28 October 2006

Why is Smitty in Djibouti? Part IV - Uncle Sam's Business

Part I
Part II
Part III
Working in CJTF-HOA is a bit strange. Every morning we stand up and people with close cut hair in smart uniforms use a lot of military lingo to describe, for example, the status of some concrete that’s supposed to be delivered to complete construction of a school.

Construction and well-drilling projects constitute about half our work. We have multiple large well-drilling rigs of a type not available in this area, capable of drilling very deep wells in areas that haven’t had operating water wells in quite some time. Access to potable water is one of the single most important things we can provide to help lift people out of poverty; economic development is simply not possible without a ready supply of drinkable water. The United States has chosen the military-there are, in fact, whole platoons in the Army’s engineering world dedicated to drilling wells-as the organization to go out into east Africa and help provide water.

The Navy has construction battalions (CB’s, more popularly the SeaBees) who are here at the base as well. They work on infrastructure projects around the base, but also do some work in town and elsewhere in the region. But we don’t want to come in here and damage the local economy by having our own construction teams build all the schools and hospitals. There are plenty of local contractors perfectly capable of doing the jobs, just not enough capital around to pay for them. That’s where we come in.

There is much more to say--there always is when Uncle Sam does something unexpected--but now is not the time. I'll pick this series up again in a few days.

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