A U.S. Marine and U.S. Coastguardsmen traveled to Lomé, Togo, to demonstrate small-boat engine mechanics to a group of sailors and Gendarmerie from the Togo Navy, March 22-29.
Lance Cpl. Tyler Jackson, a Marine with Special-Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force Africa 14.1, and Petty Officer 3rd Class Brian Spence, a Coastguardsman with U.S. Coast Guard Station Seattle, formed an unusual alliance to bring their skill set to West Africa.
The two service members put together classes that focused on engine electricity, lubrication, fuel and cooling systems, and four-stroke theory. The classes focused mainly on how to troubleshoot common small-boat engines, with the emphasis on addressing the entire engine vice one particular issue at a time.
After each classroom period, the U.S. service members and Togolese sailors went outside to fix an ailing small-boat engine together.
Jackson, whose task force is assigned to conduct theater security cooperation missions in support of U.S. Africa Command and U.S. Marine Forces Europe and Africa, has conducted similar training in Senegal and Ghana.
He noted serving in a similar capacity with help from the Coast Guard made a huge difference.
“Having [machinery technician third class] Spence there made the whole thing a lot better. He has more insights into the boats, for one. It’s always better to have a second set of eyes and opinion,” he said.
It’s unusual to see Marines and Coastguardsmen training together, especially in a deployed environment. According to their website, the Coast Guard is the only branch of the five American armed forces within the Department of Homeland Security.
The team joined together after months of planning to provide the Togolese Navy trained professionals who could discuss the finer points of engine maintenance. According to a U.S. Embassy in Togo press release, the United States government funded two Defender class boats to the Togolese Navy in 2010.
According to Spence, the Defender class boats are much like any other boat in that they require many hours of maintenance to preserve a high level of readiness.
“The hardest part about the situation here is that in order to conduct proper maintenance, you need to pull the boat out of the water. With such a high pace of operations, it’s hard for them here to dedicate so much time to maintaining the boats,” said Spence.
“They run 24-hour boat operations to patrol the anchorage,” he said, referring to the area outside of a commercial port where ships anchor before either continuing their voyage or offloading their cargo.
With his experiences in the U.S. Coast Guard, Spence said he knows how important it is for patrols to act as a deterrent to crime on the water.
According to the Port of Lomé’s statistics, the port transferred more than eight million tons of goods in 2010. One can imagine why it would be important to have a Navy capable of policing such a busy port.
The U.S. service members knew the importance of being able to pass on their skills to their Togolese partners.
“We’re happy to be able to work with the Togolese here,” said Spence. “We passed on some of our knowledge to them and we could tell they would take what they learned and apply it immediately.”
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