LIBREVILLE, Gabon (NNS) -- Adm. James G. Foggo III, commander, U.S. Naval Forces Europe-Africa and commander, Allied Joint Force Command Naples, Italy, made concluding remarks in Libreville, Gabon, at the closing ceremony of Obangame Express 2018 (OE 18).
Foggo participated in the Senior Leader Symposium, March 25-27 in Libreville, Gabon, and conducted meetings aboard Blue Ridge-class command and control ship USS Mount Whitney (LCC 20). The ship worked with West African nations to counter illegal activities at sea, while expanding training opportunities and cooperation among regional maritime forces.
"Based on what I have observed over the past several days meeting with key leaders throughout this region, I can proclaim, without hesitation, that Obangame Express 2018 was a success," said Foggo. "Now, why am I so confident? I sincerely believe that over the past few years and, especially within the last few weeks, we have once again displayed our unified commitment to the importance of maritime safety, security, stability, and economic prosperity throughout the Gulf of Guinea."
Approximately 100 people attended the closing ceremony in Libreville, Gabon, while Mount Whitney anchored off the coast several miles from shore. In attendance were senior naval officers from the 31 participating nations in OE 18 and senior personnel from the U.S. Embassy in Gabon.
Noting that Obangame means "together," Foggo said, "This strategically important exercise focuses on bringing 'together' over 36 entities: these include 19 African nations and over 15 European, Atlantic, and international organizations under the umbrella of maritime safety, security and cooperation in the Gulf of Guinea. This is a magnificent achievement that has taken place for almost a decade, with increasing complexity, and executed with pinpoint accuracy every single year! In other words, Obangame encompasses our sustained commitment to the Gulf of Guinea."
Foggo also stated supporting vital institutions in West Africa through the exercise ultimately promotes economic opportunity throughout the Gulf of Guinea region. This includes supporting the rule of law and building the capacity of local law enforcement with maritime forces.
The closing ceremony capped off the successful eight-day exercise, held March 21-29. OE 18 is the largest regional maritime exercise in West Africa, sponsored by U.S. Africa Command. The exercise focused on countering the trafficking of illegal arms and drugs, human trafficking, illegal migration, piracy, and illegal fishing. Additionally, maritime interdiction operations and search and rescue training were incorporated as part of the exercise.
The exercise featured maritime operations centers that spanned five operational areas and covered 910,000 square miles.
The 31 nations that participated in OE 2018 included Angola, Belgium, Benin, Brazil, Cabo Verde, Cameroon, Canada, Cote d'Ivoire, Democratic Republic of Congo, Denmark, France, Gabon, Gambia, Germany, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Liberia, Morocco, Namibia, the Netherlands, Nigeria, Portugal, Republic of Congo, Sao Tome and Principe, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Spain, Togo, Turkey and the United States, as well as the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and the Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS).
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