CAMP LEMONIER, Djibouti -- A group of reserve soldiers from the 478th Civil Affairs Company (Special Operations), Miami, arrived here in late April in support of Combined Joint Task Force - Horn of Africa.
The mission of the task force is to detect, disrupt and defeat terrorist groups operating in the Horn of Africa region, which includes Kenya, Somalia, Ethiopia, Sudan, Eritrea, Djibouti and Yemen. Additionally, CJTF-HOA will deny the reemergence of transnational terrorism in the region through civil-military and humanitarian operations.
"By building goodwill and trust in the local populace, we feel they (the people in the Horn of Africa) will be more willing and better prepared to help us deal with any terrorist acts," said Maj. Ralph M. Engeler, the company's commander. "Further, they will have more confidence in themselves to deny terrorists the ability to operate in their villages because they know we're here to help them combat terrorism."
In order to build goodwill and trust with the task force's neighbors, 478th CA Co. has brought along soldiers with varied expertise.
According to Spc. Roberto Fernandez, a CA specialist and the company's public affairs noncommissioned officer, there are medics, engineers, a dentist and a veterinarian.
"We have several people who are designated with specific tasks while we're here. The majority of the group is made up of civil affairs specialists, who are like the coordinators," explained Fernandez, of Miami.
Before a project is begun, the civil affairs specialists visit the village leaders in order to discuss what could be done to improve the villages.
Fernandez added, "Once the civil affairs specialists figure out what would be best for the different villages, a team of specialized soldiers is sent out to get the projects completed."
After being here less than a month, 478th CA Co., already has several endeavors underway and many more on the horizon.
"Right now, we're in the execution phase of a number of projects," said Engeler, who also hails from Miami. "For instance, we're helping the people of Sud Ambouli install an irrigation system for their gardens."
Future projects include the refurbishment of clinics and schools.
Working in conjunction with the three-man CA team from the Command Logistics Element, Marine Central Command, which has been here since December, the company is hoping to positively impact the people of the CJTF-HOA area of responsibility on a much larger scale.
"The current CA group handles local issues influencing Camp Lemonier. Their focus is on the camp's neighboring villages. My company will do the same thing they do only in the more distant parts of Djibouti," stated Engeler.
Before arriving here, Engeler said his company had less than two months to prepare for their year-long stay in Djibouti.
"As a reserve force, we were forced to leave behind our families and civilian careers. My soldiers and I know that it's well worth it though. We know that our contribution will help in the overall accomplishment of the CJTF-HOA mission."