DAKAR, Senegal (NNS) -- USS Gunston Hall (LSD 44), the flagship for Africa Partnership Station (APS) West, along with an embarked international staff, arrived in Dakar, Senegal, on April 6, for the start of the second and final phase of the ship's APS West deployment.
During this phase, maritime professionals from Senegal, Cape Verde, The Gambia, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Tanzania, Togo and Equatorial Guinea, will participate in 20 days of in-port and at-sea training in maritime safety and security and a team of U.S., Spanish and Portuguese Marines will be training with the Senegalese Armed Forces in Thies.
"This is the most robust training hub we will have had during this APS mission," said Lt. Cmdr. Tim LaBenz, APS operations officer. "There are a lot of moving parts. We have more than 90 students who speak four different languages and will be partnered into smaller groups for hands-on and classroom-based training. It takes a lot of coordination, but we have a very strong and cohesive APS staff onboard Gunston Hall. Plus, none of this would be possible without the continued support of the crew of Gunston Hall. I've been very impressed with the way they've embraced the APS mission and have been actively working with our African students. It's extremely gratifying to see the entire APS team in action."
A team of maritime experts from a range of fields are also ready to interact with their African colleagues. Small-boat operations, maritime law enforcement, maritime domain awareness, port security, fisheries management, combat life saver, basic first aid, and search-and-rescue are some of the topics that will be covered while the participants are embarked.
"The last group of sailors were very enthusiastic, and I am really looking forward to working with this next group," said Master-at-Arms 2nd Class John Luther, APS port security instructor, from Marengo, Idaho. "It is going to be challenging having four different languages, but we will work around it... we find ways to get the job done."
As part of the program in Senegal, 17 Navy and Air Force medical personnel will conduct medical outreach programs at Tivouare and Noto Goury Health Centers, providing medical and dental care to local Senegalese communities. The U.S, Spanish, Portuguese and British Marines assigned to the embarked Security Cooperation Marine Air-Ground Task Force (SC-MAGTF) and Seabees assigned to Naval Mobile Construction Battalion (NMCB) 7 are ashore to conduct security cooperation training with the Senegalese National Defense Force at the Thies training camp. On April 3, a smaller group of Marines went ashore in Monrovia, Liberia, to conduct similar mil-to-mil training.
In addition, the U.S. Naval Forces Band 'Five Star Brass Quintet' will perform at various Senegalese schools, including a concert at the Thies Cultural Center, where more than 300 children are expected to attend.
Sailors from Gunston Hall and APS staff members will also have the opportunity to participate in a community outreach project at Pikine School where a wide range of projects are slated to improve the overall condition of several on-site facilities.
Additionally, 45 pallets of material will be donated through Project Handclasp, including high-nutrition meals, text books, medical supplies and desks, will be distributed to local schools and clinics.
"I'm looking forward to getting out and seeing Dakar," said Engineman Fireman Corry Fishburn, a Gunston Hall Sailor. "While in port I am going participate in one of the two COMREL projects the ship is conducting. I am also plan on taking in some of the country by trying some of the local foods."
Gunston Hall, a Whidbey Island-class amphibious dock-landing ship, is on a scheduled deployment in the 6th Fleet Area of Responsibility in support of APS West, an international initiative developed by Naval Forces Europe and Naval Forces Africa that aims to improve maritime safety and security in West and Central Africa.
Find out more about Gunston Hall at www.gunston-hall.navy.mil. You can follow Gunston Hall and APS at their respective Facebook pages, www.facebook.com/GunstonHall and www.facebook.com/AfricaPartnershipStation.