Thursday, February 22, 2007

Build It And They Will Come

After nearly three hours of driving, we suddenly found ourselves standing on a narrow dirt path seemingly in the middle of nowhere. The well-worn path, surrounded by breathtaking mountains, desert landscape, and a small oasis, is not new. It has been used for thousands of years by animals and nomads traveling from Ethiopia through Djibouti.

Adjacent to the trail is a small slice of modern technology; an open concrete cistern connected to a faulty water pump.

Eastern Africa has long been considered a breeding ground for terrorists and terror activities. Strategic military strikes on Somalia earlier this year briefly earned headlines, but America's efforts to undermine terrorist organizations in this region go far beyond traditional warfare. Today, in this remote patch of land somewhere east of the Ethiopian border, members of the 1132nd Army Well Drilling Team from Mooresville, North Carolina, are doing their part to fight the global war on terror: they are checking the coordinates and status of the water well. It is scheduled to be rehabilitated in a few months.

The well was originally built to capture the hot trickles of water that bubble from a nearby natural oasis. Like the baseball infield carved out of a cornfield in the movie, The Field of Dreams, the water is a magnet for nomads and animals in an otherwise parch desert. But the water in the oasis is contaminated by the animals; leading to frequent cholera outbreaks.

First Sergeant William Robert Brown believes repairing the well is a "preemptive strike" that will help keep stability in an area that is vulnerable to extremist activity and influence.

--Kristin McHugh

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