By Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Ford Williams
USNS Carson City (T-EPF 7), a Military Sealift Command Spearhead-class expeditionary fast transport ship, concluded its 2019 Africa Partnership Station (APS) deployment following the ship’s return to Rota, Spain, Aug. 17, 2019.
During the six-week deployment to the Gulf of Guinea, Sailors and international partners from Spain, Portugal, and Italy worked alongside five African partner nations to conduct small boat maintenance, maritime law enforcement engagements, and medical and community relations outreach in the region.
Carson City completed six successful port visits: Dakar, Senegal; Abidjan, Cote d’Ivoire; Sekondi and Tema, Ghana; Lagos, Nigeria; and Mindelo, Cabo Verde.
“I am proud of the distance we covered and the number of engagements we were able to conduct,” said Cmdr. Tyrone Bruce, officer in charge (OIC) of the military detachment aboard Carson City. “As it stands, we traveled nearly 7,000 nautical miles and conducted over 130 engagements in five West African nations. Our deployment reinforced U.S. commitment to the goals of strengthening partnerships and enhancing maritime security throughout the Gulf of Guinea and promoted progress through partnership.”
The embarked medical team conducted 18 evolutions over the course of the deployment, engaging with nearly 430 medical and non-medical counterparts. Medical engagements included shipboard medicine and tactical combat casualty care drills, various surgeries, emergency and family medicine subject matter exchanges, medical conferences, and hospital tours.
U.S. Coast Guard Tactical Law Enforcement Detachment Pacific personnel, assisted by the embarked Portuguese and Spanish marines, conducted joint maritime law enforcement tactics exchanges with the five African partner nations. Best practices were exchanged between more than 100 foreign military and law enforcement agency personnel through classroom sessions and visit, board, search and seizure practical scenarios.
“I had worked with military members from other countries before but had not had the opportunity to sail with them for an extended amount of time or to lead an international group, so I was excited for the opportunity,” said Bruce. “Each person from a foreign military greatly enhanced the team. They naturally gravitated to groups with the same skill sets and helped make the mission a success.”
Over the course of the deployment, U.S. and Spanish Sailors successfully repaired and restored 13 small boat engines to operational status and, when parts weren’t available, diagnosed casualties on an additional two engines. The Sailors and their African counterparts also discussed proper upkeep and maintenance methods for the small craft repaired during each port visit.
The U.S. Naval Forces Europe Band’s New Orleans-style brass band “Topside” performed more than 40 engagements during the deployment. National broadcasts of live TV and radio performances allowed the band to have a global reach, while local performances for street parades and concerts at famous landmarks ensured a more personal connection. The band’s schedule also included support to U.S. embassies and performances during four shipboard receptions hosted by the ship and attended by embarked military personnel, international guests, and official members from the embassies and consulates in the region.
“We were fortunate to help in creating many lasting memories for the band and the citizens of our host nations,” said Chief Musician Justin Belka. “It was an amazing experience to explore the musical traditions of each partner nation and observe the audience’s enthusiasm as we performed the music of their local communities in a way that is rooted in our shared musical traditions. It was also exciting to see the social media reach created from the band’s performances and the incredibly positive reception we received throughout the deployment.”
In support of the entire ship and crew throughout extended in-port engagements, a team of seven Seabees assigned to Naval Mobile Construction Battalion (NMCB) 133, deployed out of Rota, Spain, produced more than 66,000 gallons of potable water to supplement the ship’s water supply for more than 100 military and civilian mariners.
More than 70 Sailors volunteered in four community relations projects in Dakar, Abidjan, Sekondi, and Mindelo. The projects were in conjunction with visits by Capt. Herbert Griffin, the force chaplain for U.S. Naval Forces Europe-Africa. Together, Griffin and the crew of Carson City donated furniture, tools, academic supplies, toys, and sports equipment to children in each of the visited nations.
“Carson City and her crew did an incredible job during this APS deployment promoting progress through partnership, working with our partners in West Africa to improve maritime security in the Gulf of Guinea,” said Adm. James G. Foggo III, commander, U.S. Naval Forces Europe-Africa. “The international team worked by, with, and through our African partners to ensure they received the assistance and mentorship to succeed in furthering their capabilities to protect their territorial waters and economic exclusion zones, which is critical for coastal nations.”
Carson City was the second U.S. ship to deploy in the region in support of APS. U.S. Coast Guard cutter Thetis (WMEC 910) deployed to the Gulf of Guinea earlier in the year.
APS is U.S. 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. Naval Forces Europe-Africa/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.