The Blue Ridge-class command and control ship USS Mount Whitney (LCC 20) arrived off the coast of Monrovia, Liberia, on 24 March to participate in exercise Obangame Express 2018 (OE 18). OE 18 is a regional U.S. Navy exercise sponsored by U.S. Africa Command to improve interoperability and cooperation among the maritime forces of Gulf of Guinea nations, Europe, and North and South America.
The eight-day exercise, sponsored by U.S. Africa Command, focuses on countering the trafficking of illegal arms and drugs, human trafficking, illegal migration, piracy, and illegal fishing. Additionally, maritime interdiction operations and search and rescue training are incorporated as part of the exercise.
“We are honored to participate in Obangame Express,” said Capt. G. Robert Aguilar, commanding officer of Mount Whitney. “This ship is a symbol of our strong commitment to securing the peace, building capacity, and increasing maritime domain awareness with our West African partners. Our joint presence during this important exercise sends a powerful message throughout the region: the U.S. and West African nations will work together to protect important trade and shipping routes in the Gulf of Guinea, and increase maritime security and economic opportunities for the people of West Africa.”
Mount Whitney operates with a combined crew of more than 300 Sailors and Military Sealift Command civil service mariners. The ship’s forward operating presence in the Gulf of Guinea represents the U.S. Navy’s commitment to support West African nations in countering illegal activities at sea while expanding training opportunities and cooperation among regional maritime forces.
The goals of OE 18 are to provide participating maritime forces the opportunity to work together and share information, as well as refine tactics, techniques, and procedures in order to assist Gulf of Guinea nations with monitoring their territorial waters and exclusive economic zones. The exercise takes place from March 21-29, and encompasses an in-port command post exercise and an underway field training exercise.
The 31 nations scheduled to participate in OE 2018 include Angola, Belgium, Benin, Brazil, Cabo Verde, Cameroon, Canada, Cote d’Ivoire, Democratic Republic of Congo, Denmark, France, Gabon, Gambia, Germany, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Liberia, Morocco, Namibia, Netherlands, Nigeria, Portugal, Republic of Congo, Sao Tome and Principe, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Spain, Togo, Turkey and the United States, as well as the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and the Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS).