News | Aug. 13, 2008

U.S. troops bring safe water to Kenyans

By Sr. Master Sgt. John Jones , CJTF-HOA

Lt. Col. Juma, commander of 9th Kenyan Rifles Battalion, helps pump water from newly dedicated well in Delolo, Kenya. American Soldiers and Sailors teamed with local Kenyans to install the well.
Lt. Col. Juma, commander of 9th Kenyan Rifles Battalion, helps pump water from newly dedicated well in Delolo, Kenya. American Soldiers and Sailors teamed with local Kenyans to install the well.

GARISSA, Kenya (August 13, 2008) — Members of Combined Joint Task Force Horn of Africa joined Kenyan Ministry of Defense personnel, municipality leaders and the people of the villages of Shabah and Delolo to celebrate the dedication of two new wells.

A ceremony marked a district-wide campaign to bring clean drinking water to the people of Garissa, rather than risk retrieving water from the Tana River located some five to six miles away.  Local elders spoke of the many hazards to villagers from being attacked by the many crocodiles that inhabit the river’s banks. 

“The wells in Delolo, and the one in Shabah, will provide safe drinking water for the people and keep them safe from crocodile attacks.  The people are grateful to the Ministry of Defense and the United States government for these wells," said Lt. Col. Juma, commander, 9th Kenyan Rifles Battalion.

More than 300 people attended the events, including several community leaders, local sheiks and imams, as well as television, radio and print media from Nairobi, the Kenyan capital.

In a speech to the villagers of Shabah, U.S. Navy Capt. Michael Hastings, civil military officer for CJTF-HOA, stated this type of cooperation is precisely the task force’s goal.

“The U.S. Army Civil Affairs Team (402nd Civil Affairs Battalion) and the U.S. Navy Construction Battalion well drillers (Naval Mobile Construction Battalion 74) are a part of Combined Joint Task Force Horn of Africa.  Our job is to prevent conflict,” Hastings said.  “We do this by working with our partners, and Kenya is both a partner and a friend.   We are here to support the Kenyan Ministry of Defense to the extent that we can, and we are both honored and grateful.”

Army Staff Sgt. Kevin Countermine, a native of Buffalo, N.Y., of Garissa’s 402nd CA BN, based out of Tonawana, N.Y., said most of the 100,000 people who live in Garissa are nomadic pastoralists whose lives depend on their daily treks to get water.

“If we can prevent the loss of life from crocodile attacks along the river by bringing wells to the people, it will go a long way towards changing negative perceptions about Americans in the region.” he said “These wells are helping build trust and relationships.”

The Navy Seabees, based out of Gulfport, Miss., worked with the Kenyan Ministry of Defense water well team, forging cooperative relationships and exchanging technical knowledge.  Their efforts enabled the Kenyan drillers to complete the Delolo well, gaining valuable work-experience, increasing their capacity to create additional well sites in the future.

During the ceremony, village elders and religious leaders thanked the members of CJTF-HOA for all the work they have done in bringing water to the people, and said they hope that the friendships forged between the United States and Kenya will continue.

The mission of CJTF-HOA is to conduct unified action with local military forces and government representatives in the eastern Africa to prevent conflict, promote regional stability and build regional security capacity.

U.S. Forces in Kenya are commanded by CJTF-HOA and are deployed from Camp Lemonier, Djibouti. The vision of CJTF-HOA is to build friendships, forge relationships and create partnerships while integrating diplomacy, development and defense efforts essential to ensuring success. With effective partnerships, the hope is that partner nations will see increased security, improved stability and strengthened sovereignty across the Horn of Africa.