navigator with a console of more than a dozen screens that show him live feeds and color-coded graphs letting him know how the machinery is operating.
“I’m always monitoring my guys conducting their rounds, taking pressure readings and looking for any abnormalities,” he said. “I’m monitoring everywhere, and I handle any alarms. If we have a fire or anything, I know if my guys are there or not.”
The ship is designed to operate in austere ports and waterways, providing added flexibility to U.S. warfighters worldwide.
Asante says this deployment has been a bit different with 85-90 embarked military ship riders.
“Having the Seabees has stood out [as different] and also the friendliness of the riders,” he said. “The Seabees have been professional, and their supplemental water purification system has helped the ship a lot. I enjoy working with the water-making team. The extra water on hand has been beneficial for the in-port periods. Without the extra water on hand, the ship would go on water rations.”
Asante is one of a few members on the deployment from West Africa. His input and participation in the Gulf of Guinea mission, as well as that of the other native Africans, has been a great assistance in regional collaboration and has supported progress through partnership with improving relationships in Africa.
He recommended a bus route to Tema and Accra for the malls, art centers, social spots, for the ship’s crew to enjoy during liberty as well as the best local routes to beat traffic. Asante said the first thing he did when he got some free time off the ship was get a local dish of plantain and spinach stew and spend a little quality time with his family during the short port visit. He said many were surprised to see him home so early.
“I’ve been pretty much everywhere in the country,” said Asante. “I have a lot of family everywhere. Originally, I was touring the country and visiting family; now I’m a family man and stay home mostly. Sometimes I’ll visit the neighboring countries like the Ivory Coast. I hope to travel with them this next time around when I go home.”
He reiterated that he likes to travel but enjoys family life as well. He said he will head back home to see family again later this year and possibly more often down the line, as he sees himself working as an electrical engineer in the years to come.
“I go back every year, two or three times, and when I get off work I normally spend a month home and [will] hopefully be back for the holidays,” said Asante. “We normally stay in Accra. For the holidays, everyone comes from the other regions, and we get together, cook, eat and catch up.”
Carson City is currently deployed to the Gulf of Guinea to demonstrate progress through partnerships and U.S. commitment to West African countries through small boat maintenance assistance, maritime law enforcement engagement, and medical and community relations outreach.
APS is U.S. Naval Forces Africa’s flagship maritime security cooperation program focusing on maritime safety and security through increased maritime awareness, response capabilities, and infrastructure. It consists of the various exercises and operations conducted by U.S., European, and African partners and allies throughout the U.S. Africa Command area of operations.
U.S. 6th Fleet, headquartered in Naples, Italy, conducts the full spectrum of joint and naval operations, often in concert with allied and interagency partners, in order to advance U.S. national interests and security and stability in Europe and Africa.