Operation Enduring Freedom

Horn of Africa - the Forgotten AOR

Camp Lemonier : Visit "The Bucca" : Tour the AOR : Write Me

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Camp Lemonier is a former French Foreign Legion installation that was turned over to the US military in February 2001. The Djiboutian government allowed the United States to stage out of Lemonier as part of the humanitarian outreach and regional security programs. The camp was run by the Marine Corps while I was there, but is now a US Navy installation. It is home to the Combined Joint Task Force Horn of Africa, which also hosts the SOCCE-HOA, a provisional air group, a rescue detachment, and a number of civilians. All told, there is anywhere from 1200 to 2000 people there at any given point in time.
One thing I can say for my time there... it pays to be on deployment after deployed forces have had a year or two to dress the place up. I went expecting the typical "bare base", and was very pleasantly surprised to find hard shelters, hot and cold running water, flush toilets, a gym, a pool, a fitness center, a movie theater, and a number of home-grown improvements to local living quarters. Although the SOCCE folks were housed in shelters made from plywood and temper tents, about half the camp was living in small cubes stacked one on top of the other affectionately referred to as "Motel 6".
The first thing you notice about Camp Lemonier is the gate security when you come in from the airport. Guards from both the Djiboutian military and the US Marine Corps man a multiple-security-check gauntlet that actually does a fair job of ensuring the safety of vehicles and riders passing through. I never used their walk-in gate, so I'm not sure how that functioned. They managed to process about 400 local workers a day both in and out, so it must have been some setup to handle that.
Once inside the gate, it struck me that nothing important was close to that side of the fenceline. There was a lot of open storage of construction materials and such, but all of the "meat" of the base was well inside the fenceline, or right up against the flightline. We were also surrounded by Hesco barriers towering up as high as 15 to 20 feet in some spots, which made it difficult for anyone to see in or lob something far enough into the camp to do any damage.
The main part of the camp was affectionately referred to as "the Hill". The slight rise in terrain from the surrounding area made it the logical place to erect the permanent structures that made up the bulk of the camp for the Marine Corps base owners as well as the main body of the CJTF. Most of the business conducted in support of HOA was done up on the the Hill, including the medical facility, postal center, disbursing agent, and the secure briefing areas.
Think of a medieval castle design. You had the old motte and bailey in the center, then a keep surrounded by a high curtain wall, then the rest of the outbuildings surrounded by a low curtain wall, and finally the outposts - perhaps connected to the main castle loosely by catwalks or tunnels. That's sort of how the camp was laid out. The JOC and JIC were in the double-fenced secure area at the very top of the hill. Surrounding that were the permanent buildings with all the other CJTF offices, Marine Corps offices, and primary support functions. The next "ring" of facilities would spread out along the base of the hill and included the fitness center, AAFES, cantina, and senior officer lodging. Standard lodging, chow hall, fire department, flightline, etc. were all included in the "outbuilding" area of the "castle". Finally, the SOCCE was the little outpost farthest from the center, and loosely connected to the base by a string of "Motel 6" cubes and gravel roads.

E-Mail Last updated on 2 May 2006 by Chris Miller Go Top

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