Service members from the 443rd Civil Affairs Battalion (CA BN), in support of Combined Joint Task Force - Horn of Africa (CJTF-HOA), participated in a veterinary exchange in the rural village of Ali Oune, Djibouti, August 30, 2020.
In partnership with the Djiboutian Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock, and Fisheries, the 443rd CA BA was able to assist the veterinarian for Damerjog, Djibouti, in providing livestock care for the people of the remote Djiboutian desert village, which is roughly 15 miles from Camp Lemonnier.
Veterinary care and welfare for animals is essential throughout rural villages of Djibouti, where animals are interconnected with residents’ livelihoods.
“Their whole world depends on the livestock,” said Dr. Elmi Ali Ahmed, Ministry of Agriculture veterinarian in Damerjog, through an interpreter. “They use their milk, eat the meat, and also sell them, so their life is dependent on these animals.”
U.S. Army Maj. (Dr.) Mark Cunningham, 443rd CA BA Functional Specialty Team (FXSP) preventive medicine veterinarian and U.S. Army Sgt. Ebony O’Brien, 443rd CA BA FXSP animal care specialist, were able to assist Dr. Ahmed with treatment of mastitis and diarrhea, helping deworm, pulling ticks and examining the overall health of goats and donkeys.
“We learn a lot from these types of missions,” Cunningham said. “As veterinarians from the U.S., we are often working in different positions back home, so we benefit from seeing and working with different breeds and species of animals and especially learning about different diseases and parasites in Africa than we would see back in the U.S., so this is broadening our experience and our knowledge base.”
Dr. Ahmed said this was his second time doing a veterinary exchange with U.S. soldiers from the base but the first one this year due to COVID-19.
"We are happy to work with the Americans because they do a great job and they are here to treat the animals—we are doing an honest job together,” Ahmed said. “I learn some from them and they learn some from me, and we work together to help each other and we learn a lot from one another.”
Ali Oune is only accessible by rough dirt road, which can be washed out by rains and is notorious for large rocks that can cause flat tires. This brings logistical challenges to receiving routine vet care, along with the desert heat, which can rise to well above 100 degrees.
“Our primary role was to get both vets and interpreters out there to the village in order to facilitate the exchange so the vets could focus on administering livestock care,” said Maj. Matthew Kirkpatrick, 443rd Civil Affairs Battalion team chief.
Civil affairs soldiers help plan missions that may involve civilians, such as evacuations, and work with civilian aid agencies, non-governmental organizations and commercial and private organizations.
“In civil affairs we interact with the population,” said U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Jennifer Carcamo, 443rd CA BN team sergeant. “A lot of people come out to see us and they are very curious about what we are doing, so we interact with them and allow the vets to do their jobs and show people that Americans are around communicating and talking with them and not just the people that live on Camp Lemmonier—so they can see a face to the organization.”
Kirkpatrick added that these local visits and conversations are helpful in many ways.
“We were able to have some additional conversations while out there and were able to look at things from an environmental, health, safety, sanitary perspective so we’ve got some thoughts and ideas that could potentially lead to follow-on missions and allow us to find other opportunities assist the local population,” Kirkpatrick said.
Overall, both parties agreed the day was a success after caring for dozens of goats and donkeys.
“I really enjoy working with the Djiboutian veterinarian,” Cunningham said. “I appreciate this kind of work—I like collaborating and working together to improve livestock health. I enjoy playing a small part in this important mission.”