Thursday, December 03, 2009

USS Nicholas Sets Sail for Africa

By Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class (SW) Rachael L. Leslie, Navy Public Affairs Support Element, Norfolk Public Affairs

NORFOLK, Va. (NNS) -- The guided-missile frigate USS Nicholas (FFG 47) departed her homeport at Naval Station Norfolk, Va., for a scheduled deployment Dec. 3.

The ship and her crew of 186 Sailors are set to participate in Africa Partnership Station (APS) in support of U.S. Africa Command (USAFRICOM).

"APS is so important to the Navy," said Cmdr. Mark Kesselring, the ship's commanding officer. "It helps us to expand our partnerships across the oceans."

APS is an international security cooperation initiative led by U.S. Naval Forces Africa with the goal of improving maritime safety and security in West and Central Africa.

"I want them [the crew] to come back knowing they've done their best and served their country," said Kesselring. "I also hope they gain a better appreciation for other cultures."

APS is designed to help build the professional skills and capabilities of African nations. It is also the largest maritime partnership program in African history.

"I'm so very proud of both my son and the Navy," said Joe Sagona, father of Lt. Brian Sagona, a Nicholas crew member. "I served in the Air Force back in the 70s, and I'm just so amazed at how many things the Navy does. There's just so much more to deal with and protect."

During the deployment, Nicholas is scheduled to visit and train with several countries. The training will include professional exchanges on seamanship, environmental stewardship, and maritime awareness, along with numerous humanitarian and civic outreach opportunities.