CJTF-HOA builds needed irrigation system

21 May 2003 |

A team of soldiers from a composite company from the 478th Civil Affairs Battalion (Special Operations), here in support of Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa, began constructing a new irrigation system here May 19.

The project's goals are to construct a water system capable of irrigating the village's farmland and provide an easily accessible water source for the villagers.

To accomplish these goals, the team is constructing a pump house to draw water from the local well to a cistern, or water holding area. From there, the valuable commodity will have the ability to circulate through their farmlands via water pipes.

They currently transport water to their farmlands by donkey after manually drawing it out of a well.

The team utilized a cistern erected by the French military in 1993 as a foundation and added a frame and roof to house the new cistern.

They accomplished this feat with the helping hands of the Djiboutians here, who filled the old cistern full of rocks, creating a flat, sturdy starting point for the new cistern.

Building a strong relationship between Djibouti and the U.S. is an important factor because it shows we are here for them -- in return, they'll be here for us, said Maj. Julian Garvin, team leader of the project.

"This (the project) is where the war on terrorism is going to be won," said the Hollywood, Fla. native. 

"They're a bunch of motivated people. They prepped the whole site by digging all the trenches where we will place the water pipes," said Sgt. Leon LaBranch, the lead engineer for the project, who hails from Loxahatchee, Fla.

The villagers not only help with the prepping of the project, they also work with the civil affairs team daily -- measuring, sawing and hammering to construct the new facility.

"I'm very thankful for the U.S.'s help. This new irrigation system will not only improve our present farmland, but it will also give us the capability to expand," said Omar Farah Debar, the village chief.

These farmlands provide them with the bulk of their food. They grow an assortment of produce to include melons, mangos and squash.

This is one of many efforts the 478th Civil Affairs Company, who arrived here nearly one month ago, is involved with. They bring with them an array of talents to the east Africa region to include dentists, doctors and veterinarians.

The composite company from the 478th CA Battalion is here supporting CJTF-HOA whose area of operations include Djibouti, Kenya, Somalia, Ethiopia, Sudan, Eritrea and Yemen.  They plan to engage in a number of civil military operations such as dental and medical clinics for people across the region.

Garvin said, "The whole company is fired up and ready to complete their mission here."

Headquarters Marine Corps