VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. — Sailors assigned to the Navy's Expeditionary Fast Transport vessel USNS Spearhead (T-EPF 1) are preparing for their scheduled deployment in early 2016 to the U.S. 6th Fleet area of operations to support the international collaborative capacity-building program Africa Partnership Station (APS).
Cmdr. Tim Ferracci is assigned to Navy Expeditionary Combat Command (NECC) but will serve as the officer in charge of the military attachment aboard Spearhead.
"These Sailors are excited and ready to execute the African Partnership Station mission where the focus will be on increasing African partner nation maritime law enforcement capabilities and enhancing interoperability throughout the region, said Ferracci.
"I'm proud of what these Sailors have accomplished in such a short time to prepare for this deployment and looking forward to accomplishing great things."
Sailors participated in a two-week training at the Navy Expeditionary Warfighting Development Center on Joint Expeditionary Base Little Creek-Fort Story to become better acquainted and equipped for the upcoming mission.
"My crew and I are looking forward to working with such a diverse group of Sailors," said Captain Doug Cassavant, Spearhead's master, "This year's APS is an exciting opportunity to continue to build our relationships with our African partner nations and expand maritime capabilities."
Cmdr. John Lucas, assigned to Navy Expeditionary Warfighting Development Center, added the uniqueness of the Spearhead mission is that it brings together the right people to carry out the required expeditionary mission under the Adaptive Force Package.
"This mission is bringing together various capabilities that can operate together interchangeably and successfully," said Lucas.
Ferracci added that the command element for the Adaptive Force Package comprises Sailors from a wide range of commands and backgrounds who have distinct capabilities.
Operations Specialist 1st Class Dawana Brown, one of the Sailors who will deploy aboard Spearhead for the first time, said she found the training useful.
"The training taught us a lot as far as mission requirements," said Brown. "It accelerates you to the next level of being ready."
Started in 2007, APS is a spectrum of activities that develop skill sets and interoperability among regional partners. APS works to develop the maritime capacity of countries under the four pillars of the maritime capacity-building continuum: Maritime Professionals, Maritime Domain Awareness, Infrastructure, and Response Capabilities.
Lt. Cmdr. Jason Smith, deputy mission commander and military detachment assistant officer in charge, discussed the various missions Spearhead will provide to include Theater Security Cooperation exercises to build partner national capabilities.
"The mission is designed to help those countries learn the best practices and gain experience in maritime law enforcement and how they enforce their laws on the high seas and territorial waters," said Smith.
Spearhead is the first of 11 expeditionary fast transport vessels planned for the Navy's Military Sealift Command. The ship is on her third deployment supporting theater security cooperation efforts and the international collaborative capacity-building program, Africa Partnership Station, in the U.S. 6th Fleet area of operations. Spearhead is scheduled to work with and visit more than six nations during her deployment.
T-EPF 1 is a 338-foot long aluminum catamaran capable of transporting 600 tons 1,200 nautical miles at an average speed of 35 knots, and is designed to operate in austere ports and waterways, providing added flexibility to U.S. warfighters worldwide. The ship's flight deck can also support flight operations for a wide variety of aircraft, including a CH-53 Super Stallion.