Local Guard unit preparing for deployment to Africa

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By Phyllis McLaughlin

Members of the Carrollton National Guard unit are preparing for deployment to Africa, which will occur sometime in October.

Capt. Chris Fitzwater, who heads Alpha Battery, 2nd Battalion, 138th Artillery based in Carrollton, said the unit will be activated Saturday, Sept. 1. The 62 members of the unit will meet at 2 p.m. that day in the Carroll County High School gymnasium for a send-off from friends, family and the public.

From there, the unit will depart for Camp Atterbury near Edinburg, Ind., to join the other 500 members of the battalion for mobilization training, Fitzwater said.

The battalion will serve nine months at Camp Lemonnier in Djibouti, Africa.

The country is located on the eastern coast at the Horn of Africa, where the Red Sea meets the Arabian Sea. The base, operated by the U.S. Navy, is just 8-10 miles north of Somalia, Fitzwater said, and is across the strait from Yemen.

He said no specific date has been given for the deployment overseas.

In Djibouti, the unit will “perform patrols around the base and respond, if needed, to whatever events occur near the base,” Fitzwater said.

Formerly owned by the French, the U.S. government consigned use of Camp Lemonnier from the Djibouti government following the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks in the United States, according to the camp’s official website at CNIC.Navy.mil. In 2003, the camp became headquarters for the U.S. Marines’ Combined Joint Task Force – Horn of Africa to conduct stability operations in the region. Later, it transferred under command of the U.S. Navy Region Europe, Africa and Southwest Asia.

The only major U.S. military base in Africa, Camp Lemonnier supports 2,500 military and civilian personnel with the U.S., joint and allied forces.
Fitzwater said a variety of missions occur from the base, including “civil affairs missions
and military-to-military training for foreign armies in the area and throughout Africa. But the real focus is civil affairs assistance and providing support to that region.”

In recent years, Somalia and Yemen have been known to harbor terrorist cells linked to Al Qaeda. Pirates based on the Somalian coast also have preyed on commercial and private vessels in the region.

In January, Camp Lemonnier was the base of operations for U.S. Navy Seals who freed two international aid workers – an American woman and a Danish colleague – who had been taken hostage by Somali pirates.

Fitzwater said the Carrollton unit will be relieved next summer by a National Guard unit based in Indiana.