Kentucky National Guard engineers traveled more than 15,000 miles to Camp Lemonnier, Djibouti, to conduct training with the Djiboutian military's Demining Company as part of the State Partnership Program from Aug. 19-29, 2021.
"Our goals were to enhance each others' knowledge of a wide variety of explosive threats that Soldiers face on the battlefield including improvised explosive device, unexploded ordnance, and landmine hazards," said U.S. Army Capt. William Fegenbush, 577th commander and officer in charge of the expedition. "This equal sharing of knowledge and experience holds great potential for the increased effectiveness and safety of both United States forces and those of the Republic of Djibouti."
Djibouti currently supports de-mining efforts in support of the Africa Union Mission to Somalia, an active, regional peacekeeping mission operated by the African Union with the approval of the United Nations.
“When we do it like this, we can share our experience," said Capt. Le Mohamed Louaita, commander, Djiboutian Demining Company. "That way the Demining Company can grow. That is what we all need to grow and help others."
The demining unit was established in 2001 to ensure that Djibouti could become mine-free after years of civil war throughout the 1990s, a goal that was achieved in 2003. Eighteen years later, mines remain a threat in the surrounding region.
"One of my most memorable moments was sharing how to use a mine detector without a translator," said Tech. Sgt. Dylan Wagner, explosive ordnance disposal technician, 123rd Airlift Wing. "Their expressions and feedback showed me that mimed actions and charades might have been more impactful than the traditional method using words. It's moments like these that make you realize how much you take for granted, and I am thankful to have had this opportunity to learn and share with my counterparts."
The Kentucky National Guard and Djibouti began State Partnership Program cooperation in 2015, in support of U.S. Africa Command's strategy for security cooperation. For over 25 years the National Guard has conducted military-to-military engagements with partners to support Department of Defense objectives and theater campaign plans by building relationships that enhance global security, understanding and cooperation.
"The OSC office plays a role in the national security strategy through the United States Embassy," said Maj. Chad Brinton, chief of the Office of Security Cooperation at the U.S. Embassy in Djibouti. "The State Partnership Program is a fantastic asset toward attaining that goal. Kentucky service members come here and can share knowledge, skills and experiences that help us diplomatically, but also with Djibouti and the US security interests in the region."
Kentucky maintains state partnerships with Djibouti and Ecuador.