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Africa Partnership Station USS Gunston Hall Arrives in Ghana
The Africa Partnership Station (APS) West platform USS Gunston Hall (LSD 44), along with an embarked international staff, arrived in Sekondi, Ghana, March 10, 2010, to kick off the in-country phase of APS West. <br /> <br />Prior to arriving in
The Africa Partnership Station (APS) West platform USS Gunston Hall (LSD 44), along with an embarked international staff, arrived in Sekondi, Ghana, March 10, 2010, to kick off the in-country phase of APS West.

Prior to arriving in Sekondi, Gunston Hall anchored near Lagos, Nigeria, March 8 for a half-day stop to bring students aboard from Nigeria who will take part in various training events aboard ship and at the Ghanaian navy base.

The ship also anchored offshore from the Ghanaian city of Tema on March 9 to deliver Project Handclasp supplies and to disembark Marines assigned to Security Cooperation Marine Air-Ground Task Force (SC MAGTF) and Seabees assigned to Naval Mobile Construction Battalion (NMCB) 7 who will conduct training and a disaster relief exercise with the Ghana Army. A medical team that will provide both training and outreach also arrived in conjunction with the ship.

"This maritime security initiative has been built in conjunction with our African partners," said Captain Cindy Thebaud, APS West commander. "This year, our staff and training teams incorporate officers and civilian specialists from 15 countries. Overall, a total of 20 countries, including 13 from West and Central Africa, will participate in our various events. This breadth of participation reiterates just how much maritime security truly is a global effort and responsibility."

Altogether, 67 students from Benin, Ghana and Nigeria will take part in both in port and at sea phases of training aboard Gunston Hall designed to enhance maritime safety and security.

While in Sekondi, APS students will participate in both classroom and hands-on training on topics such as fisheries management, small boat maintenance and oil platform security. Students will also learn basic first aid and combat lifesaver skills. An underway period is also scheduled that will address basic search and rescue (SAR) skills and how to safely conduct vessel inspections and law enforcement at sea. Members of the Gunston Hall crew will also be giving instruction in damage control and basic seamanship through a shiprider program.

"This is truly an amazing time," said Commander Fred Wilhelm, commanding officer of Gunston Hall. "My crew enjoys their work and any chance to demonstrate those skills in a professional exchange with fellow sailors is an opportunity they don't want to miss."

Making sure the various training evolutions run seamlessly is no easy task, but it's one that must be done to ensure the APS mission is successful.

An embarked Ghanaian navy officer, Lieutenant Commander Samuel Ayelazono, is coordinating all events tied to APS West in his home country. "Without effective coordination and organization, this mission would go haywire," said Ayelazono.

"The work Lieutenant Commander Ayelazono has conducted is impressive and absolutely critical to the mission's success," Thebaud said. "We'd be lost without his insights and leadership."

Performing duties as a maritime professional is an important aspect of the APS mission. Italian Navy Lieutenant Commander Marco Campasso is an instructor on the APS staff whose main role is helping people grasp the importance of understanding what is occurring in their maritime domain.

"By using presentations, books, and practical exercises, my goal is to help the students have a better understanding of how maritime domain impacts the security, safety and economy of the environment," said Campasso.

While training is the main objective of APS, it's not everything. Sailors from Gunston Hall will have the opportunity while in Ghana to participate in several community relations projects.

"I'm very excited to be a part of such a great mission," said Petty Officer 2nd Class Jessica Toothe. "It makes you feel good knowing that you have a chance to have a positive impact on someone's life, whether it's providing medical assistance or even something as simple as helping to paint a classroom or clear debris from a building."

Besides Ghana, the APS West team expects to visit Liberia, Sao Tome & Principe, and Senegal.

Gunston Hall is on a scheduled deployment in the U.S. 6th Fleet area of responsibility in support of APS West, an international initiative developed by Naval Forces Europe and Naval Forces Africa that aims to improve maritime safety and security in West and Central Africa.

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