By Staff Sgt. Nathan Maysonet, Combined Joint Task Force - Horn of Africa
/ Published June 05, 2015
DJIBOUTI CITY, Djibouti (AFNS) -- In a historic first for East Africa, representatives from the Kentucky National Guard (KNG) and the Djiboutian Armed Forces (FAD) ratified a state partnership agreement in a signing ceremony held at the Kempinski Hotel in Djibouti City, June 2.
For 22 years, the National Guard has partnered with the armed forces of allied countries to build and strengthen military, political, economic and societal relationships.
“Ten African countries already benefit from this program and we are honored to be the eleventh African country and the first to benefit from East Africa,” said FAD Maj. Gen. Zakaria Cheik Ibrahim, the FAD chief of defense. “This follows from the new partnership that our two countries are committed to. Since the meeting between our two heads of state in May 2014, the cooperation between our two countries has strengthened positively and we are very optimistic to see, in the coming years, a considerable expansion of our defense and security cooperation.”
The State Partnership Program (SPP) originated from a U.S. European Command program that paired Reserve component Soldiers and Airmen with Baltic States in 1991. The National Guard Bureau later proposed pairing states with three nations emerging from the collapse of the Soviet Bloc.
“The globalization of our societies has made our world smaller and borders are now blurred by our ever-changing world,” said National Guard Bureau Joint Chief of Staff (Army) Gen. Frank Grass. “In that short time period, the National Guard and states continue to build close and lasting personal relationships with our partner nations around the world.”
The program provides host countries with a skilled force capable of helping to train and develop the host nation’s defenses and security, disaster response, crisis management, and interagency cooperation.
“The SPP links a unique component of the Department of Defense with the armed forces of a partner country in a cooperative, mutually beneficial relationship by means of a tailored, small footprint, high-impact security cooperation engagement that fosters long-term enduring relationships with allies around the world,” said Air Force Maj. Gen. Edward Tonini, the KNG adjutant general.
Djibouti is already a key regional partner with the U.S., and is engaged in humanitarian and counter-terrorism operations throughout East Africa. The FAD has an extensive relationship with the personnel assigned to Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa, which includes Kentucky guardsmen, who are a force multiplier to the region, Tonini explained.
“This is not a double partnership, it’s a force multiplier,” Tonini said. “Having a partnership with Djibouti allows us the opportunity to engage in mutually beneficial exchanges at all levels of the military as well as the civilian world.”
According to Air Force Lt. Col. Shawn Keller, the KNG State Partnership Program director, there are several areas where the KNG can cooperate with the FAD including both military and civilian engagements.
“Although the SPP is based on military-to-military engagements, the partnerships can eventually leverage these relationships into civilian engagements that use the whole-of-government concept,” Keller said. “Our partnership with Djibouti has the support of the governor and commonwealth’s state agencies, universities and civic organizations, many of which are already engaged in Africa, and are eager to work with us to expand opportunities for citizen diplomacy with the people of Djibouti.”
For CJTF-HOA, which is based at Camp Lemonnier, Djibouti, and is the only permanent U.S. military base in Africa, this partnership provides several advantages.
For one, this partnership brings with it state money that can help fund additional training, joint exercises and more, for both the FAD and CJTF-HOA, explained Maj. Wes Chaney, the U.S. Embassy to Djibouti security cooperation officer.
“Kentucky brings its own state money to help in Djibouti,” Chaney said. “Their support effectively doubles or quadruples what is available to accomplish missions and aid here.”
It’s this blend of our citizen Soldier’s civilian and military experiences that the SPP is about. Their day-to-day civilian work and life experiences, combined with their military training, provides countries like Djibouti with a highly skilled and highly adaptable partner in countless fields, Chaney explained.
Additionally, because Kentucky’s guardsmen, like all states’ National guardsmen, act as the state’s rapid response force, they also bring disaster response capabilities that can help build Djibouti’s capacity in this critical area.
“This is a Title 32 program, which means they are authorized to train emergency management,” Chaney said. “This means they can train nonmilitary types such as policeman and fire fighters.”
Lastly, the fact that the Kentucky guardsmen will return to their homes and workplaces after completing their tour at CJTF-HOA means what they learn and experience here working with the Djiboutian people and their sister services, will be brought back to Kentucky.
“As Guard members, we are constantly re-evaluating better methods to protect the homeland, conduct overseas operations, and foster enduring partnerships,” Tonini said. “We are looking forward to the many different ways we can partner with Djibouti to exchange this knowledge. The partnership will benefit both sides in areas of military and civilian engagements such as humanitarian assistance and disaster response, counter narcotics operations, border security, health and academia.”
Kentucky signed a similar SPP agreement with Ecuador in 1996, making Djibouti its second partner nation. The SPP agreement between Djibouti and the KNG will create a long-term, stable relationship with one of America’s key allies in Africa.
“Your presence among us today demonstrates the importance accorded by the U.S. to the strengthening of the cooperation between the U.S. military and the Djiboutian defense and security forces as well as our two friendly peoples,” Zakaria said. “I am convinced that we could mutually benefit from this partnership, which will consolidate our operational capabilities in multiple areas. Long live the Djibouti-American cooperation.”