Kentucky Engineers build a foundation with Djiboutian Counterparts

By Capt. Michael Reinersman, 133rd Mobile Public Affairs Detachment

Forces Armee Djibouti (FAD) Lt. Meraneh, Liaison Officer, explains design and construction planning to Kentucky Guardsmen Command Sgt. Maj. Jerry Sipe, 201st Engineer Battalion, and Maj. Christopher Hettinger, Bilateral Affairs Officer for the State Partnership Program in Djibouti, at an Engineer Regiment Camp, Sept. 23, 2018. As part of the State Partnership Program, Service members from Kentucky and Djibouti met to discuss engineering best practices. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Capt. Michael Reinersman)

DJIBOUTI CITY, Djibouti – As part of the State Partnership Program (SPP), Engineers representing Kentucky National Guard’s 201st and 206th Engineer Battalion, visited with members of the Forces Armee Djibouti (FAD) to discuss military engineering best practices at FAD facilities, Sept. 23-27, 2018.

The engineering event was scheduled in response to a request during the Security Prioritization Working Group in Sept. 2017, said Maj. Christopher Hettinger, Bilateral Affairs Officer for the State Partnership Program in Djibouti.

“Discussing engineering strengths, weaknesses and opportunities will provide a basis for future collaboration,” said Hettinger.

Meetings between the FAD Engineer Regiment and Kentucky Guard Engineers focused on horizontal, vertical, combat engineering, capacity building as well as the use of military assets to support civil authorities.

“The Djiboutian engineers have many strengths we could use to increase our technical capacity in a cost-effective manner,” said, 1st Lt. William Fegenbush, Executive Officer, 149th Vertical Engineer Co. “There is much we can learn with future training such as pre-assembling components prior to arrival on site instead of contracting.”

Fegenbush, a registered professional engineer as a civilian, discussed design, military and civil construction planning with FAD military and civilian engineers at National Gendarmerie training center, FAD Engineer Regiment, Republican Guard Headquarters, and at other austere locations throughout Djibouti.

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After a briefing and tour of a forward training camp, Rapid Interdiction Battalion (RIB) Commander, Capt. Omar Ali Hassan, said he invites Kentucky engineers sharing ideas and practices to complete future camp improvements.

“I welcome Kentucky expertise on building commando training obstacles and camp fortification,” said Hassan.

The capacity to share specialized knowledge about vertical, horizontal and combat engineering will open avenues for greater cooperation during future events in Kentucky and Djibouti.

“I was very impressed with their military bearing and knowledge of their engineering equipment,” said Command Sgt. Maj. Jerry Sipe, 201st Engineer Battalion. “In any Army, you must be resourceful, so there is room for us to expand our knowledge by training and completing projects with the Djiboutian Engineer Regiment.”

The event also focused on preventive maintenance checks and services (PMCS) of engineer equipment, involved Guardsman visiting motor pools and maintenance shops at Engineer Regiment Camps.

“In order to complete missions, maintenance of engineer equipment is very important,” said Sgt. 1st. Class Jonathan Ward, Platoon Sgt., 130th Engineer Support Co. “And it would beneficial to conduct joint training analyzing malfunctions, minor repairs and PMCS’s of engineer equipment.”

The SPP is a Department of Defense security cooperation program run by the National Guard. It also serves as a mechanism for training National Guard personnel.

“Never in my life did I think I would find myself discussing different levels of engineering support in Djibouti, Africa,” said Staff Sgt. Jason Collett, 207th Engineer Co. “Now I understand how the harsh environment affects their equipment and I’m looking forward to working on meaningful projects in the future with our Djiboutian counterparts.”

The SSP has proven itself to be an efficient and economical program for developing partner capacity. The SPP has been building relationships for 25 years and now includes 75 partnerships with 81 nations around the globe. Kentucky National Guard partnership with Djibouti began in June 2015.