Third Time’s a Charm: Civilian Expeditionary Workforce Deployment

  • Published
  • By Robert Canino
In 1992 as an Air Force Civil Engineer Squadron active-duty member, I was fortunate to deploy to Saudi Arabia in support of Operation Desert Shield. After six years of being retired from active duty, and rejoining the military by way of the Air Force Retiree to Air Force Reserve Program, in 2005 I deployed for a second time to the United Arab Emirates in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.

Deploying both as an active-duty member and reservist was an honor and a magnificent opportunity to serve our nation and experience travel to foreign countries. Ending the AFR enlistment days and continuing in the Department of the Air Force in a civilian position at Headquarters Pacific Air Force (HQ PACAF), I was certain deployment opportunities were gone forever.

Then in 2010, I was introduced to the Civilian Expeditionary Workforce (CEW) Program, where Department of Defense employees serve at the forefront of military operations. This was intriguing, stimulating news, and maybe affording a chance at a third deployment?  Luckily, Colonel Karl Bosworth, HQ PACAF/A7, knew and supported the CEW program, and encouraged participation.

Within three month of applying, it was off to Camp Atterbury Joint Maneuver Training Center, Indiana, for two weeks of contingency skills training. At Camp Atterbury, CEWs were introduced to a variety of human resource topics that covered pay entitlements, benefits, administrative leave and medical care. Military training subjects focused on weapons safety and live fire, being in a humvee roll-over simulator, and facing unexpected insurgent attacks by opposing forces. During vignettes, there were simulated business meetings with foreign nationals from Iraq and Afghanistan. The lesson plan was designed to teach about proper engagements and interactions with foreign nationals, proper introductions, reverence, personal interface and cultural differences. As part of the realism training, CEWs took a short helicopter ride simulating travel from one Forward Operation Base to another and landing under hostile conditions. All of the scenarios were informative, action-packed, scary at times and realistic for a true-to-life training environment.

When training ended, and following 20-plus hours of air travel, life at Camp Lemonnier, Djibouti in Africa began. Camp Lemonnier is home to the Combined Joint Task Force - Horn of Africa (CJTF-HOA) with a mission that includes operations in the East Africa region to build partner nation capacity that promotes regional security and stability, prevent conflict, and protect US and coalition interests. CJTF - HOA also executes military-to-military exchanges to increase international security, support regional development by constructing and renovating schools, clinics, hospitals, water well drilling and a variety of medical and veterinary civil affairs projects. Camp Lemonnier populace include active-duty Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Reservist, Guardsmen, allied forces, African militaries, DoD contractors, local-nationals and now CEWs from across the DoD.

The Camp has everything necessary for a comfortable tour and amenities include air-conditioned containerized work and living units, a well-stocked exchange, theater, laundry, medical, gymnasium, and the same mail services found at home station. Meals at the dining facility are good-tasting, plentiful and staff members provide first-rate hospitality. Morale, Welfare and Recreation offer numerous tournaments for all kinds of games, sports and travel opportunities throughout the continent.

Djibouti Africa is bordered by Eritrea in the north, Ethiopia in the west and south, Somalia in the southeast, and summertime temperatures can reach 120 degrees Fahrenheit. The remainder of the border is formed by the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden in the east providing beach and ocean recreation adventures on and under the water. Local MWR outings include Lake Assal, Moucha Island, a cheetah sanctuary, swimming with whale sharks, boat trips, dinner cruises, folk dance and much more.

The CEW program not only provides an opportunity to assist in military operations, it offers foreign travel, a chance to serve with U.S. forces and coalition members. So, if you have a sense of adventure, don't mind a little hardship and possess fortitude consider deploying under the Civil Expeditionary Workforce program!