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CJTF-HOA Civil Affairs begins new program in Djibouti

By Cpl. Matthew J. Apprendi | | April 10, 2003

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The Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa Civil Affairs Section launched a new program here coined "Adopt a School."

Marines with Command Logistics Element, Marine Central Command kicked off the program April 7 when they painted a food storage facility behind the Nadag Schoolhouse.

Previously, the Civil Affairs Section erected the storage facility to hold supplies that were being kept in the schoolhouse.

"It's (the program) all about building a strong relationship with the local community," said Army Sgt. 1st Class Steven P. Ruscitto, Civil Affairs chief, a native of Sylvan Beach, N.Y. "Soldiers, Marines and sailors should get a chance to experience the country (Djibouti) and its people while they're deployed here."

The Civil Affairs Section helps service members adopt one of seven schools or orphanages in the area.  The troops have the opportunity to provide humanitarian assistance as well as spend time with the children

"We are just the overseers of the program. They (service members) coordinate how they want to interact with the school," Ruscitto said.

"I want to make it a weekly visit," said Marine Capt. Kevin Crooms, the section leader for the Nadag School that he and others from his section adopted. "It promotes good diplomatic relations, plus we all enjoy ourselves."

Crooms, hails from Atlanta, Ga., and is a reservist from 4th Force Service Support Group, Marietta, Ga. He added, his team plans to paint the school, build storage shelves and donate school supplies.

Besides assisting with material necessities, Crooms' team wants to spend time with the school children on a personal level, such as playing soccer with them or helping the kids with their math, he said.

"I want to bring out different volunteers every week, so everybody can be a part of the program," Crooms said.

Civil Affairs welcomes new volunteers to the program, Ruscitto said. This is another way to build and maintain a good relationship with the host nation, he said.

He hopes the volunteers will tell their family members who in turn will send school supplies for the children.

"We could start a chain reaction of humanitarian assistance," Ruscitto said.
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