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NEWS | Feb. 16, 2022

U.S. Naval Forces Africa Divers Deepen Relationships with Cabo Verdean Coast Guard

By CWO4 Chris Vollmer, Naval Force Africa, Engineering Directorate

Two engineer divers from Naval Forces Africa (NAVAF) conducted a week-long engagement with the Cabo Verde Coast Guard (CVCG) in Mindelo to assist with the planning of future maritime engagements and maritime capability developments in Cabo Verde, Jan. 31, 2022.

The engagement consisted of capability assessments, area development studies, hydrographic surveys, and an exchange of tactics, techniques and procedures (TTPs) for diving and hydrographic surveys.“This was my first trip overseas in the U.S. Navy and the first operational mission I have been part of since graduating from the U.S. Navy Joint Diving Officer course in Panama City, Florida,” said Lt. j.g. Marc Rappe, officer in charge of Construction Dive Detachment Bravo, Underwater Construction Team One. “The experience overall could not have been better. The Coast Guard were incredible hosts and I learned a lot about the challenges they face with limited resources and such an enormous area of responsibility.”

NAVAF has a strong relationship with the Cabo Verde Coast Guard and is working closely with the U.S. Embassy Office of Security Cooperation (OSC) in Paria, Cabo Verde and the U.S. Department of State Bureau of African Affairs, Regional Peace and Security (AF-RPS) to further enhance this relationship.  Cabo Verde is an important maritime partner for the U.S. Navy in this region not only because its exclusive economic zone (EEZ) is the size of Texas, located at the crossroads of four continents, but due to shared democratic ideals and a relationship that goes back many years.

“The maritime focus and culture across the Cabo Vere archipelago cannot be understated,” said Lt. Cmdr. Jake Coutre, U.S. Embassy Office of Security Cooperation (OSC) “Cabo Verde has had significant importance to global trade in all directions across the Atlantic for many centuries.”

The NAVAF Engineers brought a single beam hydrographic survey system to Sao Vicente, Cabo Verde to demonstrate basic hydrographic survey procedures and provide a better understanding of the undersea conditions at several locations around the island. A custom mounting bracket had to be fabricated to employ the hydrographic survey system from the CVCG patrol boat, CVCG Master Chief Manual Ribeiro, the OIC of the SAFE boat quickly made some measurements, and by the next morning the custom steel mounting bracket was completed that worked perfectly and was stable even in the rough sea conditions experienced during the survey.

“They constructed the mounting bracket in a matter of hours and it worked better than the one that comes with the kit” said Lt. j.g. Marc Rappe. “These guys are clearly used to making things work with what they have on hand”.

Cabo Verde recently initiated a “Pivot to the Sea” policy for economic and security development and their Ministry of Defense is pursuing an aggressive 10-year Coast Guard strategic development plan. Central to mutual maritime interests for this region is the protection of free and open sea lanes of communication and the mitigation of illicit activity such as drug smuggling, illegal trafficking, and illegal, unregulated, unreported (IUU) fishing. Supporting the Cabo Verde Coast Guard with developing the capabilities needed to face these challenges, to include operating under the sea is an important objective of U.S. Naval Forces Africa.

"The Cabo Verde Coast Guard are one of our key partners in this region," said Lt. Cmdr. Brent Oglesby, West African Regional Branch Chief at NAVAF. "They are a professional and capable partner, but it’s their warmth and hospitality that keeps us excited for the next opportunity to operate together.”

To deepen this maritime partnership, NAVAF sent two specialists in diving and waterfront construction to the island of Sao Vicente to assist with future plans to expand Cabo Verde Coast Guard facilities needed to increase their capacity for maritime patrols, search and rescue, maritime interdiction and other crisis response operations.  The tasks accomplished by the NAVAF and CVCG team included collection of over four square kilometers of hydrographic survey data,  identification and a diving survey of a sunken fishing vessel, and detailed analysis of seven potential construction sites for new CVCG facilities on Sao Vicente.  The engagement also focused on broadening the mutual understanding of diving capabilities so that future engagements, such as the annual Obangame Express exercise, are more complex and rewarding for all participants. The CVCG divers completed a one-hour scuba dive on the sunken fishing vessel, collecting measurements, photos and video which will be needed to develop a plan to remove this hazard to navigation.

“Many thanks to the U.S. Navy team. This was a great experience and very productive opportunity to practice hydrography and exchange ideas,” said Lt. Alcindo Gomez, chief hydrographer and executive officer of the Offshore Patrol Vessel (OPV) Guardiao (P511), CVCG. “I hope we have more opportunities to work together and share knowledge and experiences.”

U.S. Naval Forces Africa and Sixth 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.