A paragraph or two a day from my forthcoming book FROM A TO B: HOW LOGISTICS FUELS AMERICAN POWER AND PROSPERITY:
Two years earlier, in another hemisphere, another navy admiral had had the same idea — to take leftover big-box ships and fill them with different cargoes for soft missions. In 2005, before anyone in the Pentagon had really embraced [Joseph] Nye’s soft-power theory, Sixth Fleet vice admiral Harry Ulrich decided the navy needed to boost its operations along West Africa’s coast. But there, as in Latin America, traditional military forces were worse than useless — they might raise fears of renewed colonialism and win America more enemies than friends.
Ulrich needed to go in soft. He tapped the repair ship USS Emory S. Land for a four-month deployment, delivering trainers and maintenance personnel to several African nations, like a full-service, mobile, charity mechanic’s shop. The Land helped fix African navies’ old boats and gave African sailors refresher maintenance training. Cdr. Chris Servello, who served under Ulrich, called it a “test case” for soft power. “It was well received.”