Rev. Travis Moger wears two hats: pastor of Middleburg Baptist Church and chaplain in the US Navy Reserve. On June 19 he left Middleburg for a yearlong mobilization and deployment to Camp Lemonnier in Djibouti, Africa.
Located in the “Horn of Africa” at the southern end of the Red Sea, Djibouti is surrounded by the countries of Somalia, Ethiopia, and Eritrea. Over 94% of the local population is Muslim in this arid, desert country.
“It’s more like the Middle East than what you typically think of as Africa,” said Moger. “There aren’t any elephants or giraffes here, only crows and the occasional poisonous snake.”
Summertime temperatures top 100° F daily, occasionally reaching 120° F or more.
Camp Lemonnier is a US Navy base with over 4,000 personnel aboard, including all branches of the US military, foreign military personnel, and civilians.
“Despite the harsh environmental conditions, camp life is not too bad,” Moger explained. “We live in small but air conditioned Containerized Living Units or CLUs (pronounced ‘clues’) and work in Containerized Working Units or CWUs (pronounced ‘chews’), which look like metal shipping containers.”
The “galley” (dining facility) provides copious amounts of delicious food and even serves hand-dipped ice cream on the weekends. There are barber shops, coffee shops, a movie theater, a general store (“The Navy Exchange”), a post office, a credit union, medical facility with operating rooms, fitness center, swimming pool, and, of course, a chapel. There’s even a Subway sandwich shop, and a Pizza Hut Express is coming soon.
As the senior US military chaplain in the region, Moger leads worship, provides pastoral counseling to the troops, supervises junior chaplains and enlisted support personnel, and advises his commander concerning the impact of religion on military operations. It requires travel to outstations where there are often a small number of US military personnel.
So far Moger has visited Somalia and Kenya as part of his duties.
According to the website for Moger’s unit, “Combined Joint Task Force Horn of Africa is a dynamic, operational, United States Military headquarters countering violent extremist organizations in East Africa, helping ensure the protection of the homeland, American citizens, and American interests.”
According to reports from major news outlets, one of those violent extremist organizations, Somalia-based Al Shabaab killed 147 people at Garissa University College in Kenya on April 2 of this year.
“As long as there are terrorists attacking innocent people, the US will help our partner nations combat them,” Moger explained. “That’s why we’re here.”
He is scheduled to return to Middleburg in June 2016.