Petty Officer 2nd Class Matthew White, left, inspects the mud pump of a drill rig in Shaba, Kenya. Seabees are working with Kenyan well drillers to dig three water wells for villagers in the district of Garissa. (U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class John Hulle)
KENYA (May 29, 2008) — A new well in the Garissa district is one of three planned by Navy Seabees as part of a Combined Joint Task Force – Horn of Africa project to improve the quality of life for the villagers.
The Seabees’ action in Kenya complements U.S. Army Central’s theater security cooperation mission as it transforms into a Full Spectrum Operations-capable command.
Petty Officer 2nd Class Peter Welch, lead mechanic and derrick operator for Naval Mobile Construction Battalion 74 , said the well, once complete, will be a better alternative for the villagers than going to the nearby Tana River for water.
“The river is primarily only good for livestock – it’s not good drinking water,” Welch said. “In addition, for the individuals who do decide to go to the river to get drinking water, there are crocodiles and hippos, which can be very dangerous. We have heard reports of people, especially small children, being killed by crocodiles.”
Welch went on to add “to give clean drinking water is definitely extremely helpful for them. We are going to (dig) the wells in the villages so they won’t have to walk several kilometers.”
In addition, the diggers are also working with a Kenyan Department of Defense water well team to forge a cooperative relationship and exchange technical knowledge. According to Garissa District Officer Jack Mbiso, the wells will dramatically improve the quality of life in his district.
“It is a good thing because lives are going to be changed,” he said. “With water close by, I know women won’t have to take time to go to the river, which can be used for better things, like taking better care of their children. Let’s change lives, positively.”
The crew of Seabees have trained extensively for this mission, completing two field exercises together.
“I have worked with the guys for over two years now, so we have a good relationship which helps us work together,” said Welch, a 22-year-old Tolland, Conn., native. Once started, the drilling continues around the clock until they hit water.
“The first day is pretty hectic, but once you get into the groove of things and begin drilling everything gets pretty routine, and everyone knows their job and knows what needs to get done, so it goes relatively smooth,” Welch said.
For the residents of Garissa, the Seabees and this well may represent more than just clean water to drink. Alfred Kiragu, a native of Nairobi, has been a driver, translator, and informal consultant for Seabees deployed to CJTF-HOA in Kenya for the past two years. During that time he’s seen the bonds between the United States and Kenya strengthen.
“The Seabees are doing more than just giving the people water,” he said. “They interact with the locals. Almost every evening they play soccer with the children. They drive the message that we are here to help, which they take home to their parents.”