ESCANABA - Two U.S. Navy commanders currently serving in East Africa as part of the Combined Joint Task Force - Horn of Africa (CJTF-HOA) have a few things common - they both grew up in Delta County and love the Green Bay Packers.
Navy Cmdr. Frederick "Bill" Mosenfelder, CJTF-HOA deputy director of intelligence, was born and raised in Escanaba, the son of Clara and the late Robert Mosenfelder, of Escanaba. He graduated from Escanaba High School in 1977 and enlisted in the Navy in 1990. Mosenfelder's wife resides in Reston, Va.
Navy Cmdr. Brian Aker, CJTF-HOA chief of intelligence, operations and plans, was born and raised in Wells, and is the son of Richard and Carol Aker, long-time Wells residents who currently reside in Las Vegas. He graduated from Escanaba High School in 1989 and enlisted in the Navy in July 1989. Aker's wife and children reside in San Diego, Calif.
U.S. Navy Cmdrs. and former Escanaba area residents, Brian Aker, left, and Bill Mosenfelder never met before their missions at Camp Lemonnier in Djibouti. (Courtesy photos/ Illustration by Mary Ann Heath)
Though the two grew up minutes away from each other, neither knew of the other until their current mission.
The mission of CJTF-HOA, which is based at Camp Lemonnier in Djibouti, is "to enhance partner nation capacity, promote regional security and stability, dissuade conflict, and protect U.S. and coalition interests," according to the task force's website.
Mosenfelder has been stationed at Camp Lemonnier for the past nine months and will leave at the end of January. Aker just arrived at the base on Sept. 23 and will remain there through March.
According to Mosenfelder, the area the task force covers is an "area greater in size than the U.S.," with some of the key countries they serve being Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya and Uganda. However, he also said the mission focuses on other countries in the region indirectly, such as piracy issues in Somalia, and issues involving the al-Shabaab, which has been designated as a foreign terrorist organization by the U.S. government.
Aker added "we focus on everything from basic human needs, to security capacity building, to the countering of violent extremism. We are doing it all out here to ensure security and stability throughout the region."
The task force's vision is for a stable Africa that participates in free and fair markets and contributes to global economic development.
As intelligence officers, some of Mosenfelder and Aker's duties include providing information to protect the force, identifying threats, and making sure those at the base stay well-informed.
One of the main challenges the task force faces is the heat, as Djibouti is one of the hottest places on earth.
"In the summer it approached 120 degree highs and 100 degree lows," Mosenfelder said.
The fall season is somewhat cooler, with 100 degree highs and 80 degree lows at night.
Mosenfelder said Camp Lemonnier, which has approximately 3,000 personnel, started out as a French Foreign Legion base named for a French general.
"The camp changed to U.S. control in 2003 and officially became a U.S. Navy base in 2008," added Aker.
When describing Djibouti and what it's like at Camp Lemonnier, Mosenfelder said there is "lots of sand, heat, and good food," but that it "is not a very pretty or entertaining location." Aker said that being at Camp Lemonnier is much different than his normal deployments on aircraft carriers, but claims the long hours and job satisfaction are a constant.
Though Mosenfelder nor Aker knew each other prior to Camp Lemonnier, Aker does recall seeing an article in the Daily Press where Mosenfelder spoke to the Rotary Club and said he recognized his name when he arrived.
Aker said the two have enjoyed reminiscing about growing up in Escanaba, spending time telling co-workers about some of their favorite Escanaba establishments like Dobber's Pasties, Sayklly's Candy and the Buck Inn, among many others.
On a lighter note, both Aker and Mosenfelder expressed their happiness with this year's football season.
"We are pleased with the NFL season, with the Packers and Lions both starting out 5-0," said Mosenfelder.
At the beginning of Mosenfelder's military career, he was commissioned as a naval officer in 1992. He served as intelligence officer for Strike Fighter Squadron 105 in Jacksonville, Fla., was counterintelligence/force protection officer for the On-Site Inspection Agency in Frankfurt, Germany, and was an intelligence analyst with the Joint Analysis Center in Molesworth, United Kingdom. He was also senior intelligence officer of the Amphibious Squadron 8, in Norfolk, Va., and served as a naval attache for the U.S. Embassy in Zagreb, Croatia, prior to his current service in Africa.
Aker's military career began onboard the aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson CVN-70, in San Francisco, Calif. and Bremerton, Wa. He was stationed in Hawaii, and earned a history and political science degree in 1995 at Chaminade University in Honolulu. In 1996, he was commissioned as a naval officer in Pensacola, Fla. He served as air intelligence officer for Electronic Attack Squadron (VAQ) 131, assigned to the aircraft carrier USS Constellation (CV-64).
Aker graduated in 2000 with a master's degree in strategic intelligence from the Joint Military Intelligence College, Defense Intelligence Agency in Washington, D.C. He then was stationed at the Office of Naval Intelligence and the Chief of Naval Operations Intelligence Plot (CNO-IP) at the Pentagon, where he served on Sept. 11, 2001, and lost seven of his co-workers from the attack. He served as intelligence officer at Submarine Group Nine in Bangor, Wash., and was assistant intelligence officer for aircraft carrier USS John C. Stennis in Bremerton, Wash.
He was director of training for the Fleet Intelligence Training Center in San Diego. He currently serves as the director of the Maritime Intelligence Readiness Cell for Commander Third Fleet in San Diego.
For more information on the CJTF-HOA, visit their website at www.hoa.africom.mil/.