Saturday, February 17, 2007

First Report from Djibouti

One team of reporters for Beyond Fear is already in the field. Keith Porter reports from Djibouti in the Horn of Africa.

After a long transit through a Midwest snowstorm, Paris, and Ethiopia, we are in Djibouti to report for the documentary "Beyond Fear: America's Role in an Uncertain World." Kristin McHugh, Malcolm Brown, and I were met at the airport by public affairs staffers from Camp Lemonier: Captain Tony Wickham of the U.S. Air Force and Master Chief Petty Officer Eric Clementof the U.S. Navy.

Later, a number of leaders from the base met us at the hotel for dinner... including the new commander of Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa (CJTF-HOA), Rear Admiral James Hart.

This morning, Captain Wickham and his boss, Major David Malakoff picked us up at the hotel. Then we had to clear some very thorough security bythe Marine guards at the gate to Camp Lemonier... home to 1,700 U.S.military personnel.

We started with a briefing attended by two admirals, a number of colonels, the State Department representative, a civilian Defense Department consultant, and others. We later learned that because the camp is transitioning in a new leadership team, this was the first briefing this group had given to outsiders visiting the camp.

So far, the place seems pretty amazing. The mission here is to fight terrorism with what most people would call basic human kindness. They want to promote stability in the region by providing humanitarian assistance and kick-starting economic development. The goal is to take away the fertile soil for terrorist recruiting by digging wells, building schools, and providing services (like medical and veterinary care).

The personnel here are enthusiastic about the results. In fact, the most repeated sentiment in our first day of interviews is that they find this to be the most rewarding work they have ever done.

Soon, we will head out into the field to see some of the projects in action.

--Keith Porter

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