DIKHIL, Djibouti -- Soldiers from the U.S. Army's 916th engineer detachment, in conjunction with the Djiboutian Ministry of Agriculture, are in the process of constructing a well here to supply the district of Dikhil region with a much-needed water supply.
A key element in the counter-terrorism mission of CJTF-HOA is making a positive difference in the lives of people in the region and their environment. This element is where the 916th engineer detachment will make its mark.
"We are doing the same thing that Civil Affairs does," said Sgt. 1st Class Russell Theurer, 916th engineer detachment commander. "Instead of going out and killing bad guys, you have to have a counter part to that. If we came in here and just had a force going out and killing the enemy, then the local population would view us as warmongers."
Theurer said the engineers and Civil Affairs use a close partnership to inform the community about the task force's intentions in the region.
"[Civil Affairs] has to go out and tell the people that we aren't here to use the water well for ourselves and that we are building it for them," said Theurer. "They make sure the community knows we aren't going to mess with their surface water and that the well will serve as a valuable water supply for them."
Theurer said community relations are strengthened by providing the local population with a valuable resource, such as a water well.
"As long as we do it right the first time, a well should last as long as the earth is here," said Theurer. As long as the well is taken care of and not abused, it should remain a very reliable for the local community.
Though drilling a well might seem like an easy task, the 916th engineers' skills have been tested due to the terrain and rock formations.
"I was told by a gentleman from the corps of engineers, who has been drilling for over 30 years, that this area is the hardest place he's ever drilled," said Theurer, "and he's been all over the world drilling,"
Planning for a project like this can take up to two months, he said. During this time, geological surveys are done to determine what kind of rock formations the drillers might encounter and what drilling method will best accomplish the mission.
"Dikhil is fortunate because the town is located close to a river bed and has quite a bit of surface water already," said Theurer. "Our intentions are to go below their surface water to about 200 or 300 hundred feet where the local geologist here said there should be a good supply of water."
How long the engineers will be in Dikhil is hard to determine, Theurer said. The first well the engineers constructed for the Djiboutian Army near Camp Lemonier was dug in only 12 hours. "This project could last anywhere from two weeks to a month depending on what we have to drill through and how the equipment holds up," said Theurer.
With 20 well projects already scheduled, the engineers will stay busy during their stay in Djibouti.
"All of Djibouti needs water," said Theurer. "After we finish here, we are scheduled to go to Ali Sabieh and do the same kind of project."
While the engineers' efforts will clearly benefit the local Djiboutian populace through creating a much-needed water supply, their presence enables CJTF-HOA to impact communities in other host nations across the region as well.
As CJTF-HOA begins to transition from the planning and development phase of operations into the execution phase, the engineers will play a vital role in CJTF-HOA efforts of denying the reemergence of terrorism across the region.
"You have to have projects set up to win the hearts and minds of the local population," said Theurer. "That's why we're here."