Massachusetts National Guard Soldier builds a bridge between two worlds in Kenya

Born in Nairobi, Wambui is back in her native country which is hosting exercise Justified Accord 2024, U.S. Africa Command's largest military exercise in East Africa, running from Feb. 26 - March 7. Led by U.S. Army Southern European Task Force, Africa (SETAF-AF), this year's exercise incorporates more than 1,000 service members and units from 23 nations.


“It’s especially fruitful and fulfilling when the KDF needs further explanation on a topic, and I’m right there to step up and speak Swahili with them,” said Wambui. “Not only do I speak their language, I’m one of them. I have a connection. In fact, a KDF Soldier made flattered me when he shared ‘you’re building a bridge between two worlds.’”
By Maj. Joe Legros U.S. Army Southern European Task Force, Africa Nairobi, Kenya Mar 06, 2024
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NAIROBI, Kenya – “I really can’t believe I’m here in Kenya again,” said U.S. Army Spc. Dalya Wambui, attached to the 772nd Military Police Company, Massachusetts National Guard.

Born in Nairobi, Wambui is back in her native country, which is hosting exercise Justified Accord 2024, U.S. Africa Command's largest military exercise in East Africa, running from Feb. 26 - March 7. Led by U.S. Army Southern European Task Force, Africa (SETAF-AF), this year's exercise incorporates more than 1,000 service members and units from 23 nations.

Wambui immigrated to the U.S. in 2011 and settled in Worcester, Mass., but now lives about an hour from the Boston area. She credits her family with paving the way for her to make the journey from Africa to the U.S.

“Some members of my family went to the U.S. in 2009 and facilitated everything for me to join her two years later,” she said.

However, the majority of her family still lives in Kenya.

“My grandmother was a regimental sergeant major in the Kenya Army, my dad was in the Kenya Navy and some uncles are still in the Kenya Army and Air Force,” Wambui explained. “However, my family’s military background isn’t the only reason why I joined the Guard right out of high school.”

Wambui joined the Massachusetts National Guard right out of high school. The primary reason she was convinced to join was that it offered her the opportunity to be in the military part time, while still pursuing other goals like going to school. She is currently a college student with aspirations to become an officer in the U.S. Air Force.

“In Kenya, the military is a full-time commitment,” she said. “So I was really encouraged I could still serve my new country part-time and receive some additional benefits like travel and tuition assistance.”

The benefit of returning to Kenya for exercise Justified Accord did not come without some twists and turns.

She explained that she and several others from her home unit, the 747th Military Police Company, were selected to deploy to the Middle East with Charlie Company, 1st Battalion, 182nd Infantry Regiment, in 2022. During Operation Spartan Shield, the 1st Bn, 182nd Inf. Reg. facilitated the reception, lodging and transport of Afghan refugees in Qatar after the Taliban takeover in Afghanistan.

Once she returned to Massachusetts in March 2023, the 747th MP Co. had already been slated to serve along the Texas border. All of a sudden, she was caught between two back-to-back deployments.

However, instead of sending her to Texas, unit leadership decided to attach Wambui to the 772nd MP Co. where she heard exciting rumors of a two-week overseas deployment for training to Africa.

Wambui shared that it really is a miracle how she received the opportunity to return to Kenya.

“Deployment to the Middle East for Operation Spartan Shield was a great experience, but for several of us, it was too little time between that and heading to Texas,” said Wambui. “But because of the switch to my new unit, I was able to participate in Justified Accord and come back to Kenya.”

Wambui was naturalized as a U.S. citizen in 2017 and visited family and friends in Kenya in 2019, but she thought that would be her last time to Africa for a while.

“It’s one of the most surreal moments of my life. I feel like all the stars aligned,” shared Wambui. “It’s like I’m the prodigal daughter returned home.”

Due to the rigorous training schedule at JA24, Wambui will be unable to visit family in Kenya. Despite that, she said her time here has already been very productive. She enjoys the ongoing exchange with military police from the Kenya Defence Forces.

“It’s especially fruitful and fulfilling when the KDF needs further explanation on a topic, and I’m right there to step up and speak Swahili with them,” said Wambui. “Not only do I speak their language, I’m one of them. I have a connection. In fact, a KDF Soldier made flattered me when he shared ‘you’re building a bridge between two worlds.’”

The 772nd MP Co. just finished training on traffic control points, collaborating the entire time with KDF partners. Both partners exchanged best practices, and Wambui is quick to point out that her unit learns just as much from their Kenyan counterparts, commenting on how great the KDF communicates with one another to get the job done.

“When you can work together and communicate clearly, you can execute the mission more effectively,” she said.

After only one week of working together in the exercise, the positive cooperation between KDF and U.S. partners can already be seen in how they conduct bilateral training. Wambui is excited to see what the final week of JA24 brings.

“So far, the difference is not only positive, it’s tangible,” concluded Wambui.

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