Futbol and Folk Dancing: NMCB 5 Experience African Culture

KONTALI, Djibouti (Oct. 1, 2011) - Kontali Schoolhouse students glance from their classroom as villagers prepare the schoolyard for a traditional African dance presentation at Kontali, Djibouti, October 1. The people of the village presented the dance festival as a way of sharing their culture with the service members of Naval Mobile Construction Battalion 5, who partnered with the village to make improvements to their schoolhouse. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Jarad A. Denton) CJTF-HOA Photo KONTALI, Djibouti (Oct. 1, 2011) - Kontali Schoolhouse students glance from their classroom as villagers prepare the schoolyard for a traditional African dance presentation at Kontali, Djibouti, October 1. The people of the village presented the dance festival as a way of sharing their culture with the service members of Naval Mobile Construction Battalion 5, who partnered with the village to make improvements to their schoolhouse. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Jarad A. Denton)
KONTALI, Djibouti (Oct. 1, 2011) -A student from Kontali, Djibouti loses a sandal while kicking a ball during a ffÃtbol game against Seabees from Naval Mobile Construction Battalion 5, October 1. The ffÃtbol game and subsequent festival allowed the Kontali people to share their cultural heritage with the Seabees, who worked closely with them on a project to improve the local schoolhouse. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Jarad A. Denton) CJTF-HOA Photo KONTALI, Djibouti (Oct. 1, 2011) -A student from Kontali, Djibouti loses a sandal while kicking a ball during a ffÃtbol game against Seabees from Naval Mobile Construction Battalion 5, October 1. The ffÃtbol game and subsequent festival allowed the Kontali people to share their cultural heritage with the Seabees, who worked closely with them on a project to improve the local schoolhouse. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Jarad A. Denton)
KONTALI, Djibouti (Oct. 1, 2011) - Students from the local schoolhouse in Kontali, Djibouti kick a ffÃtbol during a match with Seabees from Naval Mobile Construction Battalion 5, October 1. The Kontali villagers worked with the Seabees to improve conditions at the schoolhouse and invited them to watch a traditional Djiboutian dance ceremony after the ffÃtbol game. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Jarad A. Denton) CJTF-HOA Photo KONTALI, Djibouti (Oct. 1, 2011) - Students from the local schoolhouse in Kontali, Djibouti kick a ffÃtbol during a match with Seabees from Naval Mobile Construction Battalion 5, October 1. The Kontali villagers worked with the Seabees to improve conditions at the schoolhouse and invited them to watch a traditional Djiboutian dance ceremony after the ffÃtbol game. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Jarad A. Denton)
KONTALI, Djibouti (Oct. 1, 2011) - A Kontali, Djibouti, villager weaves a basket underneath the shade of a tree, October 1. The woven basket was later displayed at a craft table during a cultural festival put on by the people of Kontali to teach the Seabees about African heritage and history. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Jarad A. Denton) CJTF-HOA Photo KONTALI, Djibouti (Oct. 1, 2011) - A Kontali, Djibouti, villager weaves a basket underneath the shade of a tree, October 1. The woven basket was later displayed at a craft table during a cultural festival put on by the people of Kontali to teach the Seabees about African heritage and history. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Jarad A. Denton)

As the four-wheel drive vehicles shuddered and lurched over the rocky dirt road, Seabees of Naval Mobile Construction Battalion 5 caught a glimpse of the Kontali village as it appeared on the horizon, nearly hidden by the mid-day sun, October 1.

The small village, which sits atop a hill overlooking a vast expanse of dry land, was bustling with activity as villagers hurried to make the final preparations for a futbol game and cultural festival held for the Seabees.

"They [the Seabees] have helped us so much," said Ibrahim Idriss Mohamed, a Kontali elder and village council member. "We wanted to invite them to experience and enjoy our traditions. We want to show them who we are and where we come from."

For nearly a year, Seabees attached to Combined Joint Task Force - Horn of Africa have been working with village elders to coordinate construction efforts and plan renovations to modernize their local school house. When completed, the project will provide solar power and much needed physical structure renovations to the school.

According to U.S. Navy Chief Petty Officer Keith Genereux, NMCB5 Kontali project senior enlisted leader and a native of Columbus, Ohio, the relationship the Seabees have built with the people of Kontali has been one of the strongest he has ever experienced.

"The village welcomed us with open arms," said Genereux. "This has been one of the best symbiotic experiences I've had throughout my 21 years in the Navy."

The bond extends beyond the schoolhouse project and was further cemented when the Kontali people invited the Seabees to a futbol match with students from the school, said Genereux. The Seabees provided jerseys for the students to wear during the game, as a way of thanking the people of Kontali for the invitation.

"We have really integrated with the whole community," Genereux said. "It's great to be part of such a close team."

Although the Seabees won, one to zero, both sides claimed a victory in forming friendships on the field.

"I think had the kids played the entire game they would have beaten us," Genereux said. "But, luckily, the village adults took pity on us and played for a few minutes."

Following the game, the Seabees witnessed and participated in a cultural festival that included traditional African dances and a display of handmade items from the village.

"We are a proud people with a proud culture and heritage," said Houmed Hassan, a Kontali elder and village council member. "Everything [in our village] has a history. Everything has a story."

The Kontali people shared stories from their oral history in the form of three separate, traditional dances. The first dance illustrated a young Kontali man proposing marriage to the woman he loved. Next, male performers gathered to demonstrate a battle between the young man who proposed marriage and another man who was in love with the same woman. Finally, the young man, after defeating his challenger, married his bride in a ceremony attended by his friends and family.

After the dances, the Seabees viewed handmade crafts made by some of the villagers and learned about the history behind each item. Village council members explained that the dances and the crafts were an important part of the Kontali heritage, because they represented the history of the people and how they tied into the story of Africa. Throughout the festival, they thanked the service members for everything they had done to promote regional stability by working with the people to revitalize their schoolhouse.

"We wanted to thank them, but we weren't sure how," said Mohamed. "There are no words to express our gratitude. No one has ever done this before."

Tags

Seabees

We suggest

Seabees lend a hand

Members of U.S. Naval Mobile Construction Battalion One assigned to Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa assist members of the Djiboutian Armed Forces during the construction of modular shelter systems in and around Djibouti City, Feb. 27, 2017. The six military grade shelter systems were donated by Alaska Structures through the Global Action Coalition for use as schools, clinics, and centers for cottage industry to promote the health, education and economic stability of the Djiboutian people.

Seabee Commander Visits Ali Oune

ALI OUNE, Djibouti-The Naval Mobile Construction Battalion 1 Commander visited Seabees at Ali Oune Village, September 21

Equipment operators complete road construction to help facilitate US/French mission operations

A project several months in the making finally came to fruition July 30 with the help of a few equipment operators from the Naval Mobile Construction Battalion One, assigned to Camp Lemonnier, Djibouti.

Seabees of CJTF-HOA keep the mission moving with tools of the trade

The U.S. Navy's Naval Mobile Construction Battalion ONE help keep Camp Lemonnier, Djibouti, and the local East African community progressing through their specialized skills.

CJTF-HOA Seabees build structures, bonds to help counter regional VEOs

The U.S. Navy's Naval Mobile Construction Battalion ONE Seabees deployed to Combined Joint Task Force - Horn of Africa are working to construct a medical facility, while fostering friendly relationships with the Djiboutian people in the Arta Region.