MANDA BAY, Kenya - Members of the Kenyan Ministry of Defense and Kenyan Army Engineers Civil Affairs Teams (KCA), 12th Headquarters Engineers Brigade, partnered with U.S. military units assigned to Combined Joint Task Force - Horn of Africa recently to conduct civil-military operations (CMO) operations in Manda Bay, Kenya.

This crucial engagement allowed Kenyan soldiers to build a practical application of their civil affairs knowledge and share best practices and lessons-learned with their U.S. counterparts.

"This project was a benefit as we conducted the practical engagement," said Kenyan Army Capt. Stephen Charo, officer in charge. "We learned from each other and exchanged ideas. We would like to do more in communities and having this civil affairs knowledge will help us do that."

CMO activities include assisting communities maintain stability, promote civil-military relations and respond to critical needs of the people, which include education, infrastructure and health.

"The civil affairs soldiers visited our school and asked what our needs were and we told them we needed repairs to the classrooms," said Joseph Gilong, head-teacher at Kauthara Primary School in the Coastal School District.

"We are very satisfied with what has been done. Before they started the work, they constructed a tent for the class so their learning would not be interrupted. As the population grows, we expect we will need more facilities to allow the children to learn," he said.

After assessing the school's needs, the combined civil affairs team submitted a proposal for funds to repair it. Once they obtained approval, the KCA, Kenyan Navy and U.S. Navy Mobile Construction Battalion 74 (NMCB 74) constructed a new roof, installed windows, applied stucco to exterior walls and made other improvements.

The KCA soldiers used their knowledge from training with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to work with the U.S. Navy Maritime Civil Affairs Team 208 (MCAT 208) and KCA on daily operations, mission planning and meeting with community and civil authorities.

"The civil affairs team approached us and said they had a school that they wanted us to look at, so we brought a team and we are here today putting the plan in motion," said U.S. Navy Chief Petty Officer Stephen Frazier, mission commander with NMCB 74. "We've taken advantage of each other's strengths, put them together and the task has been real smooth."

Near the end of the engagement, the U.S. Army 402nd Civil Affairs Functional Specialty Team (FxSP) demonstrated tactical combat casualty care, basic disaster management, convoy and counterinsurgency operations, and force protection.

"This was my first time working with another country's military," said U.S. Army Spc. Melanie McBride of FxSP. "I feel extremely fortunate to have been a part of this great partnership. The work with the Kenyan military taught me many invaluable lessons."

After five weeks, the collaborative efforts produced three completed community projects, 56 missions (30 by boat), 14 project assessments and 85 key leader engagements.

At the conclusion, U.S. Navy Rear Adm. Brian Losey, Combined Joint Task Force - Horn of Africa commander, and Kenya Army Col. David Kwendo, 12th Headquarters Engineers Brigade commander, visited the area to discuss the importance of partnership.

"We appreciate the gesture of resources and personnel, and I see the confidence these young men have acquired," Kwendo said. "From what I've seen here, I feel they have gained exactly what we really needed. I see the importance of civil affairs and we may need a bigger force to be trained along those lines. I want civil affairs in all operations, including infantry and engineering - it's the missing link."

During a closing ceremony, each participating Kenyan soldier was given a certificate of completion signed by both commanders.

"A true partnership is a two-way street. By sharing this environment with you, we also get a new perspective," said Losey.

"Having a cooperative partnership where we are learning as much as they are in this environment is extremely helpful for both forces. Our partnership has existed for many years and every year it grows stronger. We are very encouraged at this step in civil-military operations capacity building because we see it as helping prevent conflict and bring stability and security to the region," he said.