Twenty Benin service members received course completion certificates on Friday after completing a boarding team operations course on board the Belgian navy command and logistical support ship BNS Godetia (A960).
This milestone caps a nearly three month multi-lateral maritime capacity building event that has taken place on the Godetia.
Godetia, on deployment, began its maritime capacity building efforts with the multi-national exercise Obangame Express 2013 in the Gulf of Guinea and transitioned to embarking African partners for two phases for at-sea training.
The efforts fall under Africa Partnership Station (APS), an international security cooperation initiative, facilitated by Commander, U.S. Naval Forces Europe-Africa, aimed at strengthening global maritime partnerships through training and collaborative activities to improve maritime safety and security in Africa.
The U.S. Navy’s Maritime Civil Affairs and Security Training (MCAST) personnel teamed with Belgian trainers embarked on Godetia during several weeks in March to provide training to boarding teams from Gabon and the Republic of Congo (ROC).
“The training accomplished aboard Godetia signals a key milestone in the growth of APS as maritime security capacity building in Africa truly becomes an international endeavor,” said Lt. Cmdr. Jason Willenberg, who is the lead APS planner for U.S. Naval Forces Europe-Africa. “We are thankful for the partnership with the Belgian navy, and I am certain that the skills of each participant have significantly increased as a result of the at-sea training offered.”
“Gabon and Republic of Congo are always very receptive to the training we provide and always look forward to challenging training,” said Master-at-Arms 1st Class Scott A. Heckert, a MCAST team member, who had worked with some of the participants the previous year.
Participants gained skills in vessel boarding, search techniques, tactical communications, tactical movements and combat medical care. Students were able to then demonstrate these skills in a culminating boarding exercise at the end of the training phase.
“I believe that the Belgian involvement in working to build up the capability and capacity of the African partners, especially using a platform like BNS Godetia, is ideal,” said Cmdr. Luc Desanghere, Godetia commanding officer. “The Belgian Navy can provide theoretical and practical training in areas such as small boat operations, boarding operations, deck seamanship, technical procedures, navigation, force protection and communication in the same language the African partners speak. This helps to make the training effort more effective and efficient.”
African Partnership Station training is ongoing as U.S. mobile training teams and European partners’ ships work with various Africa partners to improve the skills vital to maritime safety and security.