CAMP LEMONNIER, Djibouti – As part of the State Partnership Program (SPP), Kentucky National Guard Chaplain Col. Yong K. Cho, state command chaplain and Chaplain Lt. Col. Bill Draper, senior state support chaplain, visited Djibouti, Africa, in May during Ramadan.
The trip marks a first for the Guard Chaplaincy Corps yet Cho hopes it will not be the last. “We are grateful to the AFRICOM chaplain office, CJTF-HOA religious affairs team and our Kentucky State Partnership program director and senior leaders for the opportunity to visit Djibouti during their holy season of Ramadan.”
During the visit the chaplains attended two separate Iftars, the evening breaking of the fast celebrated by Muslims during the month of Ramadan. The first was held at the home of U.S. Ambassador to the Republic of Djibouti Ambassador Larry André and his wife. The second event was held on Camp Lemonnier and supported by the AFRICOM Command Chaplain’s Office and the Combined Joint Task Force – Horn of Africa Religious Affairs Office.
“The importance of our visit cannot be under-estimated. The potential to form lasting relationships between the Kentucky Guard chaplain corps and religious leaders in Djibouti will help in the overall strategic goal of bringing our two nations closer together,” said Draper. “This partnership can increase our efforts to earn the trust and respect of all Djiboutians thus strengthening our ability to be an effective state partner.”
In addition to attending the Iftars, Cho and Draper visited a local orphanage supported in part by the Catholic Church in Djibouti. This visit was helpful to learn how connecting with the people of Djibouti via humanitarian efforts might increase the partnership and lasting relationships together.
The SPP is a joint Department of Defense security cooperation program managed by the National Guard Bureau in support of combatant commanders’ objectives and ambassadors’ integrated country strategies. Through the program, a state’s National Guard is partnered with a country to promote enduring, mutually beneficial security relationships. Kentucky has partnered with Djibouti since 2015.