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Seabees Building Dormitory for Djiboutian Students

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

DIKHIL, Djibouti, April 20, 2006 – In three months, children in this region of Djibouti will be able to further their education, thanks to Seabees and soldiers from Combined Joint Task Force Horn of Africa.

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Navy Secretary Donald Winter speaks with Seabees from Gulfport, Miss. at a project in Dikhil, Djibouti, April 20. The Seabees are building a dormitory for junior high students in the village. Photo by Jim Garamone
  

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The Seabees are building a dormitory for junior high school students in the region. The dormitory will house about 150 boys and girls.

Children in the village's outlying areas currently have no way to attend school. Schooling beyond elementary grades is scarce in this poor land. Roads are also tough to navigate, and few people have money for transportation. Families will be able to bring their promising students to Dikhil, where they will be able to live during the school year.

The project is a joint venture sponsored by Saudi Arabia, the Djiboutian government, and the Horn of Africa servicemembers. "Saudi Arabia donated a steel-beam modular building for the school," Navy Lt. Jorge Cuadros, the project's chief, said. "U.S. Agency for International Development paid to have the cement pads poured, and the Seabees are providing the labor."

The project employs 11 Seabees from Navy Mobile Construction Battalion 7, out of Gulfport, Miss. Some of the sailors lost their homes during Hurricane Katrina. "For many of the Seabees, this is been a very tough year, but they are working well and are motivated by the mission here," Cuadros said.

"We can see the difference every day here," a petty officer with the unit said. "We have an affect on people's lives here."

Soldiers of the 1st Battalion, 16th Infantry, from the 1st Infantry Division at Fort Riley, Kan., provide force protection for the Seabees. "We're really all in this together," one soldier said.

An airman also provides communication to Djibouti City.

Conditions are austere, to say the least. The servicemembers live under the stars atop concrete pads. "It's a small working and living area," Cuadros said.

Combined Joint Task Force Horn of Africa is sponsoring several such projects all over the Horn of Africa. The command has similar projects in Ethiopia, Kenya, other parts of Djibouti, and Yemen.

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Combined Joint Task Force Horn of Africa

Click photo for screen-resolution image"We've been here two days and it already feels like home," said a petty officer at Dikhil, Djibouti. The concrete slab the cots are on will become a dormitory for junior high students. In the meantime, American Seabees, soldiers and an airman sleep under the stars. Photo by Jim Garamone  
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Click photo for screen-resolution imageA 1st Infantry Division soldier provides watch from a portable tower for Seabees working on a school project in Dikhil, Djibouti. Photo by Jim Garamone  
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Click photo for screen-resolution imageChildren play in the schoolyard in Dikhil, Djibouti. The school is getting a junior high school dormitory, thanks to servicemembers assigned to Combined Joint Task Force Horn of Africa. Photo by Jim Garamone  
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