By Lt.j.g. Julie Rosa
USS Simpson PAO
Guided missile frigate USS Simpson (FFG 56) recently conducted a 4-day port visit to Casablanca, Morocco during its deployment to the 6th Fleet area of operation.
See more photos of USS Simpson's visit to Casablanca
Simpson's multi-purpose visit to Morocco provided great strides in strengthening the relationship between our two countries, re-enforced our foreign cooperation, and provided a liberty opportunity for the crew which continued to promote trust in America and its citizens.
Prior to mooring in Casablanca USS Simpson and the RMN Hassan II exchanged opportunities to hone their Maritime Interdiction Operation skills in the execution of an underway exercise flawlessly designed and coordinated by the Royal Moroccan Navy. Both countries Visit, Board, Search and Seizure (VBSS) teams deployed utilizing their own organic assets to practice compliant boardings and conduct personnel and space searches.
"Overall it was an enlightening experience to compare tactics and techniques with a proficient VBSS team from a foreign country. Both teams gained a fresh look that yielded significant impressions responsible for delivering new ideas and experiences that will improve our manner of approach; and we look forward to working with the Royal Moroccan Navy again" said Ensign Andrew Hahn, Simpson's Boarding Officer.
Additionally, the Moroccans also designed a series of ship maneuvers responsible for close control of all assets and safely transitioning them through a series of synchronous tactical formations. These events were so well designed with the use of Allied Publications that neither ship required a face-to-face planning conference or brief prior to conducting the events. The communications, exercise organization documents, and professionalism of Hassan II ensured the exercise was conducted with superb ship handling skill and safety.
Upon completion of the at sea exercise, Simpson moored in the busiest commercial port in Morocco and immediately opened the brow to awaiting visitors. Several crew members participated in interviews and tours with many Moroccan press representatives. Simpson's 1st Lieutenant Ensign Arabia Littlejohn fielded questions on the pier while the Combat Systems Officer Lt. John Bear led the group on a tour.
After taking on supplies Simpson's off duty crew members were able to enjoy some liberty. Sailors practiced their bargaining skills visiting the Old Medina where hundreds of vendors sell their wares. Many returned from liberty with various Moroccan items such as, hand carved wooden pieces, rugs, and other decorative items. Other places of interest were the Moroccan Mall and Anfa Point where Sailors were able to do enjoy more shopping, try traditional Moroccan food, and soak up the local culture. Rick's CafÃ© was also a place that Sailors frequented. It is the restaurant made famous by the classic American love story Casablanca starring Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman.
The highlight of the visit came on day two. More than 30 Simpson Sailors volunteered to visit the Bennani School for Girls to lend a hand gardening, baking, teaching, and playing several games and sports with the residents. The Bennani School houses orphaned or disadvantaged girls ranging from age 7 to 18. The community relations participants volunteered alongside local college students from the Moroccan American Volunteer group who were able to help translate and explain the various projects or games taking place during the day.
summed the day up by saying, "I couldn't be more proud of this crew's unselfish dedication to our Navy's mission as demonstrated by their volunteer work conducted at the Benanni Center Girl's School," said Cmdr. Chris Follin, Simpson's commanding officer. "This event was a major highlight of their port visit that will never be forgotten by our Sailors or the bright faces of the school children."
Throughout the port visit, the Royal Moroccan Navy graciously offered to host Simpson Sailors on tours to Hassan II Mosque. Hassan II Mosque is touted as the 3rd largest mosque in the world, has the highest religious minaret in the world at 200 meters and can house 25,000 worshippers at one time. Each Sailor participating in the tour was in awe of the sheer size, beauty, and amount of minute detail built into the mosque.
While some Sailors were on liberty others across all departments kept busy preparing the ship for the largest reception of this 2013-2014 AFRICOM deployment. The flight deck tent was erected, lights rigged along all sides, flags were hung to adorn the hangar bay, and tables and bars were set up around the flight deck. The Culinary Specialists created a large and diverse spread of food to accommodate the different tastes of our multi-national guests. The meal was topped off with cakes depicting the US and Moroccan flags and a blue ice sculpture of Simpson's mascot, the Falcon.
More than 200 people attended the reception ranging from local business owners, Foreign Embassy delegates, military personnel from different nations, and of course Simpson Sailors. Due to most guests speaking French and only limited English there was some difficulty with translation, but everyone displayed good spirits and managed to communicate enough to enjoy each others company. The reception was a huge success on all accounts and attendees were very pleased with the dÃ©cor, ambiance, food, refreshments, and the people present. Many Sailors were able to make connections with local residents and get advice on places to go, best restaurants to visit, and local items that should be brought home. Some guests even offered to show Sailors around personally, showing kindness that exemplifies the Moroccan people.
As USS Simpson departed Casablanca Follin said, "I am very pleased Simpson was given another opportunity to visit Casablanca and to operate with the Royal Moroccan Navy. It's not very often that one of our ships has the opportunity to re-visit friends we made on a previous deployment. More than 50 percent of the crew remains on board since our last visit in January/February 2012 and we enjoyed building upon the cooperative efforts and interoperability in training that both of our Navies strengthened during our last visit. When we share ideas and learn to operate together, we become twice as strong a force capable of delivering a more secure world for our children to enjoy."