TADJOURAH, Djibouti –
Variety is the spice of life, and with a variance of English language skills and understanding comes a competitive edge in career choices and life choices.
East African children and adults in Tadjourah, Djibouti, meet weekly with U.S. Army civil affairs Soldiers led by Bravo Company, 404th CA Battalion, assigned to Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa, in conjunction with the Centre De Femmes, an empowerment center, in information exchanges called English Discussion Groups.
“I love working with the groups here as a whole whether it is the children or adults,” said U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Willie Linson, the senior medic for 404th CA Battalion. “It’s been a very rewarding part of the deployment for me to work with the people and experience the way they live and work.”
More than 90 Djiboutian youth and adults attended the English Discussion Group Feb. 12, where local participants develop practical linguistic and rhetorical skills through conversation with English-speaking U.S. service members.
The civil affairs unit holds weekly EDGs across the country; however, the EDG in this region is one of the longest-running programs and has been continuous since 2014.
Linson said that it’s extremely exciting and will bring more opportunities for the communities to learn and grow together. He added it’s extremely impressive that the local participants are so dedicated because it’s often a long commute on foot for them to attend.
The topic of the discussion was a continuance of previous groups and expanded on a self-description in paragraph form. However, Linson stressed that these exchanges are not a set curriculum, but more a flow of conversation that can take any direction.
“Really it’s about community and developing relationships,” he said. “They are excited to have any discussion and are always hospitable to any conversation that comes up.”
An EDG success story is Ilias Hachi, a Balbala, Djibouti local who works on Camp Lemonnier. He said he had a very difficult time learning English. It was the encouragement of his mother and the help of an embassy employee who first started EDGs, which helped him overcome the hurdle of learning English.
Serving under the Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa, the CA battalion’s mission is spread across the combined joint operations area, ranging from veterinarian and medical assistance training to security training, in countries like Tanzania, Uganda and Kenya, to English discussion groups here in Djibouti -- all while working with leaders to foster a safe, stable and secure Africa.