I spent six months in Africa as a United States Sailor as an enlisted E-5. My profession at the time was as a Religious Program Specialist, (RP2). I served with the Fleet Marine Force as part of the Joint Task Force: Horn of Africa. We were stationed out of Camp Lemonier in Djibouti. At the time we were under the command of a Marine Major General, two stars. My chaplain was a Captain in the USN, next in charge in our office was an E-6, (RP1).
The first four months I spent the majority of my time planning out missions and preparing briefings. As well as bringing volunteers to three orphanages, a very important part of my job. There were a baby orphanage run by Catholic Nuns, and a boys, and girls orphanage which were run by the local Muslim organizations. I spent a vast majority of my time at the babies orphanage, feeding the children and playing with them. It took a toll over the six months because they also had a ward of babies who were dying which we took care of, along with a five year old with a disease which malformed his body and he was unable to communicate. I’d sit with him sometimes my entire visit, talking to him.
During the six month deployment we worked on various projects. We helped supply the missionaries in the area with supplies and brought them on camp to do shopping at our commissary. The camp was well supplied, a barber, laundry services, water bottle stations, a burger king open in the evening, even a bar which we were allowed 2 beers a day and was also locked down during times of emergencies. We even hosted infantry units on break from Iraq. Other projects included building the first AIDS clinic in the city, working on libraries, schools, and water wells in neighboring countries and cities. My unit was also in charge of three Conex boxes, same as you find on the back of eighteen wheelers. They were chock full of charitable donations, one even was full of play ground equipment we couldn’t seem to pawn off on any other organization or find a place or time to put them.
The above picture was taken in Eretria, a ceremony to thank us for our help in building a new school and library for the village. It was very fun to witness. I hate that my pictures were messed up in a file move, and I only have these distorted images to remember my time there.