ARTA, Djibouti -- Sixteen Djiboutian soldiers received their initial, first-level Marine Corps Martial Arts Program certification here May 3 after concluding training conducted by Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa martial arts instructors.
CJTF-HOA Commander Maj. Gen. John F. Sattler attended the graduation ceremony for the Djiboutian forces to congratulate them for their successful completion of the week-long program.
The martial arts program is one of many training evolutions involving Djiboutian and American forces and contributes to the solid working relationship shared by the two countries in the Global War on Terrorism, according to Chief Warrant Officer Terry Walker, CJTF-HOA force protection officer.
The goal is to continue to build and fortify a strong bond between one another, said Walker, who coordinated the training between the two militaries.
The Djiboutian soldiers are assigned to the Force Action Rapid (FAR) Battalion, which is the most experienced combat unit in the Djiboutian military, according to Sgt. Youssouf Moussa Farah, a Djiboutian infantryman and one of the students.
According to Sgt. Michael Metzger, green belt instructor and squad leader, CJTF-HOA security detachment, the training has given the Djiboutian military unit a solid foundation in advanced close-combat tactics.
"By the end of the week they had a strong grasp of the techniques," he said.
Instruction included proper stretches and body hardening each day, the basic warrior stance, punches, kicks, throws, arm manipulations and counters to numerous moves an opponent may use in a close-combat, hand-to-hand scenario.
The instructors were very "hands-on" throughout the training to ensure their students were executing the moves properly, and the students spent several hours each day practicing techniques to develop muscle memory.
Farah said the training taught numerous combat skills, but also included many lessons that can be applied to a variety of aspects of daily life. He also said he enjoyed the cross training.
"I've always wanted to train with the Americans," said Farah. "It has been a very rewarding experience for me personally and for all of my friends taking the course."
During the training, the American MCMAP instructors lived here with the Djiboutian soldiers and were exposed to a different way of life.
"It's just been an all around great experience to see a side of a culture most people will never see," said Sgt. Sefk Alexander, a green belt instructor with CJTF-HOA, who hails from Augusta, Ga.
The mission of CJTF-HOA is to detect, deter and defeat transnational terrorist groups operating in the Horn of Africa region, which is defined as the airspace, land areas and coastal waters of Somalia, Kenya, Ethiopia, Sudan, Eritrea, Djibouti and Yemen.
Djibouti has been a staunch supporter and an important partner in the Global War on Terrorism, providing key access and infrastructure to the coalition engaged in counter-terrorism operations across the Horn of Africa region.