A team of naval oceanographers and aerographer’s mates from Fleet Survey Team and Naval Oceanographic Office (NAVOCEANO) located at Stennis Space Center, Miss., are currently aboard USS Emory S. Land (AS 39) during their 2006 Gulf of Guinea deployment.
The group's mission is to establish and build relations with the various countries of west Africa by sharing resources and data with local hydrographers and learning from them, as well, for future endeavors. Their goal is to provide on-the-job familiarization in the science of hydrography to host nation personnel in the Gulf of Guinea region.
“What we would like to do is invite our host nation partners to participate in the hydrographic survey of their waters and brief them on the military, commercial, and scientific benefits of hydrography," Chief Aerographer’s Mate (SW/AW) David Sonnier explained. "If our mission is a success, the U.S. will return to these nations to conduct cooperative surveys."
For each port that Emory S. Land visits, the team will conduct a hydrographic survey.
“We’re going into the ports and we’re going to collect hydrographic information; basically how deep the water is,” said Sonnier. “This information will be processed and analyzed to generate what we call a ‘field chart.' A field chart is the final product from a hydrographic survey that has newly collected bathymetry [depths] and updated positions for aids to navigation. This enables the mariner to navigate safely in and out of ports.
"These charts will be provided to the local hydrographers as a means of gaining trust," he added, "establishing partnerships, and creating maritime domain awareness in the region.”
Commander, Task Force 65, Capt. Thomas Rowden said this type of surveying has been done in previous visits to the Gulf of Guinea in the rivers of Senegal.
“If they choose to do any harbor expansion or renovation, they will have the data necessary to do it correctly," he said.
By Lithographer 2nd Class Margaret Tyler, USS Emory S. Land Public Affairs
Sonnier is excited to be part of this team because Commander, U.S. Naval Forces Europe and CTF 65 are using the Fleet Survey Team as an engagement tool to meet their Theater Security Cooperation Strategy for the region.
“For the past 19 years, I’ve primarily provided meteorology support for the Navy and now I get to do hydrography for a larger cause,” said Sonnier. “Of course, there is a personal benefit; I get to visit countries on the western side of Africa for the first time.”
This is the second year the ship and her crew has deployed to the region with embarked mobile training teams designed to bolster existing capabilities within each of the partner nations.
During this deployment, which began in late February, the crew and trainers will focus on a number of bilateral maritime safety and security training opportunities. Their efforts will focus on maritime domain awareness, leadership development, natural disaster response, and medical and awareness and disease prevention. Gulf of Guinea nations participating and observing in this year’s deployment include Sao Tome and Principe, Gabon, Congo and Angola.