Kentuckians, multi-national force work to better roads in Africa

Story by Capt. Daniel VanHorn, Task Force Longrifles Public Affairs


Military personnel from five countries “meet in the middle” after completing a road cleanup project outside Camp Lemonnier, Djibouti, Dec. 11, 2012. Two groups started at opposite ends of the road, cleaning up debris and trash, working throughout the day. (Kentucky National Guard photo by 1st Lt. Mike Lowry, Task Force Longrifles Unit Public Affairs Historian Representative)

CAMP LEMONNIER, Djibouti – People rarely realize how much impact a Department of Public Works has until they live in a country that doesn’t have one. Such is the case in Djibouti, Africa, where a multi-national force partnered to do some cleaning of the main road which runs in front of Camp Lemonnier and several foreign military compounds.  The cleaning crew consisted of Kentucky Guardsmen from Task Force Longrifles, Camp Lemonnier staff and military personnel from Romania, South Korea, Djibouti, and Japan,

The idea originated with Lt. Col. Robert Larkin, Task Force Longrifles Commander, when he first visited Camp Lemonnier on the Pre-Deployment Site Survey (PDSS) in July of 2012.


A Soldier from Task Force Longrifles pulls plastic bags from bushes by Camp Lemonnier, Djibouti, Dec. 12, 2012. Soldiers of the task force worked with military personnel from several other countries to clean up a stretch of a local road. (Photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Eric Garst, Camp Lemonnier, PAO)

“Right away I noticed the trash lining the road and thought how easy it would be to hide an Improvised Explosive Device (IED) along this route,” said Larkin. “Cleaning it would add a higher level of security for Camp Lemonnier and be a great opportunity to partner with numerous countries that utilize the road.”

The area was approximately one hundred meters wide by a quarter mile long and was littered with hundreds of empty plastic bottles, scrap metal, paper bags, and pieces of cardboard. As word spread around camp about the project more and more units began volunteering and it became clear that some major planning would be needed to coordinate all the moving parts. That job fell to Maj. Michael Woodson, Task Force Longrifles Plans Officer.

Woodson contacted the Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa Japanese liaison officer, Capt. Chrystopher Kim, who informed the Japanese Self Defense Force about the proposed plan. To his surprise, the Japanese informed him that they had had a similar idea a few days before but would love to combine the ideas into one joint project.

The Japanese agreed to coordinate approval and security with the embassy while Woodson resourced the equipment, coordinated unit volunteers, and conducted site reconnaissance.

Garbage Before&After3

Before and after views of a section of the road. (Photo illustration by Capt. Daniel Van Horn, Task Force Longrifles Public Affairs)

On the morning of Dec. 11, 2012, the project began with volunteers from Camp Lemonnier starting at one end and all other volunteers starting at the other. By noon both groups linked up for a joint picture that showcased the camaraderie and teamwork created by the event.

Many of the participants felt a great sense of accomplishment after seeing the results of the joint effort.

“The project seemed daunting at first but by the end of the day you could really see a difference!” Woodson commented looking back at the freshly cleaned area.

All the volunteers who participated in the project said they look forward to working togther again in the future.

To see more photos from this story, click here.

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