The closing ceremony of Exercise Obangame and Saharan Express was held on 25 March in Cameroon. 2016 marks the first time these exercises have been combined into one.
Prior to this year, Exercise Obangame and Saharan Express were separate exercises held in different geographic locations. The exercises were combined to increase capacity building for more partners across West Africa. Exercise Obangame /Saharan Express 2016, sponsored by U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM), was designed to improve regional cooperation, maritime domain awareness (MDA), information-sharing practices, and tactical interdiction expertise to enhance the collective capabilities of Gulf of Guinea nations to counter sea-based illicit activity, the US military said.
“This exercise here today brings together West African and Central African nations in one of the largest and most extensive co-operative efforts not only on the continent of Africa but throughout the world,” said Michael S. Hoza, U.S. Ambassador to Cameroon.
“Relationships that are developed through these venues lead to mutual trust, which leads to operational success. Operational successes lead to establishing conditions which frame prosperity for the populations we represent, and those that we defend,” said Vice Adm. James Franken, deputy commander, Military Operations, U.S. Africa Command.
Exercise Obangame/Saharan Express is one of three U.S. Naval Forces Europe-Africa-facilitated regional exercises. The exercise is part of a comprehensive strategy by CNE-CNA/C6F and AFRICOM to provide collaborative opportunities amongst African forces and international partners that addresses maritime security concerns.
OE/SE16 was conducted in multiple areas at sea and ashore. At sea operations were conducted throughout the Gulf of Guinea and West Africa. The largest footprint ashore for OE/SE16 was in Douala, Cameroon, and at the Cameroon Battalion d’Intervention Rapide (BIR) base and Maritime Operations Center (MOC) in Idenau, Cameroon. Numerous MOCs participated from ashore across the Gulf of Guinea and West Africa along with several international organization MOCs.
The exercise lasted 12 days, with an underway portion, which included 5 simulated scenario boarding exercises aboard USNS Spearhead (T-EPF 1) and a cross-deck event with RFA Gold Rover.
Specific skill sets exercised for Obangame/Saharan Express included boarding techniques, search and rescue operations, medical casualty response, radio communication, and information management techniques.
Through enhanced cooperation, detection capabilities, and capability to respond — all objectives of Obangame/Saharan Express — Gulf of Guinea nations seek to ensure narcotics traffickers are deterred, fisheries trade is protected, and waters remain free of piracy, allowing for global trade to continue unhampered and thus enhancing overall economic stability.
There were 32 participating nations in Exercise Obangame/Saharan Express 2016 to include Angola, Benin, Belgium, Brazil, Cabo Verde, Cameroon, Cote d’Ivoire, Democratic Republic of Congo, Denmark, Equatorial Guinea, France, Gabon, Germany, Ghana, Morrocco, Netherlands, Nigeria, Portugal, Republic of Congo, Sao Tome & Principe, Senegal, South Africa, Spain, Togo, Turkey, United Kingdom, United States, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and the Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS).