By Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Sara Eshleman
“I joined to serve my country;” “me alisté en la armada para servir a mi país;” “alistei-me para servir o meu país;” “mi sono arruolato per servire la mia Patria.” It’s the answer scores of American Sailors, Soldiers, Marines, Airmen, and Coast Guardsmen give when asked, “Why did you join the military?”
Ask the same to a Spanish Marine or Sailor in the Armada; a Lt. Cmdr. or her chiefs from Portugal; or a Lt. j.g. from Italy, and the question elicits a similar response. Though the world’s militaries speak a multitude of different languages, all are unified in their conviction to serve their nations. And collaboration between international partners leads to increased cooperation, enhancing the ability of each military to achieve their mutual goals.
Nine international partners representing Spain, Portugal, and Italy embarked aboard the Spearhead-class expeditionary fast transport ship USNS Carson City (T-EPF 7) for a six-week Africa Partnership Station (APS) deployment to the Gulf of Guinea. They joined a crew of more than 100 personnel comprised of U.S. Sailors, Coast Guardsmen, and civilian mariners from the Military Sealift Command.
“When my commander said to me that I would be on Carson City, I was very excited,” said Italian Navy Lt. j.g. Giuseppe Di Domenico. “I would like to improve my knowledge and compare my skills with my colleagues and also with other country’s navies.”
Carson City’s team of international allies accompanied American counterparts as they visited five partner nations in West Africa, contributing their own best practices through various subject matter expert exchanges and military-to-military interactions to include small boat maintenance assistance, maritime law enforcement engagements, and medical and community relations outreach.
Di Domenico is attached to the Bergamini-class frigate ITS Carabiniere (F 593), stationed in Taranto, Italy. This is his first command, where he reported in 2016 after graduating from the Italian Naval Academy. On his ship, Di Domenico is in charge of the radar and electronic warfare department. During navigation evolutions, he stands watch as the officer of the deck. Just like in the U.S. Navy, Di Domenico has collateral duties, and on Carabiniere, he fulfills this responsibility as a member of the visit, board, search, and seizure (VBSS) team.
In addition to Italian, Di Domenico speaks fluent French and English, and he provided vital assistance with translation in order to ensure Carson City’s mission was a success. His presence was invaluable while the ship was in Dakar, Senegal, and Abidjan, Cote d’Ivoire, both French-speaking nations.
“I’m so honored to belong to this military detachment, because I think that it’s very important to enhance the cooperation between the states,” said Di Domenico. “I’m so proud of this, and I’m very grateful to be here visiting the wonderful places in our partners countries; in Senegal, I met my old buddies that attended the Academy with me in Italy. I think that Africa is an interesting place because it is different from Italy – I think that it is a place for discovery.”
Like Di Domenico, Portuguese Navy Lt. Cmdr. Ana Patricia Trindade, assigned to Portuguese Naval Fleet Command Headquarters, encountered colleagues during the APS deployment in Cabo Verde who attended the Portuguese Naval School with her .
“It was my first time in West Africa, so I had the opportunity to visit new countries for the first time,” said Trindade. “And because I’m a navigation officer, every time I have the opportunity to go inbound at a new port, it’s always awesome.”
Trindade is responsible for international and bilateral relations at her command in Portugal.
“Presently, I’m working ashore, so this was a miracle,” she said, referring to her selection for the mission. “I always volunteer for ship missions.”
Trindade embarked with two Portuguese chief petty officers, -, both experts in maritime law enforcement who Trindade attests were essential to accomplishing the APS mission. Trindade and one of her chiefs,, both fluent English speakers like Di Domenico, have served the APS deployment significantly not only by lending their knowledge and skill but also in their ability to work as translators in Cabo Verde, where the official language is Portuguese.
“Their skills were apparent from the moment we departed home port as Lt. Cmdr. Trindade found her way to the bridge and began working with the team,” said U.S. Navy Cmdr. Tyrone Bruce, officer in charge of the embarked military detachment. “This repeated itself with each person from a foreign military and greatly enhanced the team, which ultimately made the mission a success.”
Trindade and the other embarked international partnersexpressed thoughts about the mission and their contribution to ensuring stability and security in the region.
“I hope to give what little contribution I can to the strengthening of global maritime partnerships through training and collaborative activities in order to improve maritime safety and security in Africa,” said Trindade. “The Gulf of Guinea is a strategic region for Portugal concerning national energy security. It’s a region where, in five countries, the mother language is Portuguese, and with whom we maintain close social, cultural and economic links.”
Like Trindade, Spain’s maritime military team, with two representatives from the Spanish Navy and three from the Spanish Marine Infantry, all individually volunteered to deploy with Carson City for the APS mission. Staff Sgt. Jose Menendez Alonso, a Spanish Marine, points out that the mission is beneficial not only to the countries Carson City is visiting but also to the various nations embarked aboard Carson City.
“The Spanish Marines are allied with countries like Italy where we have established a permanent force that increases the amphibious operational capacities of NATO,” said Menendez. “We have also collaborated with other countries like Argentina, Brazil, and Egypt. We have a very strong bond with Portugal because of our frontiers and water proximity.”
According to Menendez, the Spanish Navy members, with their comprehensive knowledge of engines and maintenance, frequently accompanied the U.S. Navy’s small-boat team to their host-nation engagements, helping to resolve technical and mechanical issues with various patrol craft.
“I was excited about this opportunity, because while I have worked with military members from other countries, I have not had the opportunity to sail on ship with them for an extended amount of time or to lead a multinational group,” said Bruce. “When I received their biographies, I immediately began to think of how to best integrate each person in the mission to maximize their talents and skill sets. I did not have to plan very much or very long, because they naturally gravitated to groups with the same skill sets.”
Menendez is the boss of a motorized heavy machine gun platoon in Spain, a unit that gives the main fire support and mobility to the 1st Battalion, while his two first corporals, both assigned to a target acquisition and reconnaissance unit, are knowledgeable in insertion techniques such as parachute, scuba-diver, coxswain in small and medium boat sizes, and other mission-specific positions, like sniper. The versatile Marines frequented exchanges with the U.S. Coast Guard Tactical Law Enforcement Detachment Pacific and the medical team, lending their expertise in the fields of VBSS and tactical combat casualty care.
“We think it is important to continue to work and train with these countries, because it offers them the possibility to improve their capabilities to protect themselves, the population and, in this case, their coasts,” said Menendez.
All service members agree that the collective navies of the world are more alike than they are different, and collaboration with our allied partners gives a new and expanded meaning to the iconic adage: “Un equipo, la misma meta;” “L’unione fa la forza;” “Juntos somos mais fortes;” “One team, one fight!”
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.