Across the Gulf of Aden

By Cpl. Jeff M. Nagan

DHAMAR, Yemen – One of the most effective ways of measuring the wealth of the people within the Horn of Africa and surrounding regions is the health of their herds. Animals provide the people with vital food and are a chief source of commerce. A small bit of medical care for their herds goes a long way in improving the lives and future of the people in the area.

For the first time, U.S. servicemembers deployed to Yemen, at the southern edge of the Arabian Peninsula, to assist the local people in strengthening and healing their livestock.

During a four-day civic action program that started March 29, servicemembers from CJTF-HOA assisted in treating animals in the Dhamar region, which lies about 100 kilometers south of the capital city of Sana’a.

The 96th Civil Affairs Battalion, volunteers from Camp Lemonier and local Yemeni veterinary students treated more than 24,000 animals, which included sheep, goats, cattle, donkeys and camels. Also setting precedence, the team treated one chicken during the event.

“This is the first time we have brought in these teams into Yemen,” said Thomas C. Krajeski, U.S ambassador to Yemen. “It is a demonstration of how we want to do practical hands-on work in Yemen. The object is to work on the ground, inoculate animals and work one on one with the people.”

By working together with U.S. support, Yemen can strengthen its agricultural development, which is essential in preserving the future and health of the people, Krajeski said.

“Nobody has come before,” said Ahmed Salih Ali Muthana, a local herder. “I’m very happy. It’s beautiful to see the Americans working with the people of Yemen.”

Muthana was one of more than 100 people who took advantage of the project. The veterinary team provided medicine for his 50 sheep, two cows and two donkeys.

The veterinarians treated every animal with anti-parasitic medicine and multivitamins. In addition, they provided additional care to animals that needed it, to include treating viral and skin infections.

The mission wasn’t without its hurdles, said Capt. David E. Fleming, veterinarian, 96th Civil Affairs Battalion. Although the herders could see and feel the impact of the mission, many of the political leaders had little idea of what the Americans were doing.

“We have had to work hard building relationships at the local and central level,” Fleming said. “We have to constantly reinforce our relationships, explaining that we are here to help the local and central government.”

In addition to helping the people and being representatives of the United States, the servicemembers also acted as teachers, instructing and advising the veterinary students.

Although the veterinary civic action program only lasted four days, it will have long-term effects, Fleming said. With an increase in education of their people and the health of their herds, the people of Yemen will have healthier and better lives.

(Soures: The Horn Courier, CENTCOM)