By Steven Beardsley
Stars and Stripes
ABOARD THE USNS SPEARHEAD IN THE GULF OF GUINEA — Team members wore different uniforms, spoke separate languages and relied on hand signals to communicate.
Made up of forces from Cameroon and Nigeria — neighboring countries that have historically shared little beyond a border — the special operations team inched forward together through the tight passages of this Navy catamaran during a recent vessel boarding exercise.
The drill, part of a larger Navy-hosted exercise held over several days in April, offered a glimpse of how local forces might work together to stop the kind of maritime crime that plagues this region.
It’s one of several signs of change in the Gulf of Guinea, where nations that have struggled to police territorial waters are embracing new offers for help. Many are working with a U.N. agency to streamline chains of authority among their security forces. Others, like Gabon, have sought help from the Navy in assessing their maritime forces. And countries along the most vulnerable stretch of coastline are receiving aid from a new European Union project aimed at protecting mariners.
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