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Service members, Djiboutians celebrate medical clinic opening

By Cpl. Matthew J. Apprendi | | July 2, 2003

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Services members supporting Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa celebrated the grand opening of a two-month remodeling project of the medical clinic here June 30.

The goal of the project was to revitalize the village's current clinic. The task force's involvement here gives the villagers a sanitary, fully operational medical facility that has the means to care and treat patients. 

"They (service members) act as ambassadors," said Mahdi Hassan Ahmad, a chief of the village. "It builds a good relationship."

The revitalization of the clinic included adding running water, electrical fixtures, and fresh coats of paint to the inside and outside of the structure. 

"We accomplished everything we set out to do in the past two months," said Marine Master Sgt. Paul L. Atherton, site coordinator and an engineer with Command Logistics Element, Marine Central Command.

The next closest medical facility for the Djiboutians is 15 miles away. Task force troops stepped in to resolve this potential hardship by completing the project, and, at the same time, continued fortifying a strong relationship with the nation of Djibouti.  

Taking part in the grand opening of the facility were Marine Brig. Gen. Mastin M. Robeson, commander, Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa, Col. Mario Lapaix, commander, Command Logistics Element, Marine Central Command, Mammoud Ahmed Robleh, Chef de Post Damerdjog and Abdi Mahamoud Ibrakim, Deputy of the National Assembly of Damerdjog.

"This clinic is for all of you," Robeson said while holding a Djiboutian child.  "More importantly, it's for your sons, so one day they too can grow up to be the strong chiefs of your village."

For the support Robeson and Lapaix brought to the village of Damerdjog, the villagers presented each of them with a hand made water backpack.

"It's been a pleasure to work with you all, I hope we will continue this strong relationship," Robleh said to the crowd of hundreds. 

The ceremony ended with a celebration at which Djiboutians showed the task force troops traditional songs and dances and the troops tried their hand at the local customs.

Also, the task force awarded certificates of appreciation to more than 20 Djiboutian villagers for their contribution to the remodeling of the clinic.

"I just want to say thanks to the villagers and all the troops who helped to complete this project," Atherton said during the ceremony.

A key aspect of the CJTF mission lies in building strong relationships with local inhabitants in the region by completing Humanitarian Operations.


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