by Air Force Staff Sgt. Shawn Jones

At the end of March, U.S. airmen and sailors joined Kenyans in an effort to increase access to clean drinking water in the country's arid Garissa district.

An Air Force C-17 Globemaster III transport jet brought more than100,000 pounds of well-drilling equipment and nearly a dozen Navy Seabees to Nairobi's airport during the two-day delivery mission. The Seabees, who are construction specialists, will use the equipment to drill wells that will be used by Somali nomads who inhabit the area between Nairobi and Kenya's eastern border with Somalia.

The well-drilling project is part of the Combined Joint Task Force Horn of Africa's mission to develop and nurture partnerships and promote regional cooperation within the Horn of Africa. One of the dozen Seabees who will help the Kenyans drill the well has an uncommon perspective on the project. Navy Petty Officer 3rd Class Jack Ndaiga of Naval Construction Battalion 74, deployed from Gulfport, Miss., was raised in Kenya and lived there until he moved to the United States at age 21. This is Ndaiga's first time back in Kenya since he joined the Navy three years ago.

“I'm excited to come back and help out,” he says. “Some people have to walk 20 miles for water, so to have it closer would be a good thing.”

Project leader Navy Chief Petty Officer Joseph Hangren says access to clean drinking water is a major problem in Kenya. This project is part of an overall plan that looks to establish more wells, helping Africans to help themselves, he says. Planning the multiple well projects is a long process that aims to improve stability in the region without having any negative environmental consequences.

A Kenyan official says that the well projects are helping the task force's effort to create and sustain relationships within Africa. Kenyan Col. Tai Gituai, chief of operations for the well-drilling project, says the water will help many Kenyans: “We look forward to cooperation and continuous engagement between Kenya and the United States.”

The C-17 crew, who picked up the equipment and sailors from the Djibouti airport near Camp Lemonier, was in Kenya only long enough to offload their cargo and passengers, but the significance of their contribution to the welfare of Africa's people was not lost on one of the crew's airmen.

“It always pays off to deliver necessary items to a country in need,” says Airman 1st Class Joshua Weston, a loadmaster from the 816th Expeditionary Airlift Squadron. “In this case, we were able to supply machinery so that people under drought conditions could receive water – a basic need of life.”