By Dona Fair
Army Home Town News
CAMP LEMONIER, Djibouti ó They graduated from different high schools in Iredell County. Now they find themselves working together thousands of miles from home.
Army National Guard Staff Sgt. Rex E. Hipp, son of Gary and Roma Hipp of Dixie Drive, and Sgt. Phillip W. Lawing, son of Larry and Betty Lawing of Milo Drive, all of Mooresville, are two of more than 1,800 U.S. service members, civilians, coalition forces and partner nations taking part in the Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa.
The Horn of Africa includes a large portion of northeast Africa consisting of the nations of Djibouti, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Kenya, Seychelles, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen. The task force is here to prevent conflict, promote regional stability and protect coalition interests in an attempt to prevail against extremism.
Hipp and Lawing, members of the 1132nd Engineer Detachment, are water well-drillers and have been deployed to this remote location for four months.
Living in tents, working in temperatures that exceed 120 degrees for days on end, constant blowing dust and power outages are a few of the hardships Hipp, Lawing and their fellow humanitarians endure.
“Our mission is to help the Djiboutian people have clean, safe drinking water,” said Lawing, a 1978 graduate of South Iredell High School.
Even in some of their off duty-hours, Hipp, Lawing and others take supplies to a local orphanage, help fix up their facility or just play a game of basketball with the kids. They also take part in conversational English classes to help the locals develop their use of the English language.
Volunteers also provide medical and veterinarian information to the Djiboutians, teaching them to prevent the spread of malaria and cholera, which are very prevalent here.
“The Horn of Africa is in desperate need of fresh water because the land is very hot and dry. We are trying to help them have fresh water which in turn will help to save lives,” said Hipp, who graduated in 1990 from Mooresville Senior High School, and received a bachelor’s degree in 1996 from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte.
In this country, villagers travel with their camels and goats from Ethiopia to Somalia in the desert, by foot in the scorching heat, for hundreds of miles along camel trails which are thousands of years old, to look for drinking water. When they do find water, it is most likely contaminated and shared by animals and humans alike. After a long day of travel, they bed down amongst the palm trees in the oasis at night.
“I have learned that we all have the ability to do great things for those in need in this world, regardless if you are in the military or not,” Hipp said.
By serving a tour in the Horn of Africa, witnessing the peoples’ constant struggle to simply survive and playing even a small part in improving their lives, Hipp and Lawing have learned a valuable lesson no movie or documentary could ever teach.
The 7th Armored division will hold their 61st annual reunion Sept. 27-Oct. 1, 2007. The reunion will held in Virginia Beach, Va.
Contact Cheryl M. Higley, 292 Scott Swamp Road, Farmington, Conn. 06032, CMHIG58@aol.com., 860-678-1018, for more information.
1. Army National Guard Staff Sgt. Rex E. Hipp and Sgt Phillip W. Lawing are water well diggers who are deployed to the Horn of Africa to support a combined task force in the region. The stability in the eight-nation region at the far northeast corner of Africa is a foremost mission of the U.S. and coalition nations. (Photo by Daren Reehl)
2. A camel is temporarily interrupted by soldiers from the Combined Joint Task Force Horn of Africa who are going over plans for a new well for local villagers. The task force was set up in the region to promote stability, protect coalition interests and prevent against extremism. (Photo by Daren Reehl)
3. An Air Force C-130 cargo plan takes off from Camp Lemonier, Djibouti after delivering supplies to the camp. More than 1,800 service members, civilians, coalition forces and partner nations make up the combined joint task force. (Photo by Daren Reehl)
4. Djibouti City, the capital of the Republic of Djibouti is the host for the U.S. and coalition forces task force Horn of Africa. The combined joint task force also includes the nations of Ethiopia, Eritrea, Kenya, Seychelles, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen. (Photo by Daren Reehl)
5. Military engineers replace a pipeline to an existing well to prevent contamination in a desert area outside the capital of Djibouti. More than 1,800 U.S. and coalition forces make up the Combined Joint Task Force Horn of Africa. (Photo by Daren Reehl)
6. A woman from the barren, drought-stricken Tadjourah region of Djibouti goes to the well for the day’s drinking water from a pipeline set up by U.S. Army engineers. The U.S. forces are in the region to help promote stability with humanitarian projects. (Photo by Daren Reehl)
By Dona Fair