CJTF-HOA repairs trucks, road for Djiboutians

18 Feb 2003 | Cpl. Paula M. Fitzgerald

The wheels on the trucks go "round and round" with a little help from troops here in support of Combined Joint Task Force - Horn of Africa.

For the past several weeks, a small group of U.S. Marines have been visiting the Djiboutian Engineer Detachment here to repair several trucks, which will be used during a project to revamp one of Djibouti's most important main supply routes (MSR).

Master Sgt. James E. Gardiner, engineer plans chief for CJTF-HOA, said, "This is a military-to-military project, just one military branch helping out another."

Funding for the venture, dubbed the "Hol Hol Road Project," is being provided by the U.S. Embassy here. The first phase of the project is getting the trucks functional.

Once all the parts are delivered, Gardiner, of Tewksbury, Mass., estimates the five vehicles should take no longer than one month to refurbish.

"We're very grateful to the Americans because, they are coming out here and giving our engineer company a second life," said Djiboutian Army Capt. Fouad Elmi, assistant logistics officer. "All of our vehicles are from the U.S. Army, and we don't have sufficient materials to maintain them. An army without heavy equipment vehicles is not a complete army."

During the visits, Gardiner and Sgt. Leslie Lutrell, a truck mechanic from the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit (Special Operations Capable), try to teach the Djiboutian soldiers different ways to fix the trucks.

"The Djiboutians are eager to learn, and they are hard workers," said Gardiner who has built cars as a hobby since he was a "youngster."

A difficulty they face, according to Gardiner is a lack of technical repair manuals for the trucks they are working on. These would be helpful when they are working on areas like the electrical system.

"We're shooting from the hip on most stuff," admitted Gardiner, a heavy equipment operator by trade.

The Marines are rebuilding three engines, making modifications to a fuel truck to transform it into a water truck and doing other basic vehicle repairs.

Once finished, the second phase of the project begins. The vehicles will be used in the repair of Hol Hol Road, which has been severely damaged by flooding.

"The road is passable, but it's hard to maintain a constant speed with a two-wheel drive truck," said Dummer, N.H., native Maj. Jacques Pellitier, CJTF-HOA engineer. "Our ultimate goal is to get the road fixed within six months."

According to Elmi, having the road fixed won't be the only benefit of this endeavor.

Elmi said, "Once we get the trucks fixed and the road repaired, we'll be able to use all of these assets to help during national emergencies. We need the Americans to teach our engineers how to maintain the equipment, so we can help serve the Djiboutian people when they need us."
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