U.S. Army Civil Affairs team exchanges best practices with Ugandans

KARAMOJA, Uganda - U.S. Army Spc. Kelli Helfinstine injects an animal during a recent Veterinary Civic Action Program, or VETCAP, here.  The VETCAP is one example of how a U.S. Army civil affairs team is partnering with the U.S. Agency for International Development; the Uganda Peoples Defense Force; a local university; and various non-governmental organizations to promote development in the region. (Courtesy Photo) CJTF-HOA Photo KARAMOJA, Uganda - U.S. Army Spc. Kelli Helfinstine injects an animal during a recent Veterinary Civic Action Program, or VETCAP, here. The VETCAP is one example of how a U.S. Army civil affairs team is partnering with the U.S. Agency for International Development; the Uganda Peoples Defense Force; a local university; and various non-governmental organizations to promote development in the region. (Courtesy Photo)
KARAMOJA, Uganda - U.S. Army Spc. Kelli Helfinstine injects an animal during a recent Veterinary Civic Action Program, or VETCAP, here.  The VETCAP is one example of how a U.S. Army civil affairs team is partnering with the U.S. Agency for International Development; the Uganda Peoples Defense Force; a local university; and various non-governmental organizations to promote development in the region. (Courtesy Photo) CJTF-HOA Photo KARAMOJA, Uganda - U.S. Army Spc. Kelli Helfinstine injects an animal during a recent Veterinary Civic Action Program, or VETCAP, here. The VETCAP is one example of how a U.S. Army civil affairs team is partnering with the U.S. Agency for International Development; the Uganda Peoples Defense Force; a local university; and various non-governmental organizations to promote development in the region. (Courtesy Photo)

Deep in the vast thorny savanna grasslands and low lying rocky hills of northeastern Uganda, right on the foot of a dormant volcano, a small team of U.S. Army soldiers of the 490th Civil Affairs Battalion - Charlie Company are partnering with locals to bring development to a volatile region.

This U.S. Army Reserve unit based out of Grand Prairie, Texas, but currently assigned to the Combined Joint Task Force - Horn of Africa (CJTF-HOA), at Camp Lemmonier, Djibouti, have been in this unstable region called Karamoja for the past four years, conducting veterinary civic action programs and offering valuable training to veterinary students in the region, to address the area's livestock health problems.

The Army Civil Affairs Team, in partnership with the Ugandan Government, USAID, Makerere University, Uganda Peoples Defense Force - Civil Military Coordination Center (UPDF-CMCC), and various non-governmental organizations, are working to promote development in the region.

Recently, CJTF-HOA Commander Rear Admiral Michael T. Franken and U.S. Mission Uganda Deputy Chief of Mission Virginia Blaser led an interagency team to this remote and undeveloped region plagued by regular violent cattle raids, and where the population's livelihood is entirely dependent on livestock.

U.S. Mission Uganda Deputy Chief of Mission Virginia Blaser explains the inter-agency visit to Karamoja, saying that, "The U.S. Government's approach in Karamoja is based on a policy of diplomacy, defense and development, all aimed at a single goal of bringing about lasting positive change to Karamoja."

This is a view shared by USAID Uganda Acting Director John Mark Winfield, who pledges that, with improved security in Karamoja, the U.S. Government is planning to extend development programs to those areas where hitherto, they could not go.

In FY2011 alone, USAID provided $13M in support to Karamoja. This support is set to increase to $37M in FY2012.

To Rear Adm. Franken, there is no limit to what the people of Karamoja can accomplish. "The future of Karamoja is bright and with improving security conditions, thanks to the UPDF and the work of the U.S. Army Civil Affairs team, there is no limit to what the region can accomplish, "he said.

While in the region earlier this year, U.S. Ambassador to Uganda Jerry P. Lanier called on area district veterinary officers and community animal health workers to partner with the team to help augment future U.S. Military Veterinary Civil Affairs Projects (VETCAPs), which will help build a highly trained and skilled veterinary force while directly impacting Uganda's capability to provide for its own animal population.

Community animal health workers are locals who are trained by the Civil Affairs team in basic animal health and then encouraged to use that knowledge to create a sustainable living by treating animals in their communities.

"They are more than animal health workers, they are local leaders working hard to make a difference in their community," said Capt. Dan Crowell, a resident of Elko, Nevada , the lead Veterinarian for the 490th Civil Affairs Bn., Functional Specialty Cell.

This month's VETCAP saw 40 Community Animal Health Workers trained and over 300 head of cattle treated along with several hundred goats. Treatment included de-worming, tick treatment, vitamin supplements, and blood draws to track diseases.

These treatments are carried out using "cattle crush"- metal or wooded enclosures that control animals' movements without harming it. The community-owned cattle crushes were recently repaired by the U.S. Army Civil Affairs Team, with the enthusiastic help of local herdsmen.

"Classroom instruction consisted of proper diagnosis and treatment of animals, identifying common causes for disease, prevention and animal husbandry. This was followed with a week of field work, where the students were able to utilize their new skills in a hands-on setting, providing routine animal health measures, for respiratory, foot, and skin problems, tick diseases, minor surgical procedures and other forms of treatment," explained CA Team Leader 1Lt Jeffrey McMillin.

McMillin believes this training provides the community animal health workers with the skills and capacity to treat animals in their villages, in a region where veterinarians are not always available.

Last year, the team was credited with providing advanced animal health training to over 100 community animal health workers in the Karamoja region. They not only trained the students but encouraged them to go out into the villages to treat livestock. Between the two phases of classes, over 30,000 animals were treated.

CJTF-HOA has the mission of conducting operations throughout East Africa to enhance partner nation capacity, promote regional stability and dissuade conflict.

Tags