Kentucky plays host to Djibouti delegation

By Lt. Col. Kirk Hilbrecht, Kentucky National Guard Public Affairs

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Kentucky Guardsmen gather with several members of Djibouti’s military and government cabinets at the Kentucky National Guard Memorial in Frankfort, Ky., Sept. 15, 2015. The visit was part of the Kentucky Guard’s State Partnership with Djibouti. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Scott Raymond)

FRANKFORT, Ky. — The Kentucky National Guard hosted several members of Djibouti’s military and government cabinets, Sept. 13-20, as part of the Kentucky Guard’s State Partnership with Djibouti. Civilian members of the Djiboutian delegation included the Honorable Tom Kelly, U.S. Ambassador to Djibouti, the President of the National Assembly, Mr. Muhamed Ali Houmed, Djiboutian ministers of health, foreign affairs, chambers of commerce, and the University of Djibouti. The military delegates included chiefs of defense, Air Force, logistics, military education and materiel. This was the first Djiboutian partnership event in Kentucky since the National Guard selected Kentucky for this state partnership in June.

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Chief Warrant Officer Kevin Keith discusses the capabilities of a UH-60 Blackhawk with Lt. Col. Chakib Mahamed Ali, deputy commander of the Djibouti Air Force during a visit to the Kentucky Guard’s Army Aviation Support Facility in Frankfort, Ky., Sept. 15, 2015. Members of the Djibouti military toured several sites across Kentucky as part of the country’s new partnership with the Kentucky Guard. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Scott Raymond)

“Our Kentucky Guardsmen, our government officials and our civic leaders have been fantastic ambassadors to these global neighbors this week,” stated 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 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 Wendell H. Ford Regional Training Center in Western Kentucky; toured Kentucky’s Air National Guard Base; made a stop at Churchill Downs; attended a University of Louisville football game; toured Waterstep and UPS; 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,” said President Muhamed Ali Houmed, “We are leaving Kentucky now knowing these people as friends. Friends of us and friends of Djibouti.”

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Through the SPP, the Kentucky Guard will conduct military-to-military engagements in support of defense security cooperation goals similar to this current trip. The program also works to strengthen partner nation’s domestic response capabilities.

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Maj. Gen. Edward W. Tonini, Kentucky’s adjutant general, speaks with Thomas Kelly, U.S. Ambassador to Djibouti (middle) and Mr. Muhamed Ali Houmed, President of the National Assembly of Djibouti during a visit to the Kentucky National Guard Memorial in Frankfort, Ky., Sept. 15, 2015. The partnership with Djibouti is the Kentucky’s Guard second collaborative effort as part of the National Guard’s State Partnership Program. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Scott Raymond)

The State Partnership Program is administered by the National Guard Bureau and guided by U.S. Department of State foreign policy goals. The SPP 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, Africa in June 2015. http://tinyurl.com/djiboutikyspp

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