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Troops lend hand to Ethiopian fire victims

By Petty Officer 3rd Class John Hulle , CJTF-HOA

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Petty Officer 2nd Class Matthew Homer, watches as Navy Seabees and Army Soldiers load sleeping bags onto a truck in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, May 20. (Navy photo by PO3 John Hulle)
Petty Officer 2nd Class Matthew Homer, watches as Navy Seabees and Army Soldiers load sleeping bags onto a truck in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, May 20. (Navy photo by PO3 John Hulle)

ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia (May 26, 2008) – Personnel from the U.S. Embassy in Ethiopia and service members deployed to Combined Joint Task Force - Horn of Africa distributed new sleeping bags and pillows here May 20 to residents of the Sidist Kilo neighborhood who lost their homes in a fire.

According to Army Maj. Todd Mitchell, CJTF-HOA civil affairs team leader for Addis Ababa, the fire destroyed approximately 48 homes, displacing more than 345 people.

“The fire happened at night and spread fast, with residents fleeing their burning homes with nothing but the clothes on their backs. Luckily there were no injuries or fatalities” Mitchell said.

U.S. Ambassador to Ethiopia Donald Yamamoto, along with Soldiers assigned to the 402nd Civil Affair Battalion from Tonawanda, N.Y., and Seabees assigned to Naval Mobile Construction Battalion 74, from Gulfport, Miss., distributed the 350 new sleeping bags and pillows provided by CJTF-HOA.

“It’s a simple thing for us to do, but it can really help out these people who lost everything,” said Builder 3rd Class Clifton Ammons, assigned to NMCB 74. “Now they might be able to get a better sleep, which will give them, hopefully, a better day so they can try and rebuild their lives.”

Before the distribution, community leaders and the Ambassador gave a few words to those in attendance.

“We pray for you and we thank you for allowing us to be a part of your life,” said Ambassador Yamamoto.

“We are very thankful for what CJTF-HOA has done for us and what people of the United States have done for us,” said Zenebe Zeleke, a community leader for the district. “It helps much. With the rainy season coming we will be able to cover ourselves from the cold.”

“We won’t forget you, forever, forever. We will all remember what CJTF-HOA did. You provided for all the people and we will remember,” said Zeleke.

Seabees from NMCB 74 and Soldiers from 402nd Civil Affairs Battalion are deployed to Addis Ababa doing civil affairs projects. The mission of CJTF-HOA is to help Africans solve Africa’s challenges while increasing regional stability.