13th MEU sustains readiness against Djibouti wildlife threats
By Sgt. Jennifer Pirante
| 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit | November 04, 2013
CAMP LEMMONIER, Djibouti --
“Snakes, mosquitos and scorpions are among some of the dangerous wildlife Marines should watch out for while conducting sustainment training in the Horn of Africa,” said U.S. Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Jorge Belmudez, hospital corpsman with Battalion Landing Team 1/4, 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit. “A bad run in with one of them could take you out of the fight for a long time.”
To mitigate a dangerous encounter with Djiboutian wildlife, Battalion Landing Team 1/4 and Combat Logistics Battalion 13 corpsmen coordinated with public health service inspection officers with Expeditionary Medical Facility (EMF) at Camp Lemonnier, Djibouti, to discuss field sanitary practices and recommendations during sustainment training in Djibouti Africa, Oct. 30, 2013.
Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa at Camp Lemonnier, Djibouti, supports partner nation military operations in East Africa to defeat violent extremist organizations, conducts focused military-to-military engagement to strengthen East African partner nation militaries, and conducts crisis response and personnel recovery in support of U.S. military, diplomatic, and civilian personnel throughout East Africa in order to protect and defend the national security interests of the United States.
Approximately 700 Marines with 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) were spread throughout various training areas in the Horn of Africa to include Camp Lemonier, which serves as an expeditionary base and provides vital support for counter-terrorism and counter-piracy missions, as well as interagency operations that take place in concert with diplomatic activity.
U.S. Navy Lt. Joseph Modglin, public health inspection officer with EMF at Camp Lemonnier, said the purpose of their visit was to conduct an environmental health inspection in regards to vectors such as mosquitos, snakes or any other type of threat that can carry diseases. During their stay, health inspectors collected mosquitos and other specimens to take back to base and analyze.
“In the long term, we might be able to do some modeling and be able to know what kind of species is in the area for future rotations so we can be prepared and have counter measures in place,” Modglin said. “For example, if there was a venomous snake that is known in the area, we could make sure we have anti-venom for that particular snake.”
U.S. Air Force Capt. Mike Klingshirn, public health service inspection officer with EMF at Camp Lemonnier, warned Marines that the Horn of Africa is also home to some of the world’s most venomous snakes, scorpions and Malaria permeated mosquitos.
During a health force protection brief prior to sustainment training, Marines were warned to steer clear of the Red Spitting Cobra, the Puff Adder, the Boomslang and the Burrowing Asp.
“If Marines shuffle their feet, it scares snakes away,” Klingshirn said. “Snakes will feel the vibrations and it lets them know something big is in the area and that it should get away from it.”
The World Health Organization estimates there are more than 13,000 human cases of Malaria in Djibouti and that approximately 40 die from it every year. Marines who are susceptible complete an Epidemiologic Triad, which consists of the mosquito as the vector, the environment, which could be nearby stagnant water where mosquitos attract, and the susceptible Marine who can become an infected host.
“Mosquitos in this area are usually going to bite at dusk and dawn,” Klingshirn said. “If Marines wear their uniforms correctly, have their sleeves rolled down and their pants bloused or tucked in to their boots and limit skin exposure, that’s going to eliminate 99 percent of the mosquito bites. Taking Doxycycline will prevent Marines from getting Malaria from the ones that get through.”
Marines were also warned of a nocturnal species of scorpion called the Deathstalker, which contain a lethal dose of venom in the form of a powerful neurotoxin. Neurotoxins adversely affect the nervous system by shutting nerves down and a Marine who is stung would have to be medically evacuated.
The mission of BLT 1/4 and CLB-13 medical personnel is to provide the upmost medical capabilities for the Marines conducting training in an austere environment.
BLT 1/4 and CLB-13 corpsmen sustain readiness by conducting training drills to maintain the knowledge and skill necessary to respond to any situation in support of the 13th MEU while deployed with the Boxer Amphibious Ready Group as a theater reserve and crisis response force throughout the U.S. 5th Fleet area of responsibility.