The US Military Sealift Command’s expeditionary fast transport vessel USNS Spearhead (T-EPF 1) and its embarked detachment of U.S. Navy Sailors, civil service mariners and U.S. Marines arrived in Libreville, Gabon in support of Africa Partnership Station, on 11 April.
While in port, Spearhead and her crew will refurbish a local orphanage alongside U.S. Navy Seabees, host personnel from the U.S. Embassy for ship tours and provide public affairs training to Gabonese military personnel.
“We are looking forward to an outstanding opportunity to work with our partners in Gabon. The planned engagements will allow us to learn from each other, increase interoperability, and further deeper our relationships with the Gabonese military that will have lasting impact,” said Commander Tim Ferracci, Africa Partnership Station 2016 mission commander.
“We are anxious to return to Gabon and continue working with the Gabonese forces and build upon our previous engagements. Our visits to Libreville in 2014 and Port Gentil in 2015 laid the framework to sustain relationships and increase capability for combined operations with our West African partner nations,” said Captain Doug Casavant, USNS Spearhead Ship’s Master, Military Sealift Command.
Spearhead’s embarked U.S. Marine Corps Theater Security Cooperation detachment, augmented with United Kingdom Royal Marines and Spanish Marines, will conduct training with Gabonese maritime forces on small unit tactics, patrol planning, close quarter battle, and VBSS operations to enhance interoperability.
U.S. Coast Guard personnel will conduct small boat operations training with Gabonese military personnel.
The U.S. Naval Forces Europe band will conduct several concerts throughout Libreville alongside activities planned for Spearhead’s time in port.
Spearhead last visited Gabon when it made a stop in Port Gentil in April 2014.
APS is an international security cooperation initiative focused on improving maritime domain awareness, maritime response capability, and regional cooperation through training opportunities and associated exercises and operations.
Spearhead is currently in the U.S. 6th Fleet area of operations (AOO) to support maritime capacity building under the Africa Partnership Station (APS) initiative.
While on deployment, Spearhead brings a unique set of capabilities to the U.S. 6th Fleet AOO. Its crew is comprised of Sailors and civil service mariners with a wide range of capabilities from engineering specialists to a fully outfitted Embarked Security Team (EST).
The 338-foot-long aluminum catamaran is capable of carrying 600 tons of military troops, vehicles, supplies, and equipment, and can transit 1,200 nautical miles at an average speed of 35 knots. It has a 20,000-square-foot mission bay area that can be reconfigured to adapt to whatever mission the ship is tasked with. Anything from carrying a containerized portable hospital to supporting disaster relief or transporting tanks and troops.
Spearhead began this scheduled deployment from Joint Expeditionary Base Little Creek-Fort Story, Virginia, Dec. 30, 2015.