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Navy Reserve Key to Success in Building Partner Capacity in Africa

September 2010 Navy

by ADM Mark P. Fitzgerald, USN; Commander, U.S. Naval Forces Europe; Commander, U.S. Naval Forces Africa

I want to thank RADM Casey Coane and the entire Association of the United States Navy for the timely opportunity to talk with your group this spring at your first Navy Now Forum in Washington, DC. It was really a terrific audience and I enjoyed the operational and academic dialogue.

I know that AUSN has showcased numerous authors over the last few years, so the opportunity to address you in this guest column is a real treat. When I met with you all in April, I was reminded of your group’s superb efforts to balance the rocky road of understanding and shaping Policy and taking care of and serving your many customers and stakeholders, including Navy Reserve Officers, from precommissioning through retirement. Your continuing understanding of our operations and how the Navy Reserve integration and leadership folds into our lines of operation remains critical. We need your understanding so that each of you can continue to advocate successfully for our Navy and our nation’s security.

Reservists Key to Strategic Successes

Briefly, I’m going to delve into a little more of what we are doing in Africa, with a particular emphasis on how the Navy Reserve is key to the success in this strategic part of the world. I spend much of my time traveling and meeting with people across Africa, the United States and throughout Europe. A lot of folks ask us: What is our command really about? Why has the United States created this U.S. Naval Forces Africa? What did the U.S. government expect to gain for the American people by having us engage in Africa? These are all excellent questions. We work with Africans and the international community to promote the fundamental idea that establishing professional military service is an effective approach for building selfsustaining stability and fostering conditions that promote development. We want African nations to be able to solve regional problems by themselves. And leading, sustaining and engaging in these strategic efforts with our partners in Africa are our Navy Reserve professionals.

Africa Partnership Station

There’s something exciting happening off the coast of Africa. For the last three years, a growing group of partners have joined together in a common goal – enhancing maritime safety and security.

The program is called Africa Partnership Station (APS) and with it we’re starting to see a changing tide that will reap benefits for all who travel the seas on both sides of the African continent including the most traveled sea lanes in the world.

Initiated in 2007, APS has completed three highly successful “banner” deployments in the Gulf of Guinea. First with USS Fort McHenry (LSD 43) and HSV Swift, then with USS Nashville (LPD 13) and, most recently, USS Gunston Hall (LSD 44), which concluded in May. We also had our first major deployment conducted by a partner when the Dutch Navy ship, HNLMS Johan De Witt did a deployment in fall of 2009. Other deployments of surface ships, aircraft and mobile training teams occur throughout the year under the APS logo to maintain a predictable presence in Africa.

For each “banner” deployment, an international staff of European, South American and African maritime professionals teamed up with U.S. Navy Sailors, Coast Guardsmen and Marines – both Active and Navy Reserve – to provide the training to enhance skillsets needed for the future.

APS Gunston Hall just completed a prototype for a new type of engagement. She made extended stops in Sekondi, Ghana and Dakar, Senegal. In both locations, nearby nations sent members of their navies and coast guards to train together in operational areas such as small-boat operations, armed sentry, and maritime domain awareness. As well, our African partners sent sailors to work side-by-side with members of the Gunston Hall crew, in a separate program for “sea riders.” With training programs afloat and ashore, more than 250 African sailors and civilians benefited from Gunston Hall’s APS mission.

We called this mission a “hub” concept, and it demonstrates the true essence of a partnership; maritime professionals from around west and central Africa were working – and learning – together, all for the betterment of maritime safety and security. During the at-sea phase of the training, opportunities arose to sail in concert with naval vessels from other nations, including Nigeria, Senegal, Ghana, Spain, Germany and Italy – all of who are partners in keeping the region secure.

While each “banner” deployment lasted four or five months and certainly has been the primary focus of APS to date, we have conducted many other deployments and activities that have provided the enduring presence and commitment of U.S. Naval Forces Africa and our partners to this program.

Other engagements have ranged from frigates making multiple stops around Africa, to a two-ship flotilla that did a mini-banner deployment to South and East Africa this year – international staff and all – marking the biggest APS East mission to date. It doesn’t stop with ship visits though; training teams, medical missions and aviation assets are all a part of APS.

Partnerships are critical and two APS missions in the last year were actually organized and led by European navies. In addition to the contribution of the Dutch Navy’s amphibious ship, HNLMS Johan De Witt, the Belgian Navy also took a leadership role by providing BNS Godetia. This marked the first time other nations took a leading role and the result was a resounding success. Several other partner nations have expressed interest in leading an APS mission and we’re looking forward to their contributions.

Let me stop for a moment and address a key point that we need to underline: putting on a mission of this size and complexity is not an easy task. It requires many different assets – one of those being manpower. The U.S. Navy Reserve has been pivotal in the success of APS. Without the key employment of the Navy Reserve, playing vital strategic planning and tactical roles, I am convinced that our nation would not have achieved the quality of growing regional partners and professional relationships we have to date.

Navy Reserve Shining Stars in NonTraditional Roles

Literally hundreds – yes, hundreds – of Reservists have taken up the APS banner and helped make this mission a reality. Whether they are junior officers on Active Duty Special Work (ADSW) acting as country desk officers, Navy captains taking long-term assignments as my direct liaison with a U.S. Embassy, or someone doing his or her Annual Training (AT) in Kenya, Reservists have been essential throughout.

Since the dawn of the APS program, more than 2,000 Reservists have participated. The idea for APS began in 2006 during a series of maritime conferences in West and Central Africa when African leaders stated their desire to improve maritime governance and create a stable maritime environment. In this fiscal year alone, more than 300 Reservists have given their time and energy to the effort – knowing full well this mission does not meet the requirements of a mobilization... meaning as soon as they finish a 12-month ADSW, they could easily be mobilized for an overseas contingency operation. That is a powerful commitment by some very special folks. We’ve had Reservists’ support as the OIC of mission, language translators, providing medical and veterinary expertise, technical experts who can install our AIS receivers – or automated information systems – with our partners throughout the AOR. And, the list does continue.

I just returned from a trip to Nigeria, where Navy Reserve Captain Dave Rollo is permanently serving as our critical liaison, or Maritime Assistance Officer (MAO), with the Nigerian government. His efforts have enabled us to meet with influential decision makers in the Nigerian Government and establish Maritime Safety and Security tools in this critical region. Moreover, we are in the process of putting additional MAOs in Ghana, Cameroon, Sao Tome and Principe and Senegal. This is of strategic importance that our nation – and our Navy Reserve – is helping engage and work with African leaders and their people on the continent and its island nations.

Seamlessly and alongside our Active forces, our Navy Reserve serves as examples of the value added by a professional force. Our servicemembers include people of many ethnicities, of many major religions, with origins from around the world. Our Navy Reserve represents the remarkable diversity of our nation. They are also versatile, able to serve as facilitators, trainers, role models, even cultural ambassadors in uniform. The feedback we receive from our partners is that our engagements and efforts to build partner capacity are having very positive impacts.

APS is a success. Nations and leaders who once were vocal critics now seek ways to work together with us and with their neighbors as dynamic partnerships grow on the African continent. Through our activities and programs, we are demonstrating that our goal is to help strengthen African security organizations using African solutions so that they can better protect their sovereignty, their resources, and their futures.

After all, these programs are requested by Africans, approved by our State Department, authorized by our U.S. Congress and paid for by the American people to help promote long-term stability in Africa. This is some of what Navy Reserve is doing today. I truly believe that the work we are doing through APS is going to add value to the security of the United States, the lives of millions of people in Europe and Africa, and around the world.

Sailors, Diplomats and National Treasures

The shining star of reserve support has come in the way of the Maritime Partnership Program (MPP). This program has evolved into one of our command’s most critical requirements in Africa. MPP makes APS a reality, and it’s completely supported by Reservists and is key to our nation’s success in Africa.

The program works like this: Navy Reserve units assigned to the MPP will send one or two officers to our partner countries to act as the primary point of contact before, during, and after a key engagement. The officers build their knowledge base during drills at home and then deploy for the mission. This enables us to have someone on the ground working with the host nation and all the interagency pieces that are required to put on a successful ship visit or any number of missions. These Navy Reserve officers are typically assigned to our partner countries for long periods of time and make repeated trips in this role as our Navy liaison – which is essential as it enables them to develop the vital relationships needed to maintain the level of activity we do day in and day out.

The amount of experience and reliability today’s Navy Reserve brings to our many theater commanders is growing exponentially. It’s virtually impossible to distinguish between a Reservist and an Active Duty Sailor on a staff due to the incredible talent and experience they bring to the table. Today, you’re meeting many Reservists who have more time in combat zones or afloat than some regular officers.

I feel comfortable knowing these professionals are out making a difference in a region known for constant and often unknown change. The road has not been completely traveled yet; however, the Sailors that are taking us into the future will ensure a better tomorrow for Africa and thereby, in extension, to the rest of the world.

Everyone wants security, stability, and prosperity; APS and its partner nations in Africa and throughout the Americas and Europe want to answer African leaders’ requests to build a prosperous West and Central Africa. This project is about enabling nations to establish Maritime Safety and Security in their previously ungoverned waters. We want to help these nations stop maritime crime and the movement of illegal goods at sea, enforce EEZ’s, and protect their environment. To do that, we’ve worked together to create a set of shared goals, including improving maritime security, making sure African coastal nations are better able to protect their own resources and citizens, and increasing African capabilities and capacity.

Working together through this shared vision, we are all contributing to the safety and prosperity of the region. I invite you to keep watching the work of U.S. Naval Forces Europe – U.S. Naval Forces Africa, to keep offering constructive insights gained from your many varied experiences, and, most importantly, to travel with us on this journey as we work together to help build a secure, prosperous Africa capable of providing their own Mari-time Security.

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