CAMP LEMONIER, Djibouti -- Country Desk Teams play an essential role in Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa's counter-terrorism mission here.
Mission accomplishment involves CJTF forces having the most up-to-date knowledge the CDT's provide on all seven countries CJTF-HOA operates in; Kenya, Somalia, Sudan, Djibouti, Ethiopia, Eritrea and Yemen. Without this knowledge, the task force could not effectively fight terrorism, according to Marine Lt. Col. Thomas Duhs, deputy director of Theater Security Coordination.
Once forces are assigned a mission, they need to know the background and the present political/military climate in the country. CDT's supply this information, as well as briefing and coordination to facilitate the task force's involvement with other countries.
"Before entering Eritrea or Ethiopia, troops have to realize these two nations just signed a peace treaty (in 2000) after being at war against one another for more than 10 years," Duhs said.
CJTF-HOA has a Country Desk Officer designated for each country in the Horn of Africa Region. The Country Desk Officer serves as the resident expert for the CDT with up-to-date knowledge of his/her assigned nation. CDO's maintain situational awareness of current events, strength of militaries, biographies of key leaders, prominent religions and road systems, Duhs said.
The CJTF also has representatives who live and work at American embassies throughout the region. These liaison officers, in conjunction with CDO's at the CJTF headquarters here, form the cohesive CDT. By having representatives of both the regional counter-terrorism headquarters in Djibouti and personnel living and working in partner nations, CDTs are better able to see the larger picture concerning intelligence, operations and logistics of a given country, and integrate information with activities across the Horn of Africa region.
"In order to be accepted in the region, we have to understand the countries," Duhs said.
"Each country has different customs and sensitivities that we have to be aware of," said Marine Capt. Christa Bowdish, Djibouti and Ethiopia CDO. "We use numerous resources to gather this information."
The team uses an extensive database of research produced through the Internet which links CJTF-HOA into inter-agency information from across the U.S. Departments of Defense, State and Justice. The team also taps into the Internet for a wide variety of news, cultural and other research information from host nation sites. Further information comes from host nation officials.
A particular aspect of the team's mission that has met with great success is the proposal and coordination of various projects with ministry-level officials from partner countries.
"We met with the Minister of Health and the Minister of Education to help identify schools, hospitals and clinics for refurbishment in the Dikhil, Ali Sabieh, Tadjourah and Obock districts (in Djibouti),"she said
"By knowing what their (a country's) needs are,' Bowdish explains, "we are able to outline the best course of action on our (CJTF-HOA) part."
"Not only do we get a better grasp of their culture, but we also synchronize the host nation and the task force to complete the same goal."
A key element to CJTF-HOA's mission is making a positive difference in the lives of the region's inhabitants, thereby "giving back" to the people and communities through Civil-Military operations.
"We look at a particular country and ask ourselves, 'What type of operation could we accomplish that will support our mission?'" Duhs said.
Due in part to CDT associations and partnerships, CJTF-HOA has worked with local Djiboution community leaders to stage four medical clinics, construct a water system to irrigate crops and built structures to store food in numerous villages.
Joint training exercises have been conducted as well, to include Marine Corps Martial Arts, where Marines taught Djiboutian soldiers from the Fast Action Rapid Battalion the first level of the program. Also members of the CJTF small craft detachment have taught forces from the Djiboutian Navy various tactics, techniques and procedures associated with small boat handling, maintenance and maritime patrol combat formations.
"We are always planning for future involvement," Bowdish added. "We are very eager to collaborate with countries in the region."
Planned projects include training between the U.S. Army's Company C, 4th, Battalion, 31st Regiment, 10th Mountain Division and Ethiopian forces. While Ethiopian forces have extensive experience and expertise in ground combat operations, CJTF forces plan to provide training that can be used effectively to fight the war on terrorism.
Duhs went on to say, everything the team initiates in the region revolves around the task force's ability to detect, deter and defeat transnational terrorism in the region.