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NEWS | Feb. 6, 2023

Partners, allies celebrate successful conclusion of exercise Obangame Express 2023

By U.S. Naval Forces Europe-Africa / U.S. Sixth Fleet Public Affairs

Partners and allies celebrated the conclusion of exercise Obangame Express 2023 (OE23), the largest multinational maritime exercise in Western and Central Africa, at a closing ceremony in Lagos, Nigeria, Feb. 3, 2023.

The ceremony, hosted in the Nigerian Navy’s Admiralty Conference Center in the Naval Dockyard, included remarks by U.S. Air Force Lt. Gen. Kirk Smith, deputy commander at U.S. Africa Command, and Nigerian Navy Vice Adm. Awwal Gambo, Chief of Naval Staff.

“What you heard today is a great example of multiple partners coming together and understanding shared challenges, and shared opportunities,” said Smith. “Precision is what makes us perfect, attention to every little detail is what makes us professional. The most important part is what we learn from the exercise to make us better for the next time that we come together.”

U.S. Navy Rear Adm. Calvin Foster, director of Maritime Partnership at U.S. Naval Forces Europe-Africa, also accompanied Smith during his visit to Nigeria for the closing of exercise OE23. While in Lagos, Smith and Foster met with Nigerian leaders at the Joint Maritime Security Training Center, Western Naval Command, Naval Air Base Ojo, and the Special Boat Squadron. The tour provided a comprehensive review of the multi-faceted approach Nigeria, and other partner nations, are taking in the region’s maritime security domain.

Nigeria, OE23 host and a key leader in the Gulf of Guinea’s maritime security, has been critical to the success of Obangame Express 2023. Gambo emphasized the importance of the exercise, and how continued practice and improvement on maritime challenges improves the security and stability of the nations involved.

“Coming together is a beginning, staying together is progress, and working together is success,” said Gambo. “These are powerful testimonies of steadfast commitment… enhancing maritime security across the board. In particular, these efforts are facilitated into the integration of Obangame, national capabilities of navies, and coastguards in achieving holistic and sustainable maritime security attention in the Gulf of Guinea.”

A comprehensive roster of events elevated this year’s exercise. Ashore, armed forces from the Benin, Nigeria, Togo, and the U.S., alongside international law enforcement agencies, conducted expertise exchanges on forensics collection, combat defensive tactics, first aid at the JMSTC. At the Lagos-area Maritime Operations Center, a multi-national team exchanged lessons on the monitoring and reporting of suspicious vessels at sea, and the communication network of maritime assets against transnational threats.

At sea, the participants conducted training in countering the trafficking of persons, narcotics, illegal fishing, and piracy, as well as Visit, Board, Search and Seizure simulations – all while maintaining communication and working in concert with partner and allied ships.

In conjunction with the operational training, the exercise featured developments with the Women, Peace and Security initiative, and multiple concerts by the U.S. Naval Forces Europe-Africa (NAVEUR-NAVAF) Band. Notably, the NAVEUR-NAVAF Band was hosted by Chief Dr. Nike Davies-Okundaye, an internationally-acclaimed Nigerian artist, Channels TV, an internationally-syndicated news program, and the University of Lagos.

Conducted by U.S. Naval Forces Africa (NAVAF) and sponsored by U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM), OE23 is designed to improve regional cooperation, information-sharing practices, and tactical interdiction expertise to enhance the collective capabilities of participating nations to counter Illegal, Unreported, Unregulated (IUU) fishing and other sea-based illicit activity.

The participating nations during OE23 included Angola, Belgium, Benin, Brazil, Cabo Verde, Cameroon, Canada, Cote d’Ivoire, Democratic Republic of Congo, Denmark, France, Gabon, The Gambia, Germany, Ghana, Guinea-Bissau, Italy, Liberia, Morocco, Namibia, Netherlands, Nigeria, Poland, Portugal, Republic of Congo, Sao Tome and Principe, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Spain, Togo, and the United States. Also participating will be the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and the Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS).

For more than 80 years, U.S. Naval Forces Europe-U.S. Naval Forces Africa (NAVEUR-NAVAF) has forged strategic relationships with allies and partners, leveraging a foundation of shared values to preserve security and stability.

Headquartered in Naples, Italy, NAVEUR-NAVAF operates U.S. naval forces in the U.S. European Command (USEUCOM) and U.S. Africa Command (USAFRICOM) areas of responsibility. U.S. Sixth Fleet is permanently assigned to NAVEUR-NAVAF, and employs maritime forces through the full spectrum of joint and naval operations.