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I'm going where? To Djibouti!

  • Published
  • By Maj. Rick Jellison
  • 440th Mission Support Group, General Mitchell Air Reserve Station, Wis.

When the Air Force Reserve Command personnel specialist asked me if I could deploy in support of AEF 9 and 10, I said, “Yes,” and then I asked, “Where?”

The answer I received was Camp Lemonier, Republic of Djibouti, Africa. It is not my idea of the ideal place for a 120-day deployment, but I was looking forward to doing my part to support the Global War on Terror.

Once I received verification of the location, I started looking for information on Djibouti. I found an informative site managed by the U.S. Department of State and proceeded to learn as much as I could about the country I was going to live in for four months. I did this because I think it is important to find out as much as you can about the culture and environment you will be living in to ensure you adhere to the customs and courtesies of that country.

The east African nation is about 8,880 square miles large and is surrounded by Eritrea to the north, Ethiopia to the west, Somalia to the south, and the Gulf of Aden on the east. The daily temperature does not drop below 80 degrees Fahrenheit and in the summer months reaches well into the 130s. After getting a good feel for my assignment location, I wanted to gain a better understanding of what the Horn of Africa mission was all about. I soon found out in person during the welcome briefing.

To quote the former commander of the Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa, U.S. Marine Corps Maj. Gen. Timothy F. Ghormley, “We are waging peace here in Africa.”

General Ghormley further explained his remarks by saying U.S. forces are in Djibouti to prevent terrorists from finding a safe haven in the Horn of Africa. Our people are doing this through a myriad of civil affairs activities, military-to-military training events, and building infrastructure in and around the Horn of Africa.

As I listened to the general, I thought to myself, “How does this relate to me as a military member? What can I provide to this important mission?”

While in Djibouti I am assigned as the comptroller to a joint special operations command and control element. Our focus is more specifically on counter-terrorism and providing necessary training to the countries in the Horn of Africa to help them defeat terrorism.

My part in this mission may seem secondary to the focus on training, but as we all know, you need funding to make sure a mission is successful.

In addition to work in Djibouti, I also get the chance to travel to countries throughout the Horn of Africa to discuss funding issues with our embassy staff. This has helped me gain additional insight into the delicate relationships we continue to build with these countries.

The experience has broadened my view of the Air Force and the military’s varied roles in the global war on terror, and I look forward to sharing my experiences with others back home.

If you have the chance to deploy in support of the Global War on Terror, consider it an honor to be a part of a global shaping process that will have lasting effects on our future. (AFRC News Service)