CAMP LEMONIER, Djibouti -- Officers from six different countries, along with U.S. officers, are currently sharing ideas, providing insight and forging a coalition partnership while serving valuable roles in the Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa's mission of detecting, disrupting and defeating transnational terrorism in the region.
Being a coalition force headquarters supporting the global war on terrorism in the Horn of Africa region, CJTF-HOA makes good use of its coalition expertise to support accomplishment of its counter-terrorism mission.
French Lt. Col. Philippe Blondy, Deputy Director, Combined Joint Staff, stated coalition forces are in Djibouti to help integrate coalition capabilities and knowledge. They reinforce legitimacy of CJTF actions within the Combined Joint Operation Area.
"The Coalition military here is great in coordinating and working as a liaison between the different forces," said Marine Lt. Col. Kenneth Punter, training and exercise officer for CJTF-HOA. "It makes it much easier when you have an officer who can speak the language and understand how other forces operate."
The eleven officers currently serving on the CJTF staff are from Ethiopia, Djibouti, Kenya, Romania, South Korea and France. They come from all services: Marine Corps, Army, Navy, Air Force and are working in various specialized areas to maximize the unique capabilities each brings to the operation. Previously, officers from Yemen, Italy and Spain have served with the coalition force as well.
"The coalition are professional and work very well with us," commented Punter, who has been working with coalition forces here for more than two months. "We utilize their experience and knowledge as fully as possible."
The CJTF range planning and management officer hails from the Korean Marine Corps. Having initially served in the operations section while aboard USS Mt. Whitney, supporting activities at Camp Lemonier from off the coast of Africa, Maj. Byounghyen An, from Seoul, South Korea, admits the work load increased significantly when he arrived at Camp Lemonier three months ago.
"I am very glad to contribute to the mission accomplishment of CJTF-HOA," said An, who serves with the Joint Chief of Staff in Korea. "I am very fortunate to have this opportunity."
Because their countries are included in the CJTF-HOA operations area, Ethiopian and Kenyan representatives provide first hand knowledge and experience on host nation issues and serve as key links with their Armed Forces counterparts. Their presence on the CJTF staff is a key element in establishing trust and building relationships with coalition and test host nation military leaders throughout the East African region.
Providing analysis, giving briefs and input on the surrounding area is what Kenyan Lt. Col. John Shungoh, intelligence officer, does here on a regular basis. "If a coalition staff department is going to succeed, we are going to be counted as part of that success," he said. "It is therefore imperative that we have to be able to work as a team. If the staff directorates and CJTF-HOA at large succeed, we have succeeded as coalition partners."
French officers assigned to the CJTF staff play an invaluable role in serving as the interface with French garrison forces assigned in Djibouti, who provide for the defense of the country.
"They are instrumental in keeping lines of communication open between CJTF, French Forces Djibouti and the Armed Forces of Djibouti," said Punter. "There are two French officers here and they put forth a lot of help and effort. They assist us with oral and written translations, which is a tremendous help in our daily tasks."
In order to plan various activities, especially in the field of training forces, coalition officers also provide access to shooting ranges and training facilities, according to Blondy.
Fighting terrorism requires an active, holistic strategy, bringing to bear elements of force, diplomacy, economics, education and information in an aggressive, coordinated effort. No one force or nation can win the war on terrorism alone.
CJTF-HOA, in fighting the war on terrorism in an area defined as the land, airspace and coastal waters of Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, Sudan, Yemen, is drawing on the strength and skill of host nation and coalition partners to win this war.
Due in large part to coalition officer presence on the CJTF staff, a significant outcome of the counter-terrorism mission thus far is the establishment and reinforcement of strong relationships with many different nations, all aimed at dealing a crushing defeat to terrorism in the Horn of Africa region.