Red Cross Service to the Armed Forces Manager Jeannette Salcedo is packing her gear and saying her goodbyes before embarking on the 32+ hour trip from Fayetteville, NC to Dijbouti, Africa, where she will serve with Red Cross for six months.
Jeannette will be stationed at Camp Lemonnier, as the only Red Cross staff member on the base. There, she will deliver emergency communication messages from military family members to troops stationed at the base. She will also teach CPR and First Aid, as well as children’s disaster preparedness courses.
Jeannette speaks with the Red Cross about her upcoming deployment to Djibouti, a developing country located on one of the world’s largest shipping routes, bordering Somalia and Ethiopia.
Q: How were you selected to deploy to Camp Lemonnier?
A: I am a mobile staff member for [Red Cross] Service to the Armed Forces (SAF), as such we deploy the same as the military.
Q: What do you think a typical day in Djibouti will look like?
A: HOT!!! I am a certified First Aid/CPR Instructor and a Pillow Case Project Instructor. I will be holding classes to get folks certified. I will also be handling emergency communication messages for the military. Djibouti is a one-man station, so I will be the only Red Cross staff member. [I also expect to be] working out [in my downtime].
I am looking forward to meeting our ally partners in the area and [creating] some fun events to help boost morale.
Q: This is not your first time deploying with Red Cross. You spent five months in Afghanistan in 2013. What was that like?
A: On Bagram Airfield in Afghanistan, we were a four-member team. We worked around the clock handling emergency communication messages. We were scheduled 9-hour shifts, but usually worked 10-to-12-hour shifts, seven days a week. We overlapped our schedules so we could assist one another and get caught up on the queue. My shift was 3 p.m. to midnight, but I came in early to assist if needed and usually stayed until 1 a.m. After work, I would go to the gym and workout, go to the USO facility and use the free phones to call home.
We also had some morale building events to give our [military members] a break from being on 24/7. As a team, we would go meet the various units on Bagram to introduce ourselves and let them know what we do. We did an Armed Forces Radio broadcast once a month just to update everyone and remind them Red Cross is there.
Oh, and [it was] HOT!!
Q: Is there anything you are looking forward to doing in your free time while in Djibouti?
A: As SAF, we are embedded with the [military] and we are their responsibility, as such we are not allowed to leave the camp. I would like to be able to meet some of the local people and perhaps volunteer in some capacity.
Q: The primary languages in Djibouti are Arabic and French. Do you expect there to be any language barriers?
A: No, not really. In my experience, people in other countries speak English as a second or third language. The Americans have been in the country for some time so I am sure the local population is at least familiar with English. I certainly hope so because my French is limited to a few phrases and I do not speak Arabic at all.
Q: How are preparing for your six-month trip?
A; I live in an apartment so I am packing up all my belongings and putting them in storage until I return. I will suspend service for my cell phone, cancel utilities, etc. Spending as much time I can with friends and family, especially my two grandchildren, Madison and Jacob. They are my moon and stars!
Q: You have two sons and two grandchildren. How are they feeling about your deployment?
A: My sons Miguel and Jose’ are very proud of me and what I do. They think it’s great that I am willing to go to these “not so glamorous places” to help out the military. My grandchildren are 8 and 5 so they really just understand that “Gran” will be gone for a long time.
Q: What are you packing?
A: I will be sending packages in advance, which will contain hygiene/toiletry items: body wash, deodorant, shampoo, conditioner, lotion, etc. I will also send ahead a first aid kit, sewing kit, towels, and sheets. In my suitcase, khakis, Red Cross polos, sleepwear and pictures of my family and friends.
I will be wearing the military battle uniform six days a week so I do not have the need to pack much in the way of clothing.
Q: Is there anything you hope to gain from this experience?
A: I hope to broaden my exposure to different cultures and gain further experience relating to people from different cultures and points of view. I want to be there for our troops to assist in any way possible, and to bring them a little bit of home.
Q: Are there any local foods you are looking forward to trying?
A: So during our deployment briefs, we are warned against eating anything from the local economy as they do not have the same health standards as we do, and you can become very ill.
Q: Is there anything else we should know about your deployment?
A: Djibouti, Africa is still a Third World country with all the health risks that entails. Raw sewage, dumping of chemicals and lack of proper plumbing.
To find out more about what American Red Cross does for Service to the Armed Forces visit, www.redcross.org/military.
Story by Andrea Gulley/American Red Cross