Twenty-three countries, 51 ships and more than 100 U.S. personnel came together in late March for an exercise off the coast of western Africa that trains local navies to deal with offshore threats.
On any given day, from March 19 to 27, there were an average of 16 vessels underway across 12 Gulf of Guinea national economic exclusion zones, practicing boarding, search and seizure, and other operations, said tactical command officer Capt. John Rinko.
"On any given day, there are an average of 16 vessels underway across 12 Gulf of Guinea national economic exclusion zones," said tactical command officer Capt. John Rinko, practicing boarding, search and seizure and other operations from March 19 to March 27.
"Obangame" comes from the language of the Fang people in southern Cameroon, meaning togetherness.
"The exercise sends an awareness to the bad guys that the Gulf of Guinea nations are really getting their force jacked up to deal with this issue of maritime security," Yawsom said in an interview.
Lt. Cmdr. John Petrasanta, Obangame's leader and planner, said he's seen the exercise grow by leaps and bounds since he came to 6th Fleet in 2012.
The numbers have grown from seven countries in 2012 to almost two dozen today.
Beyond planning and executing Obangame, Petrasanta and the exercise's lead assessor, Lt. Christopher Zeller, said spending so much time in Africa has been the opportunity of a lifetime.
Petrasanta said his advice to any sailors assigned to Naval Forces Africa or making port visits in the Gulf of Guinea should check their expectations at the door.
"Everything we've done down here has been a great experience — the hospitality, the friendliness," he said. "Everyone goes out of the way to make sure you're enjoying their country and their culture."
Meghann Myers is the Pentagon bureau chief at Military Times. She covers operations, policy, personnel, leadership and other issues affecting service members.