Garmish, Germany — The Africa Partnership Station (APS) 2013 Initial Planning Conference (IPC) took place in Garmisch, Germany, March 28-30, 2012.
The three-day conference provided a venue for participating partner nations from Africa, Australia, Europe and North America to meet and continue the dialogue for building future APS plans, goals and objectives.
This year's main focus for APS was moving from a training-intensive program to providing more real-world maritime operations.
James Hart, deputy director for programs at U.S. Africa Command, provided opening remarks for the conference.
"APS is larger than just a program... it's a maritime capacity-building continuum with the goal of enabling our African partners to provide maritime security for peace and stability," said Hart.
During his remarks Hart spoke of the goals and objectives for APS 2013.
"How do we take APS to the next level? By moving away from a training-intensive program and organize APS efforts through emphasizing hands-on training and real-world operations."
Currently, the primary operational elements of APS include the Africa Maritime Law Enforcement Program (AMLEP), a joint mission conducted by Naval Forces Africa, U.S. Coast Guard Atlantic Area, and African navies and coast guards; maritime passing exercises; and the multi-lateral "Express" series of exercises, including Obangame Express, Saharan Express, Phoenix Express and Cutlass Express.
During the conference, representatives from a few of the attending African partner nations had an opportunity to brief the status of their respective nation's maritime environment as well as progress that has been made over the past five years due to APS.
Nations who provided country briefs included Cameroon, The Gambia, Mauritania, Morocco, Mozambique and Sao Tome Principe.
Lieutenant Simon P. Mendy, officer in charge of Administration, Logistics, Search and Rescue and Maritime Interdiction for The Gambia, opened his brief with a quote from a U.S. Navy historical figure, Rear Admiral Alfred Thayer Mahan, then went on to describe the positive impact APS has had on his country's maritime domain awareness.
"We are getting there, with bi-lateral engagements supported by Africa Partnership Station - with our partners," said Mendy.
Rear Admiral Kenneth "K.J." Norton, U.S. Naval Forces Europe-Africa deputy chief of staff for Strategy, Resources and Plans, provided closing remarks focusing on the key to the successes APS has experienced in the maritime domain environment.
"APS is a shared endeavor, and for APS to be successful, ships are the platform of choice," said Norton. "But I'm not talking about grey hulls here; I'm talking about partnerships. I'm talking about relationships. And most of all, I'm talking about friendships. Those are the ships that will ensure the continued success of APS."
Partner nations who attended the APS 2013 IPC included Australia, Belgium, Benin, Cameroon, Canada, Djibouti, Finland, France, Gabon, The Gambia, Ghana, Italy, Kenya, Mauritania, Mauritius, Morocco, Mozambique, Nigeria, Republic of Congo, Sao Tome Principe, Senegal, Seychelles, Sierra Leone, Spain, Tanzania, Togo, Tunisia, Uganda and United States of America.
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.