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By Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Jonathan Word
On Camp Lemonnier, Djibouti (CLDJ), the United States’ only permanent military base on the continent of Africa, over 5,000 deployed service members live and work every day. When they take their morning showers with hot water in clean restrooms and then walk to their workspaces on safe, debris-free sidewalks, they may not put much thought into the work it takes to keep things that way.
For Sailors like Construction Electrician 2nd Linh Hoang, a Navy Reserve Sailor from Orange County, California, currently deployed to CLDJ where he is a part of the Public Works Department’s Facilities Maintenance and Sustainment (FM&S) branch, if he is doing his job right, you may not realize he is doing anything at all.
As a member of the Construction Electrician (CE) rate in the U.S. Navy, Hoang belongs to a community of Sailors known as Seabees. Seabee units, or construction battalions, have a storied history within the U.S. Navy. They are responsible for creating infrastructure to meet the needs of the Navy’s forward operations in any environment.
“I am proud to be a Seabee,” said Hoang. “It’s like being a part of a small group within a big group. Every Seabee’s skillset is different, but there are similarities. There are different assignments all around the world for Seabee units.”
Today’s Navy is a culturally diverse work environment. In many ways, it is reflective of U.S. society with many communities coming together to build a greater whole. Hoang’s own family immigrated to the United States when he was 12 years old.
“I was born in Vietnam,” said Hoang. “After the Vietnam War, my grandfather was imprisoned for eight years. He eventually got out and was sponsored to come to the U.S. About 20 years later, he was able to sponsor my parents. They took the test and became citizens, and since I was under 18 at the time, I was able to become a citizen too.”
Despite the difficulties one might face as an immigrant to the U.S., Hoang has achieved many successes throughout his journey, and he has become a valued member of the Navy.
“I’m sure he had many challenges he had to fight through between learning a new language and learning a new culture,” said U.S. Navy Builder 1st Class Michael Randall, CLDJ’S FM&S branch head and Hoang’s immediate supervisor. “He has pushed forward, joined the Seabees, earned an AA [Associate of Arts degree] in Business Administration, and is about to graduate from California State University Fullerton with a BA [Bachelor of Arts degree] in Finance Concentration. Through our short time together he has gained my upmost respect and gratitude, because without his dedication to his work and others this place would not be the same.”
Camp Lemonnier is a forward operating site supporting joint operations managed by the U.S. Navy and is the only enduring U.S. military base on the African continent. Djibouti has been a partner of the U.S. military since 2002 when the installation on the south side of the Djibouti-Ambouli International Airport was formally stood up as the headquarters for Combined Joint Task Force, Horn of Africa (CJTF-HOA). Camp Lemonnier is now operated by Commander, Navy Region Europe, Africa, Central (EURAFCENT). Contracts awarded to improve Camp Lemonnier provide for enduring, yet modern facilities to support improved quality of life, mission readiness, and safety of daily operations.