Captain Joseph Blubaugh wrote
Note: Captain Joe Blubaugh is the officer in charge of Combat Camera deployed to Djibouti in support of Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa.
After spending several days in the Comoros, I am still amazed at the picturesque views that are so commonplace on the tiny island in the Indian Ocean. Yet every time I do, I’m also baffled at how a country this beautiful, with such a wonderful climate, has an almost nonexistent tourism industry.
I had the opportunity to travel with the Maritime Civil Affairs Team (MCAT) deployed there from Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa to view some of their projects first hand. We first stopped at the docks to tour a patrol vessel donated to the Comoros from the United States. When we arrived, a member of the Comorian military force was working on the ship’s engines and immediately motioned for us to join him.
As it turns out, one of the two engines on the boat was broken and he was hoping a member of the MCAT would help him fix it. After about 45 minutes, the team found the problem and fixed it following instructions from a member of the MCAT.
Next we traveled to a government-run hospital to review a project the MCAT members designed to provide the hospital laboratory with running water throughout the day as they normally only have water provided through the city distribution system for two hours a day. The project will use a cistern that will fill up when city water is available to supply water throughout the whole day.
Upon arrival, the director of the hospital took us to their main water line to show where it had broken. Furthermore, the pump that supplied water to the hospital through the main line had overheated and was no longer functional. The hospital did not have the resources or expertise to fix either of the problems. Now the entire hospital was without a basic necessity. Situations like this make me realize how much we take basic necessities for granted.
In my short time on the continent, maintaining equipment and basic infrastructure appears to be a significant challenge facing many East African countries. Military teams forward deployed from CJTF-HOA, similar to the MCAT in the Comoros, are working with our partner nations to provide knowledge and build capacity to help address these challenges.
In the case of the donated boat, the United States has not only asked the MCAT to help with sustainment training, but there was also a team there to provide two weeks of in-depth training ranging from tactical operations to preventative maintenance. They also provided a cache of replacement parts and the tools needed for repairs and maintenance. However, this will only go so far. Over time, the capacity-building efforts by our teams will determine if the service life of this state-of-the-art vessel will stretch beyond three or four years.
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