PORT GENTILE, Gabon — Africa Partnership Station (APS) musicians, stationed aboard the amphibious dock landing ship USS Fort McHenry (LSD 43), perform live for Belise Elementary School students here Jan. 16. APS is an international effort to enhance regional and maritime partnerships in West and Central Africa.
APS musicians, a contingent of the Commander, U.S. Naval Forces Europe (CNE) Band stationed in Naples, Italy have been playing at various community engagements throughout the country.
"Music is an international language that everyone can understand. While there may be small variables, music can relate to all people," said Lt. Cmdr. Steve Trzcinski, CNE band master. "Music demonstrates in a very real way, that why we may have different customs, we all enjoy the same things. Through our interaction with local musicians, we were able to connect together and enjoy each others talents and company."
Playing for over 1200 students at the school, the children soon began to cheer and sing along to the music. It was not long before many of the students joined in and began to perform with the band.
"I felt the kids enjoyed the event as much as I did, it really moved me. They are so warm, you cannot help but be motivated by them," said Musician Third Class Tobias Jaeger. "The music lit up everyone, the teachers were so proud to have this for their students."
After the band was finished performing, the school children put on their own performance that they had rehearsed as a way to say thank you to their American guests.
"The children really enjoyed the music; they want to learn about other cultures. It is through these exchanges that they are able to learn about the world," said Emerie Ngondo, a teacher at the elementary school. "We want to build partnerships, to share our customs and traditions with our friends."
Africa Partnership Station is a U.S. Naval Forces Europe-led initiative, executed by a multi-national staff aboard Fort McHenry and High Speed Vessel Swift (HSV 2). Commander Task Group 60.4 and training teams from various U.S. and European military commands, as well as governmental and non-governmental organizations are embarked aboard Fort McHenry to enhance cooperative partnerships with regional maritime services in West and Central Africa and the Gulf of Guinea.