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NEWS | April 9, 2008

Troops build African partnerships with well-drilling project

By Shawn Jones Staff Sgt., U.S. Air Forces Central Command Public Affairs

Airman 1st Class Joshua Weston spots while Navy Seabees unload a water-well drilling rig from a C-17 Globemaster III that was transported, along with 20 Navy Seabees, to Nairobi, Kenya from Camp Lemonier, Djibouti in support of a humanitarian well drilling mission enabling critical water supplies to regions in severe drought conditions. Airman Weston is assigned to the 816th Expeditionary Airlift Squadron as a C-17 Loadmaster and is deployed from Charleston Air Force Base, S.C. (U.S. Air Force Photo By: Staff Sgt. Christina M. Styer)
Airman 1st Class Joshua Weston spots while Navy Seabees unload a water-well drilling rig from a C-17 Globemaster III that was transported, along with 20 Navy Seabees, to Nairobi, Kenya from Camp Lemonier, Djibouti in support of a humanitarian well drilling mission enabling critical water supplies to regions in severe drought conditions.(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Christina M. Styer)

NAIROBI, Kenya (April 7, 2008) — Airmen and Sailors joined Kenyans Mar. 30 and 31 in an effort to increase access to clean drinking water within the country’s arid Garissa District.

More than 100,000 pounds of well-drilling equipment and nearly a dozen Navy Seabees were delivered to Nairobi’s airport by an Air Force C-17 Globemaster III during the two-day delivery mission. The Seabees, who are construction specialists, will use the equipment to drill wells which will be used by Somali nomads who inhabit the area between Nairobi and Kenya’s eastern border with Somalia.

The well-drilling project is part of the Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa’s mission to develop and nurture partnerships and promote regional cooperation within northeast Africa.

One of the dozen Seabees who will help the Kenyans drill the well has an uncommon perspective on the project. Petty Officer 3rd Class Jack Ndaiga, a Seabee deployed from Gulfport, Miss., was raised in Kenya and lived there until he moved to the United States at age 21. This was Ndaiga’s first time back in Kenya since he joined the Navy three years ago.

“I’m excited to come back and help out,” he said. “Some people have to walk twenty miles for water, so to have it closer would be a good thing.”

The petty officer’s sentiments were echoed by the project’s leader Navy Chief Petty Officer Joseph Hangren, who said access to clean drinking water is a major problem in Kenya. This project is part of an overall plan that looks to establish more wells which help Africans help themselves. He said planning the multiple well projects is a long, drawn-out process that aims to improve stability in the region without having any negative environmental consequences.

According to one Kenyan official, the well projects are helping the task force’s effort to create and sustain relationships within Africa. Kenyan Colonel Tai Gituai, the chief of operations for the well-drilling project, said the water will help many Kenyans.

“We look forward to cooperation and continuous engagement between Kenya and the United States,” he said.

The crew of the C-17, who picked-up the equipment and Sailors from the Djibouti airport near Camp Lemonier, was only in Kenya long enough to off load their cargo and passengers, but the significance of their contribution to the welfare of Africa’s people was not lost on one of the crew’s Airmen.

“It always pays off to deliver necessary items to a country in need,” said Airman 1st Class Joshua Weston, a loadmaster from the 816th Expeditionary Airlift Squadron. “In this case, we were able to supply machinery so that people under drought conditions could receive water – a basic need of life.”