Combined Force Exhibits New Type of Warfare
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
CAMP LEMONIER, Djibouti, Aug. 18, 2005 Call it the prototype for a new method of warfare.
The Combined Joint Task Force Horn of Africa, headquartered here, is fighting the global war on terror with good deeds, not weapons.
Task force commander Marine Maj. Gen. Timothy Ghormley very proudly tells one and all that no one in his command has "fired a shot in anger," but the command may have prevented hundreds of young men and women in the region from embracing the terrorist philosophy. "My combat forces are doctors, veterinarians, engineers and dentists," Ghormley said during an interview at his headquarters today.
The forces go out into communities in this eastern Africa region and provide humanitarian aid missions. Doctors see patients - many of whom are receiving medical care for the first time in their lives.
Engineers dig wells. "Water is king in the Horn of Africa," the general said. "Every time they take a drink of water from that well, they will remember the coalition put it there."
Veterinarians care for herd animals. Animals - goats, sheep, cattle - are wealth in the region. If coalition veterinarians vaccinate goats and prevent the loss of a quarter of a herd, then that is money to the animals' owners.
Soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines help plan and build schools and roads and bridges. Smaller projects are also helpful, said officials here.
Soldiers talked about building a vehicle bridge over a stream that is dry almost all the time. "But when it does rain, it causes huge (flooding) problems for the towns," one soldier who worked on the project said. "The bridge probably cost maybe $100,000, but rain won't stop life for those people anymore."
The challenge is immense. The area of operations is as large as the eastern half of the United States and runs from Yemen to Sudan and Kenya to Eritrea. The command also has responsibility for the Seychelles and - by agreement with the U.S. Pacific Command - the Comoros islands.
"When we go out, we make sure people understand that our mission is peace, stability and security.
There are about 1,500 members of the command - most are American, but it is a true coalition effort. The British, Dutch, French, Romanians and Koreans are among countries taking part.
Conditions are austere. Djibouti borders the Gulf of Aden and the Red Sea and is near the equator. It gets very hot - with temperatures still above 100 at sundown - and very humid.
But even so, servicemembers find the cultural experience rewarding. "You would never get that sort of experience back in the states, certainly not at my age," said Lance Cpl. Dan Riordan, a Marine Reservist who interrupted his final year at Casanovia College in New York, "You do feel like you are doing something to better the world."
The Marines and Navy personnel spend seven months here, the airmen spend 120 days and the Army personnel spend a year. The population is a mix of active and reserve components. "It doesn't even matter what service they are in," Ghormley said. "Everyone pitches in together. On my staff, service or component is really immaterial."
The general said his relationships with the various U.S. ambassadors in the region are excellent. He maintains liaison officers in each embassy and consults closely with embassy officials before embarking on projects.
Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld has called the command a model for the future of DoD. But the task force may become a model for the entire government. Planners are working on a reorganization that would include all agencies that can help.
The proposed Joint Interagency Task Group Horn of Africa would include State and Defense Department officials. It could also include Department of Agriculture, Treasury or Justice people. "It's the next logical progression," Ghormley said.