Exercise Obangame Express 2017 concludes

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The main closing ceremony for exercise Obangame Express 2017 was held on 31 March 2017 at Camp Gallieni in Abidjan, Cote d’Ivoire.

Maritime forces throughout the Gulf of Guinea, Europe, North and South America, as well as other regional and international organizations came together to celebrate the 12-day exercise. Several other local ceremonies celebrating the exercise also took place through out the Gulf of Guinea.
“The challenges of illicit trafficking, illegal fishing, and piracy are a continuing challenge to all of the West African nations, but through consistent training on command and control, international communications, and interoperability during this exercise they have become very proficient in maritime interdiction operations,” said Capt. Mike Coleman, Obangame Express zone D commander.
“Obangame Express ended on a high note with the closing ceremonies today. The exercise was a resounding success and all participants walked away with valuable lessons learned to improve the exercise in the future. The professionalism and dedication exhibited by the Zone D countries of Cameroon, Gabon, São Tomé, and Equatorial Guinea will further increase the safety and security for their countries and the entire Gulf of Guinea region,” said Cmdr. Tim Farward, Obangame Express zone D Executive Officer.
“I think the significance of the expertise in Obangame was witnessed this year when the countries of Gabon and Cote d’Ivoire redirected ships’ conducting training to real world events. In both cases the Sailors onboard captured the parent ship, evidence was gathered, and it was turned over to the authorities on shore,” said Vice Adm. Michael Franken, Deputy Commander for Military Operations U.S. Africa Command.
“The importance of Maritime Domain Awareness and security cannot be more important for the blue economy in the Gulf of Guinea. Our collective challenge is to continue to work together as an international community and U.S. Africa Command looks forward to supporting that collaboration in the years to come,” said Vice Adm. Michael Franken, Deputy Commander for Military Operations U.S. Africa Command.

Over thirty nations were scheduled to participate in this year’s exercise including Angola, Benin, Belgium, Brazil, Cabo Verde, Cameroon, Canada, Cote d’Ivoire, Democratic Republic of Congo, Denmark, France, Gabon, Germany, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Liberia, Morocco, Namibia, Netherlands, Nigeria, Norway, Portugal, Republic of Congo, Sao Tome & Principe, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Spain, Togo, Turkey, United States, and the United Kingdom, as well as the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and the Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS).

Numerous partner nation maritime operations centers were utilized for the exercise. The concentration of U.S. forces operated in Douala, Cameroon; Accra, Ghana; Abijan, Cote d’Ivoire; and Contonou, Benin.

The word “Obangame” comes from the Fang language of southern Cameroon and other parts of Central Africa that means “togetherness.” This name was selected by African participants during a proof of concept for this exercise in 2010, to promote the importance of regional cooperation between all the Navies of the Gulf of Guinea.

The exercise took place March 20-31, 2017 and included an in-port Command Post Exercise and an underway Field Training Exercise in the Gulf of Guinea. ?