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Emory S. Land Completes Gulf of Guinea Deployment

Navy NewsStand

Story Number: NNS050322-02
Release Date: 3/22/2005 11:33:00 AM

By Journalist 1st Class (SW) Terry Burnley, USS Emory S. Land Public Affairs

ROTA, Spain (NNS) -- USS Emory S. Land (AS 39) (ESL) Sailors enjoyed a well-deserved break in Rota, Spain, in March after two months of Gulf of Guinea operations in Western Africa, enhancing security cooperation between the United States and participating Gulf of Guinea nations. The ship is now headed toward its homeport in La Maddalena, Italy.

Participating in this operation were 20 foreign naval officers from Ghana, Gabon, Benin and Sao Tome, as well as France, Spain, Portugal and the United Kingdom. During underway and in-port operations, foreign national riders received training in navigation and seamanship, search and rescue, antiterrorism force protection, and HIV/AIDS awareness and prevention.

According to Capt. Michael Budney, commanding officer of Emory S. Land, the ship was chosen for this mission because of its diversity in industrial-level repair training.

"We have the abilities necessary to contribute to Gulf of Guinea navy training across a wide array of skills," Budney said. "We are unique in that area and it's something those navies really needed."

This was an unprecedented step for this type of engagement between the U.S. Navy and the navies from West African nations. U.S. Marine Corps Col. Barry Cronin, commander, Task Group 60.5, was aboard during the deployment and is confident this mission set the stage for these nations to continue to work together at other levels.

"As they start improving security, it will lead to enhanced regional stability, which in turn leads inevitably to economic development," Cronin said, "and that economic development promotes democratic thought and a better quality of life."

Improving quality of life for the citizens in the West African region was an objective for Emory S. Land Sailors. Community relations (COMREL) projects, including renovating local schools, were conducted during each port visit. The ship's repair department stayed busy fixing and refurbishing host nation navy vessels and conducting training on a variety of repair topics.

"Looking back at what we originally planned for this deployment, we conducted all scheduled training, provided the technical assistance, and achieved reasonable results we expected in those areas," Budney said. "An unexpected benefit was our greatly expanded knowledge of the area, and the desire to learn more."

Not only did Emory S. Land get results from repair training, but the ship was able to conduct underway operations and testing of repairs completed during a recent four-month major maintenance availability. The extended maintenance period was completed on schedule. However, there was no time for underway training upon completion of the availability, so trial-by-fire put Sailors to the test.

"This was our biggest challenge," Budney said. "Because this ship is basically designed to go port-to-port and fix ships, being underway and steaming for 46 days was a real test for the crew."

However, according to Budney, the crew performed well under pressure.

"The crew always looked ahead to the sorts of single-point material failures that could occur, and prepared those pieces of machinery, and in some cases loaded extra spare parts to ensure against any casualties that could cause mission failure."

Mother Nature also provided a few additional challenges. Bad weather and distant anchorage limited the ability to get Sailors ashore for liberty in Cameroon, although repair and COMREL projects were completed. Another challenge occurred during transit through southern waters in the region, when sea growth, shells, and debris clogged seawater suction drains. Extra cleaning was scheduled during each watch to quickly eliminate the problem.

ESL also persevered in lining up liberty for its Sailors, despite the weather and transportation difficulties.

"Some of the countries we visited just don't have the transportation resources available to handle an extra 1,200 visitors on a daily basis," Budney said.

However, several tours were arranged, allowing crewmembers to do local shopping and sightseeing. The final port call to Sekondi, Ghana offered the widest variety of trips as Sailors were treated to a rain forest adventure, a day at the beach and visit to historic castles.

Other significant events during the extended underway were a replenishment at sea and connected replenishment at sea, neither of which had been conducted aboard Emory S. Land since April 2003. During this deployment, ESL Sailors conducted two flawless replenishments, transferring nearly 150 pallets and loading 700,000 gallons of fuel.

According to Budney, the crew performed superbly throughout the entire mission.

"We had challenges with water hours, limited liberty in some cases, strenuous small boat and engineering operations, arduous logistics issues and numerous anchoring evolutions that required a huge amount of grit and determination to get through successfully," he said. "I never had to tell anyone to do anything - they were out in front of the problem on every occasion."

Possibly the most significant reward of the entire deployment was watching the camaraderie among foreign officers from African navies.

"The professionalism, knowledge, and eagerness to learn among the officers and men in the navies of all the nations in the region rivals any I've seen in our own Navy," Budney said. "They have economic challenges, but their personnel are ready to compete on a professional level with anyone."

Cronin agreed and added the deployment was successful beyond expectation.

"One of the most productive aspects was the staff action among the ship riders from the participating Gulf of Guinea nations," Cronin said. "They worked together on a detailed mission analysis of the various maritime challenges facing the region, and I think everyone came to understand and share the same challenge. These are regional challenges, and they can't solve them individually, nor can we solve them for them."

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