Protecting the Past: 776th EABS safeguards local history with local help

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Dhruv Gopinath
  • 406th Air Expeditionary Wing

The 776th Expeditionary Air Base Squadron completed a project to protect archaeological sites discovered on Chabelley Airfield, Djibouti, a tri-laterally shared installation with the Djiboutian and French governments, July 13, 2023. The 776th EABS provides a secure, durable, and agile installation to project airpower for U.S. Africa Command and U.S. Central Command and hosts U.S. Air Forces Africa’s largest remotely piloted aircraft base.

“Chabelley Airfield is located just outside of Chabelley Village, which provides us the opportunity to strengthen our partnership with the local community,” said 1st Lt. Conrad Kimble, 776th EABS contracting officer. “We sought to hire a local company that would employ the local workforce to provide all site preparation for the placement of a fence surrounding many of the historical archeological sites located on the base.”

Archaeologists from Naval Facilities Engineering Systems Command Atlantic along with members of the U.S. State Department and Djiboutian Center for Studies and Research first confirmed the site during their assessment.

“Building strong relationships with the local community fosters support and cooperation among all parties,” said Kimble. “We can both learn about the local culture, traditions and way of life to build mutual understanding and respect between us and the locals.”

Through contracts such as the one for the protection of the archaeological site, the 776th EABS is contributing to the local economy by creating jobs, generating business opportunities, and increasing demand for goods and services in the surrounding villages.

“The situation in Chabelley is economically difficult,” says Mohamed Ahmed, a native of Chabelley and shift supervisor for the local contractor building the fence line. “The train used to run through the village but not anymore, so it’s important for us to get these opportunities. We thank the U.S. Air Force for this project and hope we get to work together again on future contracts.”

Equally important is the safeguarding of local history and culture, demonstrating the 776th EABS’s commitment to building ties in the local community and Djibouti as a whole.

“This project is important for us,” says Moustafa Issa, another Chabelley native and quality control manager. “We get to protect our history with our own hands.”

Through safeguarding local culture and history, the 776th EABS is able to strengthen ties with its neighboring village, which helps defend U.S. interests in the Horn of Africa and beyond.

“Partnerships are based on shared values and trust, and here it starts with our ties to Chabelley village and our local community,” says 776th EABS commander Lt. Col. Matthew Clark. “Our allies and partners are a force multiplier and one of the greatest strategic assets we have in protecting our nations.”