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American military delivers polio vaccine in Ethiopia

By Sgt. Bradly Shaver | | September 14, 2003

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An Army reserves team from the 478th Civil Affairs Battalion (Special Operations) supporting Combined Joint Task Force - Horn of Africa, vaccinated more than 15,000 children in the Ethiopian region against polio, Aug. 29 - Sept. 5.

In the seven-day period, the civil affairs team from Miami traveled across the eastern portion of Ethiopia providing polio vaccinations to numerous villages and communities.

"The polio campaign we have done is a massive effort for the people of Ethiopia," said Army Capt. Fitzroy Grizzle, team leader with 478th CA BN. "It is an annual event in coordination with the World Health Organization, the United Nations Children's Fund, Rotary International, United States Agency for International Development and many governments across the world.

"We are pleased to be part of this campaign by providing logistic support and transportation to the villages that need it most," said Grizzle.

Traveling in their High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicles, the civil affairs team found themselves crossing mountians, raging rivers and extremely rough terrain to reach as many villages as possible in the seven-day period.

Upon arrival to the towns, the team passed out the vaccine to those in charge and even administered the children's vaccinations, which is given orally to children under the age of five.

Army Spc. Tony Vinas, medic with 478th CA BN, said giving the children the vaccinations was an enjoyable feeling.

"I could never have done this type of operation and training back in the states," Vinas said. "I'm glad I got to come here and contribute my help."

"Coming to Africa, working in this type of environment has been a very rewarding and a good learning experience," said Grizzle. "We in civil affairs, were called in as reservists to execute a mission that gives us great satisfaction by participating in the War on Terrorism.

"By being here improving the quality of life, welfare and health of the Ethiopian economy, we are deterring terrorist organizations," Grizzle said. "With our forces being here, it makes it difficult for terrorists to find support or even operate in this environment."

As a small group, separated from their battalion, the members of Civil Affairs team in Camp Ramrod have relied on teamwork to get the mission completed.

"Our efforts are geared toward ... the villagers in this region," expressed Grizzle. "We are tasked with improving the perception of U.S. military forces, we also help to make it a more permissive environment for the U.S. military to operate in the region.

"We are building an excellent relationship with the civilian population," he said. "We are like ambassadors, representing not only the U.S. military, but the United States as a whole."

A local interpreter said the people are thankful U.S. forces are in Ethiopia helping the local villagers better their lives, and the sense of community has increased tremendously.

Providing assistance in health, education, veterinary treatment or military training, helps local Ethiopians remain very positive about the American presence in Ethiopia, he said.

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