HSV 2 Swift: Enabling Seabees to build Partnerships in Africa

The following blog post was written by Ensign Joe Keiley, HSV 2 Swift Public Affairs, and originally posted September 20, 2012 on DOD Live. During the month of September, we will be highlighting regular blog posts from the APS 12 mission in Africa.

POINTE NOIRE, Republic of Congo (Sept. 5, 2012) Builder 3rd Class Ismael Rodriguez from High-Speed Vessel Swift (HSV 2) helps paint an orphanage as part of an Africa Partnership Station (APS) visit. APS is an international security cooperation initiative, facilitated by Commander, U.S. Naval Forces Europe-Africa, aimed at strengthening global maritime partnerships through training and collaborative activities in order to improve maritime safety and security in Africa. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Donald R. Allen/ Released)

They may be more used to constructing a new airfield, roadway, or base, but the Seabees assigned to the Medical Detachment aboard High Speed Vessel Swift (HSV 2) for Africa Partnership Station have made themselves right at home in building partnerships in the countries the ship has visited.

Attached to the group since joining the ship in July in Rota, Spain, the four Seabees from Naval Mobile Construction Battalion (NMCB 1) have helped the medical team in every facet of conducting Medical Civic Affairs Program health fairs and workshops. They’ve constructed stages, helped paint an orphanage, and built up entry points at the sites the medical team has gone to, all thanks to a little muscle and some rebar, of course.

Swift is no stranger to having Seabees on board, often participating in building projects when the ship was deployed for Southern Partnership Station to South America, but this time in Africa, their mission was a little different. 

COTONOU, Benin (Sept. 12, 2012) U.S. Navy Steel Worker 1st Class Bobby Wilson, embarked from High Speed Vessel Swift (HSV 2), assists at the clinic entry point while engaged in a Medical Civic Action Program as part of an Africa Partnership Station (APS) visit. APS is an international security cooperation initiative, facilitated by Commander, U.S. Naval Forces Europe-Africa, aimed at strengthening global maritime partnerships through training and collaborative activities in order to improve maritime safety and security in Africa. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Donald R. Allen/Released)

While bringing a lot of skills to the medical team, this small but unique group is also gaining some new perspectives while making an impact to the mission. 

Their team leader, Steelworker 1st Class Bobby Wilson, remarked to me how their duties in Africa for APS have been a bit outside the norm, but valuable to him and his group all the more.

“This deployment for us has really been a chance to broaden our horizons, see things we normally don’t get to experience, so nothing was lost for us; a benefit for each one of the guys who certainly appreciates the chance to participate in a unique mission like this,” said Wilson.

While in Cameroon, the team was able to link up and help their fellow Seabees who werealready there working on renovations at a military hospital in Douala. It was a reunion of sorts for the team from Swift, seeing their fellow construction battalion mates commit to a project that, when complete, would improve sanitation and aid in the movement of patients and access to the hospital.

The team from Swift has contributed to the mission through seven different African port calls, and will be better able to provide a deeper reservoir of experience when they deploy on other missions in the future.

“Often we don’t get to see the direct impact of our job.  We certainly did at the medical events.  Seeing someone smile and thank you is motivating for the future,” said Wilson.

He also quickly added that it didn’t hurt that he and his guys were able to participate in the seafaring tradition of crossing the equator and becoming a shellback, something not too many Seabees get the chance to do.

It’s been a unique deployment for this group of Seabees, one that may be the most dynamic of their careers.

APS has brought together many groups of people on board Swift, but what has connected all of them is their focus on the mission – building new friendships, relationships, and partnerships in the countries we have visited. The uniforms we wore may have been different, whatever the primary focus of the command or even the talents the individuals had, but as a group, everyone was on the same path in Africa.

For Swift, APS has brought it one and a half times around the continent, almost five months of stops in more than 20 different African ports, a deployment that the ship’s crew of civilian mariners, Sailors and embarked personnel can all call a special time in their lives.

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