Master Sergeant Performs Military Outstanding Volunteer Service and more in Horn of Africa

  • Published
  • By Lt Matt Murphy
  • 161st Air Refueling Wing
Master Sergeant David Zibell of the 161st Air Refueling Wing Communications Flight recently returned from deployment where he served under the Combined Joint Task Force - Horn of Africa (CJTF HOA). As a volunteer MSgt Zibell left for his mission in November of 2009 returning in late April of 2010 serving approximately 150 days performing anti-terrorism training, humanitarian efforts, and communications support.
The CJTF-HOA employs an indirect approach to counter violent extremism, conducting operations to strengthen partner nation and regional security capacity to enable long-term regional stability, prevent conflict and protect U.S. and Coalition interests. It is comprised of service members from each military branch of the U.S. Armed Forces, civilian employees, and representatives of coalition and partner countries. The Combined Joint Operating Area (CJOA) consists of Sudan, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Djibouti, Somalia, Kenya and Seychelles. Outside the CJOA, CJTF HOA is operating in a Liberia, Rwanda, Uganda, Tanzania, Mauritius, and Comoros. MSgt Zibell spent his time in Djibouti and Uganda.
The first part of MSgt Zibell's tour began in Djibouti at U.S. Naval Camp Lemonnier. Tasked with communications support and training to understand how to assemble, use and transport a SIPR, NIPR, Access Point, also known as a "SNAP" terminal to establish communications as the joint service team traveled to Uganda to train the Uganda People's Defense Force or UPDF.
"We spent about five or six weeks learning how to set up and tear down the equipment for the SNAP," said MSgt Zibell. "The satellite is a critical communications tool allowing us to reach back to the command center at Camp Lemonnier," he added.
MSgt Zibell has 20 years of experience as a Radio Technician in the Air National Guard. During the training, the team had opportunities to serve the local community as well and perform humanitarian efforts as well.
"We were able to spend about three to four days a week at the local orphanage feeding babies, changing diapers, and putting them to bed," said Zibell. A stark contrast for members of a highly trained communications team preparing for down range activities, Zibell explained he and other servicemembers were able to play soccer with the boy's orphanage and complete work projects at schools like hanging ceiling fans and performing other repairs.
"It was fun helping the people of Africa. The work with the babies was especially fulfilling," says MSgt Zibell. For his efforts, he received Military Outstanding Volunteer Service Medal from the Chief of Staff J.R. Dixon at Camp Lemonnier. The medal recognizes those members of the military who perform substantial volunteer service to the local community above and beyond the duties required as a member of the United States Armed Forces.
After completing the training, MSgt Zibell deployed to Camp Kaseny, Uganda to install and replace an older communications system with the new SNAP terminal.
In addition to setting up the satellite, MSgt Zibell and a team of about 25 other U.S. servicemembers helped train the UPDF in anti-terrorism training. "We built a mock village for the UPDF to practice close quarters combat tactics," said MSgt Zibell.
He continued seeking out opportunities to serve the local community in Uganda as well. MSgt Zibell and other team members went to the local orphanage to perform repairs and cleaned the facility, helping out wherever they could.
Their efforts were rewarded with some downtime that afforded some members of the team to explore the country. MSgt Zibell had the opportunity to work with a cheetah refuge in Djibouti and take a safari in Uganda where he saw much of the African wildlife and had a "close enough" encounter with a black mamba snake.