Charles Turner in Africa

Thu, 04/26/2007 - 3:05pm
By: The Citizen

Charles Turner in Africa

When most of us think of Africa, we think of exotic animals roaming wild in the jungle, safaris on the expansive savannah and hunters looking for their next kill--all images that have been portrayed on the Discovery Channel, in movies like Tarzan and King Kong, or pictures we have seen in National Geographic.

However, for the son of a Senoia woman, life in Africa is very different.

Air Force Senior Airman Charles R. Turner, son of Rita Adcock of E. Highway 16, Senoia, is one of more than 1,800 U.S. service members, civilians, coalition forces and partner nations taking part in the Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa.

They are conducting unified actions in the combined joint operations area of the Horn of Africa, which includes a large portion of northeast Africa consisting of the nations of Djibouti, Ethiopia,Eritrea, Kenya, Seychelles, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen. The task force is here to prevent conflict, promote regional stability and protect coalition interests in an attempt to prevail against extremism.

Turner, a fuel systems journeyman has been deployed to this remote location for two months.

"I provide fuel system support to the C-130 aircraft which are used for combat search and rescue and to provide humanitarian relief to the local people," said Turner.

Living in tents, working in temperatures that reach an excess of 120 degrees or more for days on end, constant blowing dust and power outages are just a few of the many hardships that Turner and his fellow humanitarians must endure during their time here to accomplish this important mission.

"My job here is to provide the forces that are down range with piece of mind that during their operations their fuel systems will be in top working order," he said. "At the end of my assignment here, I hope to have left the local population in better health and hope than before I arrived."

Even after working long hours every day, Turner and the other military members here still find time to spend some of their off duty-hours helping reach out to those in need. They donate supplies to a local orphanage, help fix up their facility or just play a game of basketball with the kids. They also take part in conversational English classes which help the locals develop their use of the English language.

Volunteers also provide medical and veterinarian information to the Djiboutians, helping them improve their quality of life by teaching them how to prevent the spread of malaria and cholera, diseases which are very prevalent here. By going out into the communities, Turner and the others see a way of life that no one in the United States could ever imagine.

"I have learned the four branches of military service have a different way of doing things, but when the call comes, they become one force to achieve multiple goals," said the 1999 graduate of East Coweta High School.

In this country, villagers travel with their camels and goats from Ethiopia to Somalia in the desert, by foot in the scorching heat, for hundreds of miles along camel trails which are thousands of years old,to look for drinking water. When they do find water, it is most likely contaminated and shared by animals and humans alike. After a long day of travel, they bed down amongst the palm trees in the oasis at night.

The military members are on a mission to give the people here the education and tools needed to enable them to have a better way of life. From drilling wells to providing clean drinking water to hosting women's health awareness days, they are making a difference in a region often forgotten by the outside world.

"Being here has enabled me to learn numerous tasks outside of my career field that are required to maintain the C-130s. From preflight inspections to postflight inspections, I have become more of an asset during this deployment," Turner said.

By serving a tour in the Horn of Africa, witnessing the peoples'constant struggle to simply survive and playing even a small part in improving their lot in life, Turner and the others have learned a valuable lesson no movie or documentary could ever teach.

Air Force Senior Airman Charles R. Turner is a fuel systems journeyman who is deployed to the Horn of Africa to support a combined task force in the region. The stability in the eight-nation region at the far northeast corner of Africa is a foremost mission of the U.S. and coalition nations. (Photo by Daren Reehl)

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