U.S. Navy Makes Progress With Well-Drilling Projects in Kenya

U.S. Navy members are working to improve the quality of life for Kenyans in the Garissa district by bringing clean water to the region through a series of well-drilling projects. On April 22, 2008, the service members broke ground on a water well in Shaba, Kenya.

This well is one of three planned in the district of Garissa as part of a Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa (CJTF-HOA) project. The well, once complete, will provide a better alternative for the villagers than going to the nearby Tana River for water.

"The river is primarily only good for livestock; it's not good drinking water," said Petty Officer 2nd Class Peter Welch, water well lead mechanic and derrick operator. "In addition, for the individuals who do decide to go to the river to get drinking water, there are crocodiles and hippos, which can be very dangerous. We have heard reports of people, especially small children, being killed by crocodiles."

Additionally, the diggers are working with a Kenyan Department of Defense water well team to forge a cooperative relationship and exchange technical knowledge.

According to Garissa district officer Jack Mbiso the wells will dramatically improve the quality of life in his district. "It is a good thing because lives are going to be changed," he said. "With water close by I know women won't have to take time to go to the river, which can be used for better things, like taking better care of their children. Lettâ?s change lives, positively."

The crew of Navy construction specialists, known as "Seabees", have trained extensively for this mission, completing two field exercises together. Once started, the drilling continues around the clock until they hit water.

"The first day is pretty hectic, but once you get into the groove of things and begin drilling everything gets pretty routine, and everyone knows their job and knows what needs to get done, so it goes relatively smooth," said Welch.

The Seabees bring even more than clean water to the residents of the Garissa District. Alfred Kiragu, a native of Nairobi, has been a driver, translator, and informal consultant for Seabees deployed to CJTF-HOA in Kenya for the past two years. During that time he's seen the bonds between the United States and Kenya strengthen.

"The Seabees are doing more than just giving the people water," he said. "They interact with the locals. Almost every evening they play soccer with the children. They drive the message that we are here to help, which they take home to their parents."

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