Thirteen nations participate in Obangame Express 2024 maritime interdiction training in Ghana

Over five days, 13 nations from across West Africa, Europe, and North America sent military delegations to collaborate, learn, and train together as part of the U.S. Naval Forces Europe-Africa (NAVEUR-NAVAF)’s Obangame Express 2024 military interdiction training events at the Ghana Western Naval Headquarters in Sekondi. 



By Lt.j.g. Daniel Ehrlich U.S. Naval Forces Europe-Africa/U.S. Sixth Fleet Sekondi, Ghana May 13, 2024
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Over five days, 13 nations from across West Africa, Europe, and North America sent military delegations to collaborate, learn, and train together as part of the U.S. Naval Forces Europe-Africa (NAVEUR-NAVAF)’s Obangame Express 2024 military interdiction training events at the Ghana Western Naval Headquarters in Sekondi. 

In all, 111 participants from Benin, Côte d'Ivoire, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ghana, Greece, Guinea, Liberia, the Netherlands, Nigeria, Republic of the Congo, Sierra Leone, Togo, and the United States attended lectures, practiced maritime security tactics, and drilled cooperatively together. 

Representatives from the U.S. Coast Guard’s Tactical Law Enforcement Team (TACLET), Royal Netherlands Marine Corps (Corps Mariniers) Reconnaissance Sniper Team, NATO Maritime Interdiction Operations Training Centre, and INTERPOL led a robust series of training events in Sekondi. French interpreters from the Royal Netherlands Army provided translation of the lessons to over 50 personnel from five French-speaking West African nations. 

“I think it’s wonderful to see so many nations training together,” said Royal Netherlands Marine Corps 1st Lt. Sergio D’Elia, team leader for the Dutch instructors at Sekondi. “Nations that don’t get to meet often were training together as one team… [and it] happened very naturally.” 

During the first two days of the event, participants rotated between four stations covering hallway-clearing procedures, room-clearing procedures, and tactical casualty care treating wounds and major injuries. These events were mainly taught through joint instruction by the U.S. Coast Guard and Royal Netherlands Marine Corps. Two Greek Navy personnel from NATO Maritime Interdiction Operational Training Centre (NMIOTC)’s mobile training team also joined the multinational contingent. 

“Working alongside our Dutch and Greek allies to train our African partners in maritime focused tactical procedures and medical care empowers nations to handle crisis effectively,” said U.S. Coast Guard Lt. Paul Avella, senior U.S. Coast Guard official overseeing Obangame Express 2024 training at Ghana Western Naval Headquarters. “It’s a strategic investment in peace and security.”  

The following two days of training focused on learning about initial maritime crime scene investigation and evidence collection, as well as applying this to a shipboard setting. Trainees took to Snake-class patrol ship GNS Ehwor (P 37) and Cutter-class patrol ship GNS Anzone (P 30) to practice the skills they had learned about close quarters combat and maritime interdiction. They also snapped on pairs of surgical gloves to apply crime scene evidence collection training in a hands-on activity set up by INTERPOL Regional Maritime Security Directorate criminal intelligence officer Ludovic Payet. 

“They are the first person at sea that will take action during an investigation,” said Payet. “If they do not use personal protective gear, they could contaminate the crime scene… so we have to teach them the basics so we can have a strong police case.” 

On the final day of instruction, students once again embarked aboard Ghana Navy ships and small boats to apply all that they had learned, including boarding techniques and small boat helmsmanship. Together, the militaries meshed and worked alongside one another to complete each of the tasks, often communicating with hand signals to break the language barrier. 

“It is important for all of these countries to come together because we are all Africans and we are all humans,” said Machinery Technician Seaman Apprentice Erica Davis of the Liberia National Coast Guard. “It is good to share ideas from country to country so we can get better together.” 

After the completion of the final training day’s events, U.S. Coast Guard and Royal Netherlands Marine Corps trainers awarded certificates in English and French signifying the successful completion of the week’s activities. At the closing ceremony, trainers and trainees reflected on the great strides they made together, and the lasting relationships they built in Ghana. No one nation can manage transnational threats alone, so exercises like Obangame Express provide a foundation for collaboration throughout the year. 

“In the case of maritime security in the Gulf of Guinea, it is very important that each nation has very good skills in order to cope with the threats of the area,” said Royal Netherlands Navy Capt. Idzerd van Eysinga, The Netherlands Defense Attaché for West Africa. “They need to train maritime interdiction procedures to work together internationally and ensure interoperability. Because of fast evolving threats in the region, they need to continue to train together.”    During exercise Obangame Express 2024, the 13th iteration of the exercise, partner and ally forces collaborate to enhance collective maritime law enforcement capabilities, bolster national and regional security in West Africa, and foster greater interoperability among U.S., African, and multinational partners. The U.S. routinely exercises with our partners in Africa to build enduring relationships and combined capacity to ensure the safety and security of the regional maritime environment.    For more information on Obangame Express, visit https://www.dvidshub.net/feature/obangameexpress2024 or https://twitter.com/usnavyEurope/. Please direct any questions or requests to cne_cna_c6fpao@us.navy.mil. 

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