LOME, Togo — Africa Partnership Station (APS) pulled into port here aboard high speed vessel Swift (HSV 2) Jan. 28, as the first U.S. Navy ship to visit in 15 years. This is Swift's second port visit after joining APS, an international effort aiming to enhance regional and maritime safety and security in West and Central Africa.
"I think at the onset of the APS mission for Swift, the crew is excited and has a lot to offer. We're looking forward to the next four months," Swift Commanding Officer, Navy Cmdr. Charles W. Rock said. "We're a unique ship, different than any other I've served on. Because of that, we can get into ports that other ships can't. I just think the opportunity to visit a country like Togo is extremely unique."
While this is the first time Swift has operated in the Gulf of Guinea, the mission of maritime partnership to foster safety and security while bringing humanitarian aid to the region is one the crew is already experienced in.
"Swift participated in something similar in the last eight months called global fleet station and that was conducted in the U.S. Southern Command area of operations, specifically the Caribbean and Central America," Rock said. "We did a similar type of mission, but the cultures are different and the people are different, so the outcome of the vision of what we're trying to achieve is frankly a bit different. Although, we have a lot of experience doing this type of theater security cooperation work, this is a different spin."
While in Togo, the crew will get a chance to meet their counterparts on several different levels by participating in a community relations project at a local school, visiting an orphanage and hosting receptions with the Togolese Navy.
"I'm looking forward to going there. I think it's going to be fun. We'll get to do a lot of community relations with them," Navy Mineman 2nd Class Matthew Rishovd said. "But mostly, I'm looking forward to new experiences. This is a different country, I've never been to before and I like meeting the people. Essentially everywhere we go, we get to meet new people and different types of people and it's interesting because it definitely changes you."
Africa Partnership Station is a U.S. Naval Forces Europe-led initiative, executed by a multi-national staff aboard Swift and amphibious dock landing ship USS Fort McHenry (LSD 43). During its deployment, Swift will work with various government and non-government organizations to deliver humanitarian aid to African countries as well as distribute and maintenance various types of meteorological equipment essential in monitoring the environment in the Gulf of Guinea.