DIRE DAWA, Ethiopia - U.S. Navy Seabees from Naval Mobile Construction Battalion 74, Detachment Ethiopia, came to Dire Dawa December 2010 to continue construction projects helping the city build infrastructure and meet basic needs.
Projects included drilling several water well sites around the city.
At more than five of these sites, the Seabees, attached to the Combined Joint Task Force–Horn of Africa, drilled hundreds of feet into the ground and installed mechanical pumps to bring up potable water which will provide clean healthy water for outlying villages.
U.S. Navy Seabee Petty Officer 1st Class Dennis Hill, lead driller, said the wells can produce 20 gallons of fresh water a minute. During these projects, average depths are more than 400 feet.
“The Seabees here are working hard. We work in 12 hours shifts, non-stop,” said Hill. “We will look back and be proud of what we accomplished here.”
U.S. Navy Lt.Jose Mora, officer-in-charge of NMCB 74, Detachment Ethiopia, said these projects are essential and progress quickly.
“The idea is to build these projects and in turn, give ownership over to the locals,” said Mora. “Then, the local people will maintain them which helps support our mission.”
Mora said that by helping build infrastructure in a country, the actions of a few can help create friendships with the larger population which will dissuade conflict in the future.
“The people we directly interact with are very appreciative we are here and they are very excited,” said Mora. “At the well sites in particular, the villagers especially enjoy that we are here.”
Another Seabee project is the Gende Gerada Primary School House, which began November 2010 and will be finished in the fall of 2011. Once completed, more than 500 students will have seating with new school house walls around them.
“The current structures there are not sound and we are trying to provide buildings so the students can learn in a safe environment,” said Mora.
Mora said that the Seabees are always looking for more projects to undertake. His battalion works closely with the 402nd U.S. Army Civil Affairs Battalion team in Dire Dawa, also attached to CJTF - HOA.
“We have a good relationship with them,” said Mora. “We are always looking for projects were we can work together.”
U.S. Army Capt. Jennifer Glossinger, Dire Dawa civil affairs team chief, said that working with the Seabees provides a critical link where collectively working together, they can address issues in region.
Once a month, Glossinger meets with regional non-governmental organizations to discuss issues that are dear to the people. Topics range from HIV education and immunization to work opportunities and food distribution among the people.
“The biggest concern is always water,” she said.
Water distribution, collection and consumption are of critical importance in an area experiencing severe drought conditions.
“The biggest issue that we see, whether it be water wells or other projects, is adapting to the local culture and having locals accept what we are doing.”
She said a large part of civil affairs mission is to attempt to understand how the people view the project. Ownership of these projects is given to the local people once work is completed and it necessary to ensure that projects are sustainable so they do not fall into disrepair.
“The civil affairs mission is to make sure we are providing them a product that they need and want,” said Glossinger. “The hardest part is sustaining these projects when the local community may have the proper resources to do so.”
In Dire Dawa, the Seabees and civil affairs teams pursue short-term projects that are monitored with the help of the United States Agency for International Development,she said. This and other non-governmental organization’s will work with the Ethiopian government to continue efforts to sustain completed projects.