U.S. Navy Sailor from West Africa Brings Community Values to Djibouti
People join the military for various reasons, and remain in for various reasons. For U.S. Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Boubacar Djibo, enlisting initially meant an opportunity for better education, but it ultimately provided him something more—a sense of community.
In his birthplace of Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, community was everything, said Djibo, a personnel specialist and strength management leading petty officer here.
"People are very close-knit—there is a great sense of solidarity," said Djibo. "Everybody's problem is everybody else's problem."
The sense of community in his native country resembles that of most small towns in the U.S., said Djibo, where everyone pitches in to help.
Compared to other Ouagadougou residents, Djibo said his family was very fortunate. His father, Sinaly Djibo, worked as an elementary school teacher before transitioning to diplomacy. He served as Burkina Faso's ambassador to Saudi Arabia from 1978 to 1981.
Djibo and his family lived in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, for two years, where the embassies were located. He and his six siblings attended school with children of international diplomats.
"It was kind of different because we really didn't have a chance to play with a lot of kids like we used to back home," said Djibo. "We were able to go to some of the other kids' houses, but it definitely wasn't the same."
After returning to Burkina Faso, Djibo completed his secondary education and then attended the University of Ouagadougou, where he earned his University Diploma of Technology in accounting. This degree is between a U.S. associate and bachelor's degree.
To pursue his bachelor's degree in accounting, Djibo traveled to America in 1998 with the U.S. State Department's Diversity Visa Program, which allows up to 55,000 people from other countries to temporarily live in the U.S.
Djibo enlisted in the Navy in April 1999 to travel and help pay for his education. He then received his American citizenship in 2003.
One similarity Djibo noticed between his life in Burkina Faso and the Navy was the sense of community he experienced.
"I love the Navy, and I know it helps people," said Djibo.
One way Djibo likes to help is by participating in the various assistance programs and community service opportunities available on and off camp. Just in his first month, Djibo volunteered for English Discussion Group, Camp Lemonnier's mortuary affairs program and the U.S. Navy Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Program.
English Discussion Group visits several local schools and is a good venue for helping Djiboutian students practice their English, Djibo said.
"I really enjoy the English Discussion Group," Djibo said. "I like interacting with (the students) and helping them learn to speak English."
Djibo also recognizes the importance of the other programs available for people on camp. He devotes as much time as he can to helping others, he said.
"I basically try to get involved as much as I can to make sure people are taken care of," said Djibo.
For his job here, his responsibilities include welcoming new personnel to the camp and making sure their arrival, billeting and departure go smoothly.
"One of the attributes I really admire about Djibo is his desire to include everyone in the community we've established here," said U.S. Navy Senior Chief Petty Officer Paul Matheny, administrative department leading chief petty officer and Djibo's supervisor here. "He doesn't just get himself involved—he tries to get others involved. With him, it's really all about inclusion. It's not just about what he can do, it's about what we can do."
Djibo and his wife, Sita, also strive to instill their shared values in their three children, he said.
"We do teach them everything we were taught—sense of solidarity, selflessness and pride in hard and honest work," said Djibo. "Really, we realize we are all here and have what we have because others gave."