The Coast Guard Cutter Bear is scheduled to return home August 15 following an historic 90-day deployment to Africa.
As part of a Theater Security Cooperation (TSC) mission with the U.S. Navy's Sixth Fleet, the Bear visited eight countries in North Africa and the Gulf of Guinea region
, some of which had never hosted a Coast Guard vessel before. While there, the cutter and its 100-person crew worked with and trained the naval and law enforcement forces of these nations to enhance multinational interoperability and to cultivate relationships for possible future training opportunities.
These goals are critical elements to the United States growing commitment to help establish regional stability in Africa. In addition to fighting poverty and disease in the region, strengthening security throughout the continent is a priority in the Global War on Terror. The Coast Guard's capabilities, particularly its focus on maritime law enforcement and port security, are well suited to contribute to this mission, hence the Bear's patrol.
"There are quite a bit of resources there, quite a bit of trade and other activities that go through those waters. But there's not a lot of maritime security forces," said the ship's commanding officer, Cmdr. Robert Wagner
. we're helping these countries be able to get boats and crews onto the water.
While visiting Algeria, Tunisia, Morocco, Ghana, Benin, Equatorial Guinea, Cape Verde, and Sao Tome and Principe, the Bear's crew conducted training operations with these nations naval forces to help them protect their own interests at sea.
We've been just doing some foundation-level work, basic law enforcement, basic boat operations skills and how to maintain some of the equipment that they have," explained Wagner.
There were also opportunities during the patrol for the Bearâ€™s crew to relax. While in port, the crew visited historical and cultural sites of significance, participated in community outreach programs, including renovating a school in Equatorial Guinea, and challenged local and foreign military teams to informal soccer matches. Receptions and cultural exchanges also offered opportunities to make new friends.
These North African engagements
are great opportunities for us to improve familiarity and relations between our countries,Wagner said.
Working internationally to improve homeland security is just one way the Coast Guard's capabilities have expanded in recent years. These types of missions underscore the importance of the Integrated Deepwater System (IDS), which will upgrade the Coast Guard's existing assets while transitioning to newer, more capable platforms with improved systems. IDS is crucial to the Coast Guard's continued success as its responsibilities grow.
Bear, a 270-ft. medium endurance cutter, is homeported in Portsmouth, Va.