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The Sardinia, Italy-based USS Emory S. Land has sailed again for a two-month deployment to the Gulf of Guinea on a mission to teach African navies how to defend against smuggling, piracy and terrorism.

About 1,400 sailors and Marines are aboard the submarine tender, which will sail to the African nations of Sao Tome and Principe, Gabon, Congo and Angola.

The deployment is part of U.S. European Command’s big push “south and east” of Europe to secure vulnerable states where terrorists are working to gain a foothold, Navy officials have said.

“The world is getting smaller, and we need a safe and secure African region,” rich in resources such as iron, timber and petroleum, Navy Capt. Tom Rowden, commander of Task Force 65, said Monday in a telephone interview from the ship.

During this deployment, Navy leaders are laying the groundwork to equip West African countries with an unclassified, commercial network system that would allow them to keep tabs on all the vessels in and around the Gulf of Guinea. The system is similar to how air traffic controllers monitor who and what is in the skies.

“We have no funding for the equipment, that’s the bad news,” Rowden said. “The good news is that the cost is a drop in the bucket [and] we’re looking for ways to provide the equipment to them.”

The Land also will provide materials to help restore some of the West African nations’ ships. Materials include extra welding rods, steel pipes, sheet metal and other supplies to either repair or create items such as exhaust manifolds or air-conditioning ducts, said Petty Officer 2nd Class Timothy Sepula, a hull technician on his second tour to the gulf.

In Sao Tome, Seabees from Gulfport, Miss., will rebuild a high school, from new flooring in the gym to running water, urinals, sinks and concrete pillars, said Petty Officer 2nd Class Dane Hendricks, a steelworker.


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