Delegation from Djibouti visits Kentucky Air Guard

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  • By 123rd Airlift Wing Public Affairs
A delegation of military officials from the Republic of Djibouti visited the Kentucky Air National Guard Base Sept. 17 to receive briefs on the 123rd Airlift Wing mission, tour multiple units and experience a training sortie aboard a Kentucky C-130 Hercules aircraft.

While here, the Djiboutians learned about overall wing capabilities and the unique functions of the 123rd Special Tactics Squadron, 123rd Contingency Response Group and 123rd Explosive Ordnance Disposal Flight. The day was part of a broader visit to Kentucky involving Djiboutian military personnel and members of the Djiboutian government's civilian cabinets from Sept. 13 to 20.

In June, Djibouti signed an historic agreement with the Kentucky National Guard to participate in the National Guard Bureau's State Partnership Program. The program pairs state National Guards with foreign governments to conduct military-to-military engagements in support of defense security goals. It employs a "whole-of-society" approach to building relationships and capabilities that foster broader engagements spanning military, government, economic and social spheres.

Civilian members of the Djiboutian delegation included the president of the National Assembly, Muhamed Ali Houmed; Djiboutian ministers of health, foreign affairs, and the chambers of commerce; and representatives from the University of Djibouti.

Military delegates included chiefs of defense, Air Force, logistics, military education and materiel. The Honorable Tom Kelly, U.S. Ambassador to Djibouti, also was a key participant in the visit.

"Our Kentucky Guardsmen, our government officials and our civic leaders have been fantastic ambassadors to these global neighbors," said Kentucky's adjutant general, Maj. Gen. Edward Tonini. "We're honored to host our new partners and friends from the Republic of Djibouti."

While in Kentucky, the Djiboutian delegation also toured Boone National Guard Center in Frankfort; ate dinner at the Governor's Mansion with Lt. Gov. Crit Luallen; visited Kentucky troops working at Fort Knox and training at the Wendell H. Ford Regional Training Center in Western Kentucky; made a stop at Churchill Downs; attended a University of Louisville football game; toured United Parcel Service and a water-purification organization called Waterstep; interacted with ROTC cadets at the University of Louisville and at the University of Kentucky; met boxing great Muhammad Ali; and visited the Louisville Islamic Center.

"We came to Kentucky knowing of the Kentucky Guard," President Muhamed Ali Houmed said. "We are leaving Kentucky now knowing these people as friends -- friends of us and friends of Djibouti."

The State Partnership Program is administered by the National Guard Bureau and guided by U.S. Department of State foreign policy goals. The program has been successfully building relationships for over 20 years involving 74 nations around the globe. With the inclusion of Djibouti, the National Guard will have 69 state partnerships in 75 countries.

A Kentucky delegation led by Tonini participated in the State Partnership Program signing ceremony in Djibouti on June 2. 

Djibouti is Kentucky's second partnership program. The Ecuador-Kentucky partnership was formalized in 1996. Since its inception, that partnership has completed 66 exchange events with Ecuador ranging from security, maintenance, emergency management, and Army and Air Force aviation.