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Marines Attend Djibouti's Independence Festivities;

By | | July 2, 2003

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The Republic of Djibouti, headquarters of Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa, celebrated their 26th Independence Day here June 27.

On this day in 1977 The Republic of Djibouti gained their independence from France to become the last French colony on the African mainland to gain its independence and become their own sovereign nation.

Troops in support of the task force were able to witness first hand the small African nation's most hallowed day, full of parades, speeches, singing, dancing and local traditions.

"It was an honor and privilege to attend. Our relationship with Djibouti began flourishing the day we first set foot here and has continued everyday there after," said Marine Col. Mario Lapaix, commander, Command Logistics Element, Marine Central Command. 

One of the many aspects of the task force's mission is fortifying a strong relationship with Djibouti.

The two nations have completed numerous humanitarian and civil-military operations, since the task force began setting up its headquarters here to defeat terrorism in the Horn of Africa region in December 2002.

"It was only fitting for us to be a part of their celebration. Because of our strong relationship, the Djiboutians have lent us their hand by providing valuable intelligence about the region that directly aids us in the War on Terrorism," said Lapaix, a reservist who was activated to oversee base operations, providing the CJTF a "safe haven" to operate from.

During the parade, Djibouti presented their military units and equipment by marching in front of several thousand of Djiboutians as well as French, German and U.S. military troops. A marching band led the parade while playing the National Anthem of Djibouti.

After the procession, the U.S. troops were invited to the presidential palace to hear Ismail Omar Guelleh, President, Republic of Djibouti address his people.

He spoke of Djibouti as being at an all-time economic high. He also said one of the contributing factors is the "friends" of the country.

In addressing the issue of partnership and friendship between Djibouti and U.S.-led coalition forces, Lapaix said.

"We've hired more than 800 Djiboutians to support our troops at Camp Lemonier - they do a fantastic job. Even while I'm off base, they (Djiboutians) come up and greet me. They are truly friendly."

Lapaix went on to say the relationship built with the Djiboutians in the last six months has paved the way for future troops to operate here knowing that they and their neighbors are supporting the same fight against terrorism across the East African region.

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