Story by Southern Partnership Station 2017 Public Affairs
GULFPORT, Mississippi - Military and civil service mariner members of Southern Partnership Station-Expeditionary Fast Transport 2017 (SPS-EPF 17) successfully completed the first-ever adaptive force package (AFP) embarkation and deployment from Gulfport, July 18.
SPS-EPF 17 team members loaded USNS Spearhead (T-EPF 1) with nearly 800,000 pounds of cargo, including construction equipment and medical supplies, to support partner capacity building and subject matter expert exchange (SMEE) operations in Central and South America.
"We have successfully concluded our first-ever adaptive force package embarkation in Gulfport, and we are excited to bring our best and brightest experts to exchange knowledge with our counterparts in Honduras," said Capt. Steven Stacy, SPS-EPF 17 mission commander.
AFPs are specialized teams of U.S. service members from the fields of engineering, force protection and medical. The service members are deployed aboard the civil service mariner-operated Spearhead in support of SPS-EPF 17, to collaborate with partner nation military forces through naval-focused training exercises, military-to-military engagements and community relations projects. This year's engagements are scheduled to take place in Honduras, Guatemala, Chile and Colombia.
Spearhead was moored at the Port of Gulfport, less than three miles from Naval Construction Battalion Center Gulfport, which was essential for a quick cargo transport and loading operation.
"It is great to be able to conduct our cargo loading and deployment from Gulfport, with such a strong Seabee presence in the local area," said Stacy. "The specialized skill sets and capabilities the Seabees bring to the table are essential to our partner capacity building efforts in Central and South America."
Lt. Cmdr. Josh Perry, SPS-EPF 17 ashore officer-in-charge, praised the team's efforts in loading such a large amount of cargo, in rainy and humid conditions, to ensure the ship was ready to depart Gulfport.
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The expeditionary fast transport vessel USNS Spearhead (T-EPF 1) pulls into Gulfport, Mississippi to begin the adaptive force package cargo loading for Southern Partnership Station 17. Photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Jeremy Starr.
"Our Sailors and civil service mariners did a tremendous job loading Spearhead with close to one million pounds of cargo for SPS 17," said Perry. "The hard work in preparing for the mission was necessary, but now we are looking forward to getting on station and doing great things in Honduras."
The Gulfport area Seabees had the opportunity to integrate with the Spearhead crew and the various military units of the SPS-EPF 17 adaptive force package, before the mission's first activities in Honduras.
"It brings me great pride to see the months of hard work the Naval Construction Force has dedicated to preparations for SPS 17," said Perry. "We are excited for the opportunity to practice our craft and work with host nation military and civilian partners to enrich lives and strengthen our partnerships."
For the first time, the AFPs will conduct well drilling operations in remote locations in Guatemala and Honduras. These wells will provide drinking water for local populations, coupled with preventative medicine SMEEs focused on preventative medicine, mosquito prevention and control, and safe water sanitation practices to improve quality of life for host nation citizens.
Commander, U.S. Naval Forces Southern Command /U.S. 4th Fleet (USNAVSO/ FOURTHFLT) supports U.S. Southern Command's (USSOUTHCOM) joint and combined military operations by employing maritime forces in cooperative maritime security operations to maintain access, enhance interoperability, and build enduring partnerships in order to enhance regional security and promote peace, stability and prosperity in 4th Fleet.