NEAR DJIBOUTI CITY -- Combined Joint Task Force - Horn of Africa engineers are working with the Djiboutian military here to improve Hol-Hol road, the only route leading to southwestern Djibouti's transportation hub of Hol-Hol.
Improving Hol Hol road is expected to have significant economic impacts on Ethiopia, Somolia and Djibouti; three countries in the Task Force's area of responsibility.
"[Hol-Hol road] is the secondary route to Ethiopia running from Djibouti to Hol Hol and then through Ali-Sabieh into Ethiopia," said Marine Maj. Jacques Pelletier, task force engineer and project manager for Hol-Hol road. "Hol-Hol is the main hub in this area and all roads from Somalia and this section of Djibouti go through here."
The road is important to the Task Force for a number of reasons and directly relates to one of the key elements in the counter terrorism mission; making a positive difference in the lives of the people in the region and their environment.
With the help of Task Force engineers, the Djiboutian military can continue to maintain the road, and improve other routes, long after the Task Force is gone.
Pelletier said the project is three-fold. The first part is getting the Djiboutian military's equipment working followed by the second part, completing the road. The third part is training with and assisting the Djiboutian military unit to develop comprehensive military engineering capabilities.
"Every job we do out here, no matter what the surface goals are, ties directly into fighting terrorism in the region," said Pelletier.
With the first step of the operation complete (getting the engineer's equipment functional), Pelletier said the engineers are now turning their attention toward training the soldiers and completing the road.
Working out here, there are about 30 Djiboutian soldiers who belong to the engineer company said Pelletier. To accomplish the mission of training the engineers, Pelletier chose civilians recommended by host nation officers, and after interviews, skill assessments and a performance evaluation period, they were given full-time positions.
"Without the help of the [task force] the road will not get fixed and our unit would not exist," said Djiboutian Capt. Fouad Elmi, officer in charge of the engineer platoon. "All our equipment was dead-lined (inoperable) before the [task force] got involved."
Pelletier said the proper steps have been taken to accomplish the mission, but there are still many issues to be addressed and worked out.
"Right now the road is below grade, which means we have to fill it in," said Pelletier. "One of the good things about Hol Hol road is the area from where the road starts, to the town itself, has plenty of places where we can take [gravel] off the side of the road. Having these materials close, makes our job easier."
There is also the issue of the road being washed away during the rain season that Pelletier and other engineers are working on now.
"You can't keep water from going where it wants to go, but we can alter how it gets there," said Pelletier. "We're going to divert the water in some places and slow it down in others."
The task force has helped out tremendously, both financially and logistically said Fouad, who feels his soldiers are on their way to developing skills necessary to complete a wide variety of future projects and couldn't be happier with the progress they have made thus far.
Fouad went on to say that with Hol Hol road being able to support larger amounts of traffic it will dramatically improve the ability of local venders to transport products to other markets in Ethiopia and Somalia and allow more traffic flow into Djibouti.