U.S. Navy Seabees of Combined Task Unit (CTU) 68.2.1, comprised of members from Naval Mobile Construction Battalions (NMCB) 14 and 11, Detachment Horn of Africa, participated in a U.S. Army-led Counterterrorism Logistics and Engineering training evolution with the Forces Armee Djiboutienne (FAD) Construction Engineer Unit from February to May 2015.
The evolution was designed to build partnerships between coalition forces and the FAD, while increasing the FAD’s ability to support counterterrorism operations, defend local borders, and conduct resupply missions to Somalia.
Eight Seabees from CTU 68.2.1’s ALFA shop (equipment operators and construction mechanics) partnered with the U.S. Army 47th Transportation Company to provide training on FAD Construction Engineer Unit heavy construction equipment. The Seabees developed a training plan geared towards basic construction maintenance and equipment operation. Seabees provided both classroom instruction and on-the-job training, working side-by-side with FAD personnel to conduct mechanical diagnostics and repairs on FAD equipment, as well as operate equipment on small projects around the FAD camp.
Training revolved around a new D7 dozer provided to the FAD by the United States. The Seabees, U.S. Army, and FAD team worked together to assemble the dozer and get it operational. 1st Lt Harrison Knowlton, U.S. Army Africa Liaison Officer to the U.S. Embassy, was impressed with Seabee performance throughout the months of training.
“The Seabees provided subject-matter-experts, trainers in areas ranging from Heavy Equipment Maintenance, to Operator Training,” said Knowlton. “Their assistance in assembling the FAD’s newly received D7 Dozer says a lot about their dedication and work ethic. Continually growing and strengthening the U.S./FAD military relationship is key to success here in Djibouti.”
The learning and training wasn’t just one way. While Djiboutian personnel gained technical skills, CTU 68.2.1 members gained experience in leadership and communication.
“Working with the Djiboutians has motivated me in so many ways,” said Equipment Operator 3rd Class Brandon Paul of NMCB 14. “The FAD members were very willing to learn and I enjoyed the experience of showing them how to properly perform maintenance checks and operate equipment.”
The response from the FAD was overwhelmingly positive. They loved the course and the learning experience.
“Seabees are my favorite and I feel fortunate and blessed to be a part of this training” stated S/LT (Chief Sergeant) Charmarke Mahamed Djama of the FAD Construction Engineer Unit.
The training evolution culminated in an event from May 3-14. During the event, members of the FAD Construction Engineers showcased their new skills. They built defensive berms, cleared land of debris, and built pads for equipment staging; while U.S. forces served as observers.
“The partnership and training during this event has significantly increased our logistic and engineering capabilities and capacities and we appreciate the partnership with the U.S. forces,” said Maj. Gen. Zakaria Cheikh Ibrahim, Chief of Djibouti Defense Forces, during his speech at the event.
NMCB-11 and NMCB-14 are Seabee battalions based out of Gulfport, Mississippi specializing in contingency construction, disaster response, and humanitarian assistance. NMCB-14 Detachment HOA is currently deployed to Camp Lemonnier in Djibouti in support of Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa, which counters violent extremist organizations in East Africa through theatre security cooperation activities and enables regional access and freedom of movement within East Africa in order to protect and defend United States interests.