Magazine article Soldiers Magazine

Old Guard in Djibouti

Magazine article Soldiers Magazine

Old Guard in Djibouti

Article excerpt

SOLDIERS from the Fort Myer, Va.-based 3rd U.S. Infantry, The Old Guard, had been in Africa for about a month. But they'd already been credited with contributing significantly to the Combined Joint Task Force--Horn of Africa's mission to curb the spread of terrorism in underdeveloped countries, CJTF-HOA officials said.

The 3rd Inf.'s Company D, 1st Battalion, was sent to the Horn of Africa to provide force protection for troops in the region as they conduct civil-affairs missions.

Upon arriving at Camp Lemonier, CJTF-HOA headquarters in Djibouti, the Old Guard Soldiers moved out in teams to support humanitarian missions in Djibouti, Uganda, Ethiopia and Kenya.

Civil-affairs teams from the Army and other services have been working to build schools, medical clinics and other facilities for those African nations. The Soldiers are also participating in military-to-military training in Djibouti, Uganda and Kenya, U.S. Army officials said.

The deployment has exposed the Soldiers to new experiences that many of them said will remain with them for the rest of their lives.

"The people in Djibouti are very modest, polite people," said Pfc. Mario Arbizo, a member of Co. D's 1st platoon. "It's a big deal for them to deal with Americans. They all want to come up and shake our hands."

The local children have made a particularly good impression on the Soldiers, Pfc. Arbizo said. The children like to hang around the Soldiers, watch them, ask them to play ball, or give them gifts, often in hopes of receiving something in return.

"The kids are so happy, and they have such great attitudes," said Pfc. Arbizo. "They try to show us things they've seen on American TV. They sing American songs and use American phrases. Often, the phrases are out of context."

Spc. Sam Bitner, a member of 3rd Plt., provided security for Navy personnel who were building a school, when a group of children approached him, offering to the Soldiers at the camp a gazelle that one boy held in his arms.

"They told us we could kill the gazelle and eat it," Spc. Bitner said. "They wanted to trade it for some of the stuff we have. We couldn't take it, though."

Spc. Bitner has been working with a team of 11 Old Guard Soldiers in a small Djiboutian village.

When the kids get too curious, or when they get in the way of the Soldiers' mission, the town elders are quick to tell them not to interfere, said Pvt. Donovan Metzger, another 3rd Plt. Soldier.

The elders take time to talk to servicemembers regularly, said Spc. Bitner. Recently, they came to the Soldiers' camp to invite them to participate in a soccer game. The Soldiers and some Sailors, who'd also been invited, were outmatched; the village won the game 7-0.

One night a hard rain caused flooding throughout a region where four Old Guard Soldiers were supporting a civil-affairs mission.

While out on a reconnaissance patrol, Sgt. Rovell Thomas happened upon a group of Djiboutians standing along a flooded waterway. They told Sgt. Thomas and his team that a swift current had swept two boys downstream, and they couldn't rescue them.

With the help of an Airman and a Soldier from another unit, Sgt. Thomas went into the water, found one of the boys and pulled him to safety. …

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