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Civil Affairs Provides Humanitarian Assistance
A man fills a water jug

Rear Adm. James Hart, Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa, commander fills up a water jug for a family in the Rwot Awaa Internally Displaced Persons camp.

LIRA, Uganda--In northern Uganda, military personnel from Bravo Company 489th Civil Affairs (CA) Battalion (BN) Team A16 are working to provide peace and stability to an area that hasn't been so peaceful.

For the past 20 years, there has been conflict with the Lord's of Resistance Army, which has caused many families to leave their home villages and relocate to Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) camps.

To help those who have been displaced, the CA team provides humanitarian assistance by repairing and drilling boreholes.

"The water projects are so important here that we've already repaired 75 boreholes," said Army 1st Lt. Ben Sklaver, CA team leader. "We requested and received permission to repair an additional 100 boreholes, and we're waiting to get approval to drill 50 new boreholes in remote villages where there are no boreholes," he said. "We look forward to working with the communities and providing them with fresh water, which is extremely important in this part of the world."

One of the boreholes the CA team repaired in Rwot Awaa had a huge impact on the people who reside there.

"The Rwot Awaa IDP camp opened after the first of the year and we learned about their broken borehole in March," said Sklaver. "We coordinated with a local contractor to repair it in late April," said Sklaver. Up until that point they were drinking from surface water and shallow wells that can easily be contaminated and unsafe for human consumption. Since the borehole was repaired, the village size has quadrupled. It's really phenomenal to watch."

On the day the CA team went to check on the operability of the Rwot Awaa borehole, Rear Adm. James Hart, Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa, commander was present to see some of the projects the CA team has completed.

"It's incredible what this CA team has been able to accomplish in the short amount of time they've been here," said Hart. "They've repaired 75 boreholes -- a pretty significant number -- and they did it at a very economical price. It's a great testament to their efforts."

According to Sgt. 1st Class Gary Robinson, Bravo Co. 489th CA BN team sergeant, having the admiral visit was a great way to highlight some of their CA projects and the conditions in which they work each and every day.

"It's nice to have him come out and see the great work our CA team is doing because its good for him to see what we see and do on a daily basis," he said.

The admiral also said seeing things first hand is much better than reading a project summary.

"It's great to be able to come out and get a better understanding of the standards of living, some problems people are having and any issues the local government is dealing with at the present time," said Hart. "It allows us to make better plans for the future as we continue to work with the Uganda government."

With kind words from the admiral and many more boreholes still to be repaired, Sklaver is confidant that his team will continue to do great things for the people of northern Uganda.

"Repairing and drilling boreholes is a really powerful tool that CJTF-HOA has been using in this area," said Sklaver. "These actions promote peace and stability and it shows that the American people are interested in helping the people of northern Uganda as they come out of a difficult period and begin to continue development."

Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa began operations at Camp Lemonier, Djibouti on May 13, 2003. The task force's mission is to prevent conflict, promote regional stability and protect coalition interests in order to prevail against extremism. The mission is accomplished by partnering with nations on humanitarian assistance, disaster relief, consequence management, civic action programs to include medical and veterinary care, school and medical clinic construction and water development projects.