FICHE, Ethiopia – U.S. Naval Mobile Construction Battalion 1 Seabees assigned to Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa partnered with Ethiopian National Defense Force engineers to share best practices during a water well drilling exercise in Fiche, Ethiopia, beginning Nov. 27, 2012.
The ENDF supports the UN Security Council authorized peacekeeping missions in Darfur and Abyei. The exercise was designed to improve the operational capability of ENDF specialists to operate in remote and austere environments by providing the skills and education necessary to drill water wells. It also helped strengthen the relationship between the U.S. and Ethiopian militaries.
“Fiche has a serious water shortage,” said Lt. j.g. Mike Gibson, officer in charge of NMCB 1 in Dire Dawa. “Working with both the ENDF and local community leaders, it was clear that drilling a well would make potable water sustainable for the ENDF base and available for the community, too.”
“This project aim is to provide water for ENDF Fiche camp and also the community around here,” said 1st Lt. Dawit Ababe, ENDF chief driller. “Since we don’t have much water here, this is a double purpose, but the main reason is to provide water to the camp. The ENDF well drillers and Americans are working together to enhance the ability and potential of the ENDF so that we can drill wells in Ethiopia and in neighboring countries.”
According to Ababe, the ENDF is fully capable of conducting water well drilling operations in Ethiopia but the class helped enhance their technical knowledge.
“This joint military training event gives Seabee instructors and Ethiopian military and civilian instructors the opportunity to work together to train a team of ENDF engineers,” said Gibson. “When we are done training they will be qualified to deploy further and drill water wells on their own.”
With the aid of two Ethiopian interpreters, the Seabee team bridged the differences of language and culture to teach 25 ENDF engineers over a three-week academic phase followed by three weeks of hands-on practice in drilling the water well.
“The unique experience here is we are working together with the Ethiopians. That’s something we haven’t done between Seabees and ENDF as far as military engineering is concerned, we are breaking new ground,” said Gibson. “It’s very exciting to work with them, to share culture, build new friendships and to demonstrate how much we have in common and how much we can work together.”
“The aim of this exercise is to strengthen the two countries, the relationship of the two countries and this training in particular is focusing on training the ENDF by Americans, and it has been great training,” said Maj. Meresa Negash Tesema, ENDF engineer.
The well is drilled to more than one thousand feet. According to Gibson, deeper wells generally mean cleaner water sources, as the water has filtered farther through the ground from the surface.
“When we drill this deep, an electrically operated pump will need to be used. That pump is actually submerged at the bottom of the well below the water table,” said Gibson. “The first step is to drill the bore hole, then put in the casing to line the bore hole. The casing has screens toward the bottom to allow the water to enter and then the submersible pump goes down inside the casing attached to a pipe that draws the water up from the pump to be used.”
This exercise is a chance for U.S. Navy Seabees and the ENDF to share best practices while building new relationships among the two nations.
“The Ethiopians will have a highly qualified team capable of drilling wells where ever they want to be deployed. We are helping to build that capacity in the host nation, and it’s not just us – it’s us and the ENDF working together to develop that team,” Gibson continued.
The water well was completed Jan. 5. According to Gibson, the well should be able to sustain about 15,000 people in the Fiche region.