NAVAL STATION ROTA, SPAIN -- Marines and sailors with Security Cooperation Task Force Africa Partnership Station 13 board the Royal Netherlands Navy (RNLN) landing platform dock (LPD) HNLMS Rotterdam (L800) as the sun peers over the horizon August 30. The group of warriors embarked on a three-month deployment with a unique mission: strengthen global maritime partnerships through military engagement and collaborative security in Africa. More than 90 Marines and sailors, made up of different military occupational specialties, went through months of various training exercises and courses to ensure the success of this international security cooperation initiative. The Marines departed the United States more than a week ago for Rota to await the Dutch Ship. Their time was spent wisely polishing their skills in Marine Corps Martial Arts, fast roping, helicopter operations and running obstacle courses. Lt. Col. Charles Watkins, the APS 13 officer in charge, said the dedication of the Marines and sailors under his charge showed immediately. “Every Marine here volunteered for this mission,” said Watkins, of Jamestown, N.Y. “Both the ground and aviation units conducted their own Marine essential task training and, after, came together to do some integrated training. The drive and dedication of this unit is not only felt by Watkins, but radiates through the ranks.
“The morale of the Marines is high and the dedication they’re showing has exceeded my expectations,” said New York native Lance Cpl. Jonathan Bencosme, an assistant gunner with APS 13. “I’m having fun on this deployment so far, and look forward to what it has in store.” The security cooperation task force will train with their African counterparts in different countries throughout western Africa such as Senegal, Benin, Cameroon and more. The SCTF is composed of U.S., U.K., Dutch, and Spanish Marines as part of a comprehensive effort to strengthen capabilities in a number of West Africa [Sgt V3] countries from September through November 2013. “I’m looking forward to this deployment and working with our partnered NATO forces,” concluded Watkins. You’ll get used to this but there is very specific diction regarding our training engagements because of legal and diplomatic reasons. To be safe, stick with “engagements” and “partner nations” for the most part.