A rainy night in Ethiopia brings out the best in a civil affairs team

Marie Besancon wrote

Note: Ms. Marie Besancon is the director, Socio-Cultural Research and Assessment Team supporting Combined Joint Task Force Horn of Africa.

After posting the weekly report and the Shinile VETCAP draft report, I realized that I did not write about how great CPT Barnards CA Team is and how well they handled the emergency situation when we were flooded out in the Shinile Zone and couldn’t get back to the Dire Dawa base camp. All the men (Captain Barnard, Second Lieutenant Benjamin Backsmeier, Specialist Kyle Simmons, Specialist Aaron Williams and Sergeant Nathan Vanderslice) rallied to make camp, take turns with the watch, and keep us safe.

The force pro (force protection team) were exceptionally wise to stay out of sight with their weapons at the ready, when a large vehicle arrived in the pitch black at round 2345 causing us all a little apprehension particularly since this area is a known smugglers route and pretty much only those who are up to no good are out in this area at that time of night. CPT Barnard had assured the infantry that exercising restraint was the best approach to an uncertain situation. (One of the camp drivers had the experience of returning to a camp site with the Chinese for whom he was working at the time, only to find that the rebel group had killed everyone. He said that if alarmed, the smugglers, or rebels are capable of extremely violent behavior.)

Once we assured those in the vehicle that we were not threatening they chose to park away from us, cooked a meal and slept. We guessed that they were likely smugglers, though they had several women with them. The next day I heard the Community Health Care Worker talking with one of the women in their group about contraband and he confirmed this later to me.

Everyone knew their job and did it well. Technical Sergeant Fritz came through with a commo (communication) plan and kept the JOC (task force operations center) informed. When we established the camp, we immediately had a medivac plan in place and coordinated with the Seabees a plan for extraction the following day if the waters had not receded. We were well covered!

It was great to be out with our guys and feel protected. When Chief Craig from Ensign Culbertsons Seabee team arrived with their monster vehicles to haul us through the river the next day, I have to admit, my heart did swell with a certain amount of pride for the Americans!

This CA Team and the Seabees have a particularly good sprits de corps and we should all be proud of them!

Visit us at www.africom.mil.

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