News: Building eco dome brings villagers, service members together
Story by Staff Sgt. Veronica Montes
CAMP LEMONNIER, Djibouti — Roughly three years ago, a group of Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa military members arrived at the small village of Karabti San several hours north of Camp Lemonnier, Djibouti, in the Tadjourah region to build an eco dome.
After countless visits to the village by a series of CJTF-HOA civil affairs teams, the dome isn’t all that was built. Partnerships, friendships and a trust between cultures have emerged.
The villagers, Djiboutian army members and civil affairs team members are putting the finishing touches on the 21-foot-tall eco dome, which is a structure intended to become a multipurpose community center. Karabti San villagers have also acquired the skills to build these infrastructures on their own after years of working alongside U.S. and Djiboutian army service members.
“The Americans were the first to come here to build infrastructure three years ago,” said Djibouti army 1st Sgt. Hanfare Aboubaker. “They have continued coming here to work and teach us skills. It has shown the brotherhood between us and them and it has shown we are one.”
The remote village of Karabti San is located in a valley where villagers live in huts and wake up with the sunrise to begin their day by fetching water with their goat herds and camels.
According to U.S. Army Capt. Andrew Rolwes, Djibouti Joint Civil Affairs Team leader, the dome is the first and only permanent structure in the village.
“The dome is going to be used as a community center, school, clinic or a shelter,” said Rolwes. “It is somewhat of a fortress and can withstand very inclement weather and winds.”
The route to Karabti San passes through mountain sides and deserts. Yet when JCAT members reach their destination, they are greeted by nothing but smiles.
“It’s one of my favorite places to go in the country. I’ve stayed out there a few times and the people are outstanding,” said U.S. Army Sgt. 1st Class Kevin Morgan, Djibouti JCAT team sergeant. “The villagers are part of the Afar tribe. Once accepted into their culture, they consider you family for life.”
According to Aboubaker, when the Americans are absent the villagers ask constantly where they are.
While some service members assist with building the dome, others interact with the children, teach school and provide medical checkups. At dusk, the JCAT members host a movie night by draping a sheet over their vehicle and playing an action movie on the projector - but not before dinner.
“Typically if they know we are coming they prepare us a traditional lunch or dinner of rice and goat and we eat with them,” said Morgan. “They show a lot of hospitality and have been very receptive to us.”
The JCATs have visited the village consistently for the past three years, each time bringing up equipment and supplies to construct the dome. The Djiboutians and Americans have shared enough best practices that the villagers have taken on the project as their own.
“The Djiboutians said they know how to build now because of the help various civil affairs teams have given them,” Morgan said. “By doing this, we have been building partnerships and we are increasing trust between them and us.”
The dome’s ribbon cutting is tentatively scheduled for later this year.