Emory S. Land, Carr crews lend a hand in Africa
Sailors from the frigate USS Carr and the La Maddalena, Italy-based submarine tender USS Emory S. Land are finishing a two-month deployment to the West African region with a port visit in Dakar, Senegal.
“We used to have a saying: Join the Navy and see the world. We’ve kind of brought that back a bit,” said Navy Capt. Tom Rowden, commander of Task Force 65 during the final days of the Gulf of Guinea deployment by more than 1,000 sailors.
The crews of the Land and the Norfolk, Va.-based Carr, plus Navy construction battalion personnel — Seabees — and a team of hydrographic experts, have visited more than a half-dozen countries during the deployment.
The cruise was designed to accomplish a number of things: increasing maritime security in the oil-rich region; training sailors in and improving the nations’ navies; and building relationships with various governments and peoples.
“I believe it’s really been an unqualified success on all fronts,” Rowden said. “The feedback from the navies … is that they’ve enjoyed the interaction with the crews of Carr and Emory S. Land and appreciated the work we’ve done.”
U.S. sailors trained African sailors on everything from damage control to leadership and worked on everything from basketball courts to warships.
While Rowden and other senior military officials were working with regional leaders to bolster U.S. military presence in the region, the ships’ crews, Seabees and hydrographic teams were working at building relationships on a sailor-to-sailor level.
He said the deployment has shown him how much the individual sailor has a role in improving overall relationships between nations.
In the African nation of Angola, Rowden said, he was invited to attend church services.
The pastor, a personal friend of the country’s president, told his more than 1,900 parishioners about the community relations projects the Land sailors were working on.
“He extolled the virtues of the U.S. and the efforts of the U.S. Navy,” Rowden said.
Also in the congregation, he added, were 15 associate pastors, each of whom took that message to their own congregations.
“I don’t know how many people we reached out to and touched that day,” he said.
“We can have very good and very robust relations military-to-military, and that’s good. But the cruise down here … we’re putting a face on America that’s not seen through any filters.”