Mission to Africa – Sierra Leone

Post Written by Petty Officer 3rd Class Victoria Bonk

Small boat

A boarding team from the CGC Mohawk and Sierra Leone Law Enforcement Detachment prepare for joint boardings off the shore of Sierra Leone. U.S. Coast Guard photo by PA3 Victoria Bonk.

This week we arrived in Freetown, Sierra Leone, for a port visit after finishing up our work with a Sierra Leone Law Enforcement Detachment (LEDET) and vessels from the Republic of Sierra Leone Armed Forces Maritime Wing.

The Sierra Leone LEDET joined forces with us for three weeks as part of the African Maritime Law Enforcement Partnership (AMLEP). Mohawk and the LEDET patrolled the Sierra Leone coast and Exclusive Economic Zone assisting local officials in enforcing national laws and regulations as well as obtaining information on vessels and activities in Sierra Leone waters. Several boardings of suspect vessels found no violations, which is indicative that the AMLEP mission is working successfully.

Joint Operations

Cmdr. Robert Hendrickson, CGC Mohawk commanding officer, discusses operations plans with crewmembers from the Mohawk and a Sierra Leone Law Enforcement Detachment. U.S. Coast Guard photo by PA3 Victoria Bonk.

The U.S. Coast Guard has been involved in AMLEP operations off the coast of West Africa since 2008. We are the third Coast Guard cutter to work with U.S. Africa Command in the sovereign waters off the coast of West Africa. The joint operations not only broadened the crew’s skills sets and ability to work together but also provided a law enforcement presence in the region.

“Participating in AMLEP allowed us to look at the role we can play when it comes to international law enforcement,” said Mr. Josephus Choe Mamie, Sierra Leone fisheries officer and member of the LEDET boarding team.

“I believe our operations with the Sierra Leone LEDET were very successful. Not only did we help them conduct boardings on suspect vessels in their waters, but we also helped them gain maritime domain awareness,” said Cmdr. Robert Hendrickson, the commanding officer aboard the Mohawk.

After completing the AMLEP operations, some crewmembers from the Mohawk completed a community relations project at the Freetown Christian Faith Rescue Orphanage.

“The crew had a unique opportunity to foster new friendships with our LEDET colleagues and learn about the people and culture of Sierra Leone and also demonstrate the Coast Guard’s emphasis on humanitarian projects by spending a day making repairs to a local orphanage,” said Hendrickson.

LCDR Konczynski builds a frame in Sierra Leone

Lt. Cmdr. Henry Konczynski, the engineer officer aboard the CGC Mohawk, builds a frame for a new kitchen at the Freetown Christian Faith Rescue Orphanage. Coast Guard photo by PA3 Victoria Bon

We built a new structure to enclose the orphanage’s cooking fire, made plumbing improvements to the building and put up a tire swing to give the children something to play on. We also gave the children footballs, soccer balls and Frisbees.

“This crew never ceases to amaze me and this community relations project is just one more instance where they have exceeded my wildest expectations. The cooking shelter they erected at the Christian Faith Rescue Orphanage, along with the numerous other projects they completed there, is a great example of the Mohawk crew’s dedication to helping people in need,” said Hendrickson.

We ended our time in Freetown with a reception. The guest list included distinguished visitors from the diplomatic corps as well as the Sierra Leone and foreign military.

Since we have finished up our operations with Sierra Leone we are now back at sea and excited to work with our next African Partner nations.

PA3 Victoria Bonk, CGC Mohawk

Mohawk crew and children from the orphanage.

Crewmembers from the CGC Mohawk pose with children from the Freetown Christian Faith Rescue Orphanage. Crewmembers spent the day building a kitchen and repairing a shower at the orphanage. Coast Guard photo by PA3 Victoria Bonk

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