Improving the maritime capabilities of West and Central African navies is just one of the key focus areas for the ongoing Africa Partnership Station, a senior officer involved in the effort said. "I think one of the critical benefits to working here is the involvement of partner nations in the planning process," Navy Capt. Cynthia Thebaud, commodore of the APS staff aboard the amphibious transport dock ship USS Nashville told bloggers and online journalists taking part in a bloggers roundtable discussion hosted by the Defense Department’s Emerging Media directorate.
Nashville is in the Gulf of Guinea on a large-scale APS mission. Thebaud said the APS initiative has evolved into several maritime security conferences that U.S. Navy leaders have attended. “We are trying to develop some concepts of ways forward in helping to enhance and develop maritime safety and security capability, and capacity in West and Central Africa is really the genesis of this initiative,” Thebaud said. Africa Partnership Station began in the fall of 2007 with the deployment of USS Fort McHenry to West Africa. The ship included an international staff and acted as a floating schoolhouse, offering a variety of maritime courses and training. The initiative has continued with deployments of other Navy and Coast Guard ships, aircraft and small training units. In early March, USS Robert G. Bradley completed the first Africa Partnership Station mission to East Africa. Thebaud said the APS mission covers four areas: “Helping them develop maritime professionals; helping them to develop a maritime domain or a special regional awareness; helping to develop response capability and capacity; and helping to develop the infrastructure,” she said.
As APS has continued its mission, it also has matured, Royal Navy Cmdr. Mark Fitzsimmons, staff director for APS Nashville, added. “One of the things that I think we are the most proud of this year versus past is that we really feel like we are responding to the needs of the … country teams and the host-nation navies, and we’re supporting their navy outreach efforts,” Fitzsimmons said.
He added that APS continues to push its knowledge forward for the benefit of future ships and future missions. “The main mission is maritime safety and security,” Fitzsimmons said. “But a by-product of that and a real tertiary benefit is our ability to do community outreach, while at the same time building maritime safety and security”. Thebaud added that the critical component to the success of APS is the involvement of partner nations in the planning process. "One of the things that we hear said the most frequently is the … opportunity to come and work in a collaborative and cooperative environment with members of other West and Central African navies," Thebaud added.