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|Old Guard Helps With Flood Recovery In Djibouti|
A humvee carrying Old Guard soldiers gushes through pools of water on what was, just days before, a barren Djiboutian City road.
By Spc. Eric M. McKeeby
CAMP LEMONIER, Djibouti, April 27, 2004 (Army News Service) – In the aftermath of floods that left substantial damage and more than 50 fatalities, Old Guard soldiers joined troops from the Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa in providing assistance to the Djibouti City area.
The assistance was part of a week of CJTF-HOA relief support following the onset of flooding, which began early April 13 after hours of torrential rains.
While the storms affected Camp Lemonier, the base which houses CJTF-HOA troops as they support Operation Enduring Freedom in this region, the camp’s damages were contained and minimal compared with those experienced by the surrounding community.
An expeditionary convoy of soldiers from Bravo Company, 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment, “The Old Guard,” departed Camp Lemonier April 17 to assess and repair damaged infrastructure and property in the city of 500,000 residents. The convoy, one of two assistance units launched by the company, also brought medical personnel and supplies to Djibutians in need.
Bravo Company provided force protection in the early recovery missions, and it continued assistance through April 18, when it distributed massive quantities of water bottles throughout the city.
“We are showing an American presence downtown by assisting the local population, offering humanitarian assistance, assessing damage caused by the flood and providing medical assistance when necessary,” said 1st Lt. Scott J. Porter, the leader of the first assistance unit sent by the company.
Old Guard soldiers joined engineers from the CJTF-HOA civil affairs contingent and medical professionals from its civic action program in lending assistance to locals.
The engineers met with locals to discuss repairing vital services such as broken railroad tracks, and the medics worked to prevent a cholera outbreak while attending to urgent medical conditions.
Both groups were deployed to the city shortly after the flooding began.
Leadership at the task force said CJTF-HOA has been helping locals in an array of areas since the flooding began.
“We can filter water, field a few pieces of heavy equipment to clear debris and offer some medical assistance through our civic action teams,” Col. Jeff W. Mathis, CJTF-HOA chief of staff.
Spending hours traversing the interior and the periphery of Djibouti City, the Old Guard units made numerous stops at locations in potential need of aid.
While some soldiers asked locals lining streets still overflowing with water if they needed help, others handed out pre-packaged military meals and bottled water.
Djiboutian citizens hopped over stones to cross the flooded streets to speak to the American soldiers through translator Sgt. Philomene M. Duviella. The citizens told the soldiers of their own needs vis-à-vis the flood damage and directed them to other areas in need such as street corner medical clinics.
As the first convoy moved through pools of water on what was, just days ago, a barren roadway, Staff Sgt. Michael P. Hart said this goodwill mission will help reinforce to locals that Americans are truly their allies.
“It continues to foster relations between Djibouti and the United States,” Hart said.
These relations have been enhanced over the past several months through multiple joint U.S.-Djiboutian initiatives designed to improve national quality of life in areas including providing medical care, constructing facilities for educational purposes and assisting with basic provisions such as drinking water.
The Old Guard, which arrived here in December, has provided force protection for dozens of these missions.
Porter said soldiers were happy to be tasked with assisting Djibouti and its citizens in their time of need.
“We realize the Djiboutian population did not fare as well as we did, so we’re happy to lend a helping hand,” Porter said.
In addition to its units making assessments of local needs in the wake of the flooding, CJTF-HOA leadership said the task force is working with other groups to determine how to best assist.
“We are primarily in support of the U.S. Embassy, which is receiving requests for assistance from the Djiboutian government and French forces as we look to provide whatever assistance we can,” Mathis said.