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Seabees Provide Relief to Kenyan Flood Victims

Navy NewsStand

Story Number: NNS061230-02
Release Date: 12/30/2006 8:50:00 PM

By Lt. Cdr. Kyra Hawn, Naval Construction Force Public Affairs

GARISSA, Kenya (NNS) -- A team of five Seabees assigned to Commander, Joint Task Force Horn of Africa (CJTF HOA) were diverted from their mission of drilling wells in early Dec., to provide emergency relief in the form of food and supplies to areas of Kenya devastated by torrential rains and subsequent massive flooding in the region.

“The mission in Kenya was originally to have the Seabees drill several wells in the eastern region of Garissa,” explained Cdr. Glenn Tootle a reserve Civil Engineer Corps Officer and Navy liaison to CJTF HOA. “We were deployed here to work with the Kenyan government in efforts to provide solutions for the country’s long-term drought problems, but the Seabees and their 'Can Do,' shift-on-the-fly ability made the disaster relief mission an easy fit.”

Well-drilling operations were abruptly interrupted in October, when a series of uncharacteristic storms hit the region, washing out roads and isolating remote villages from normal supply lines, transit routes and resources. The rains continued through November, and the Kenyan government, in cooperation with the International Red Cross and the World Food Program looked to U.S. military resources in the region to provide assistance and relief.

On Nov. 30, members of Naval Moblile Construction Battalion (NMCB) 5 assigned to CJTF HOA began preparing for a food delivery mission using Seabee tactical vehicles.

“We loaded rice and non-perishable food items onto our trucks from sunrise to sunset,” recalled Equipment Operator 2nd Class (SCW) Matthew Bobinchak of Sheridan, Wyo. “It was amazing to see the resources provided by the United States and other supporting countries. We were excited to be part of the recovery mission and knew that we could help.”

Seabee tactical vehicles left Garissa and traveled to numerous locations identified as having critical need for food, water and supplies. The Seabee team, accompanied by a Kenyan Red Cross representative was met by countless grateful Kenyan nationals who had been cut off from normal food supplies for nearly two months.

“The looks on the faces of the citizens was something that I will never forget,” remarked Steelworker 3rd Class (SCW) Rachel Stewart. “I will never again take for granted all that we have in the United States. My deployment here has been humbling and gratifying.”

Following the food delivery mission completion, NMCB 5 Seabees resumed well-drilling operations near Garissa. Completion of well projects will provide a reliable source of potable water to the region for years to come. Ultimately, the availability of water to this impoverished area of the world will allow citizens to live with greater confidence in their health and the welfare of future generations.

“We hope that our work here, even though the conditions are less than optimal will leave lasting positive results,” stated Chief Petty Officer in Charge of the Kenyan Seabee detachment, Chief Equipment Operator (SCW) Tom Maxwell. “These troops have certainly had the experience of a lifetime, and I am proud to have had the opportunity to serve with them here. They represent the best of the United States, and the best of the Navy. I’m glad that the people of Kenya had a chance to get to know us, and vice versa.”

NMCB 5 is home-based at Naval Base Ventura County, Calif. The unit is scheduled to return from deployment in February 2007.

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