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NEWS | Jan. 7, 2022

Nebraska Guard helps restore Djibouti village water supply

By Spc. Gauret Stearns, Nebraska Army National Guard

CAMP LEMONNIER, Djibouti – Living in a water-scarce environment is a reality for millions of people around the globe, including in Djibouti, where the average annual rainfall is 4.7 inches. With so little precipitation, a reliable water source is critical. In Chabelley Village, the well needed repairs to ensure a stable water supply.

In December, U.S. Army Soldiers and Chabelley villagers worked hand-in-hand, moving large rocks, digging trenches and replacing a damaged coupling. Combined Joint Task Force – Horn of Africa (CJTF-HOA) engineers, including Soldiers from the 712th Engineer Support Company, helped village residents fix a leak in their only source of drinking water.

“We are here to fix a drinking water supply pipe,” said 1st Lt. James Fortson, construction management officer, 712th ESC. “A mismatched coupling caused a leak, and the people are losing water from their well.”

Chabelley is in the Arta region of Djibouti and is home to roughly 1,000 people. Rain is infrequent in the semi-arid environment, and losing any amount of water is devastating to the community.

“This well is the only water source for quite a few miles,” Fortson said. “Outside the rainy season, water is hard to come by out here.”

CJTF-HOA tracked the well leak for several months. In late October, the 712th ESC arrived at Camp Lemonnier, bringing the required skill sets to help the people of Chabelley fix the leaking well.

Sgt. Beau Heithoff, a CJTF-HOA engineer specialist with the 67th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade headquarters, supervised much of the repair work. Heithoff is a combat engineer for the Nebraska Army National Guard and a plumber in his civilian career. He shared his extensive plumbing experience with the village residents and Soldiers as they dug up the old pipe, cut away the old coupling and fit the new pieces in place.

“With the right supplies and the skills, everyone was able to do their part,” Heithoff said. “It was a team effort.”

The villagers and Soldiers tackled the project together and completed the repair in less than a day.

“The relationships we have in Djibouti really matter,” Fortson said. “Our effort is about much more than fixing a well: It is about demonstrating that we care about our partners and we want our relationship to last.”