NADAG, Djibouti -- Marine Col. Mario LaPaix, commanding officer of Command Logistics Element, Marine Central Command, a force comprising of reserves from throughout the U.S., was honored by Djibouti's National Police Force during a ceremony Wednesday morning at the police force's training academy here.
The ceremony acknowledged LaPaix, and the more than 300 troops under his command, being a "definitive factor" in establishing the strong relationship between Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa and the local Djiboutian populace since CLE's arrival here in January of this year.
LaPaix, along with the Marines, sailors, airmen and soldiers of CLE, took command of Camp Lemonier in January creating a "safe haven" for CJTF-HOA troops to complete their mission of detecting, deterring and destroying terrorism in the East Africa region.
In honor of LaPaix's commitment to fortifying the relationship between the two nations, the police force named their fitness facility after him.
"Until his (LaPaix) arrival, the service members remained permanently entrenched within the camp with a feeling of mistrust of this country and its people," said Djiboutian Col. Hassan Djama Guedi, commander, National Police Force. "Since his arrival, everything has changed, because he knew how to meet and develop friendly relations with everyone (Djiboutians)."
Guedi explained, during LaPaix command of CLE, many civil-military operations were completed in the local area to include the renovations of Douda and Dorale schools, as well as conducting Medical Civil Action Programs and coordinating donations of wood and food to local inhabitants.
"That's how we're going to win this war, through the hearts and minds of people," LaPaix said.
The ceremony concluded with the "breaking of bread" between the Djiboutian police force and the CLE's service members who were part of the ceremony.
"His (LaPaix) openness of spirit gave a new enthusiasm to Djiboutian and American relations," Guedi added. "His generosity of heart acted as a catalyst to the rapprochement (relationship between) of our two peoples."
Since day one, the National Police Force has been a staunch supporter of the task force's presence here by assisting in security operations as well as giving the task force additional "eyes and ears" to complete their mission of destroying terrorist cells in the region, LaPaix explained.