During the Naval War College's (NWC) summer academic recess, College of Naval Warfare student Cmdr. Robert Stouse spent seven weeks in Senegal, to satisfy requirements of his Foreign Area Officer designation.
“As the U.S. Navy continues to rely on its partners to handle regional and global issues, I'm privileged to be able simply to pick up the phone or email some of my Senegalese counterparts, leveraging the relationships that this opportunity afforded me,” Stouse said of the experience.
Stouse was embedded with the Senegalese navy mostly at its headquarters in Dakar. The assignment was meant as cultural immersion, which gave him new insight to challenges facing other navies around the world.
“The Senegalese Navy was very candid with me regarding some of their challenges, and so I was able to reach back to subject matter experts back in the States and provide examples of how USN handles similar issues,” Stouse said.
Among the lessons were the difference in resources available to each navy. Stouse pointed out that the U.S. Navy has about 330,000 Sailors, while the Senegalese Navy has about 1,000. In addition, Stouse said Internet access was not as reliable as on American ships.
While his last immersion was 20 years ago as a midshipman with the French Navy in Toulon, Stouse said communication wasn’t difficult, and the French spoken by Senegalese officers was pretty consistent with Parisian French, the language he’s trained in.
“Of course, the occasional interjection of Wolof [Senegal's common language] would throw me for a loop, but it kept me on my toes,” Stouse said.
In addition to personnel differences, Stouse learned that the Senegalese Navy has entirely different focuses. Sometimes, Stouse said, the Senegalese Navy plays a role similar to that of the U.S. Coast Guard, monitoring illegal fishing and migration.
“But these are serious problems for a number of African nations, so the experience definitely enhanced my perspective on the types of issues that our emerging partners are dealing with,” Stouse said.
Stouse also got a glimpse of civilian life in Senegal. He said that Senegalese people provide surprising hospitality to guests, even if they can’t afford it. Stouse said the unemployment rate in Senegal is about 48 percent.
Stouse will graduate from NWC in March.
by Tyler Will, Naval War College Public Affairs