Kansas Soldiers Assume Force Protection Mission at Camp Lemonnier
The 2nd Combined Arms Battalion, 137th Infantry Regiment, Kansas National Guard conducted a Relief in Place and Transfer of Authority with the 1st Battalion 65th Infantry Regiment, Puerto Rico National Guard June 24, 2010 at Camp Lemonnier, Djibouti. The 2/137 CAB assumed the lead in force protection and watch standing duties at the camp.
Relief in Place and Transfer of Authority (RIP/TOA) is the process where one battalion takes the place of another. Over the next several days, each member of the oncoming team will spend their time following around his counterpart trying to absorb every aspect of that job.
Army Major Albert Irizarry, 1/65th Infantry Regiment battalion commander, said that duty at Camp Lemonnier was a great experience for the battalion's leadership.
"This ceremony was symbolic," said Irizarry. "It means a lot for us and it validates our soldier's sacrifices and hard work. The men and women of the Puerto Rico National Guard met the challenges head on and they should be commended."
Irizarry also said that the 2/137th CAB has been learning local procedures and preparing to fully assume force protection and watch standing duties. Army Lieutenant Colonel Greg Mittman, 2/137th CAB battalion commander, said that he was excited to assume his duties and responsibilities in Djibouti. He also said that Africa presents challenges unlike any he experienced on his previous deployments to Iraq or Afghanistan.
"The Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa mission is different because we are not involved in a kinetic environment," said Mittman. "We are here to be diplomats and strengthen our partnership with the Djiboutian people."
"Our soldiers want to develop a bond with the people of this country and experience their rich history and culture," said Mittman. "Most Americans will never get an opportunity to visit a place so rich in culture."
Command Sergeant Major Troy Hester said that every soldier was ready to get the deployment started.
"The HOA mission is a unique opportunity to share and learn from our capable Djiboutian partners and teammates," said Hester.
"We have an opportunity to represent the great state of Kansas, our parents and show people the things that make America so strong: Our strong desire to help people all over the world."
U.S. Navy Captain John Dixon, CJTF-HOA chief of staff, lauded the 1/65th Infantry Battalion for their hard work and perseverance throughout the past year. He also welcomed the incoming 2/137th CAB.
"This duty is the best expeditionary duty you will ever have," said Dixon. "The quality of life in Djibouti is pretty high and there are a lot of opportunities to better yourselfs and excel as a group."
Mittman said that the soldiers were already fond of the services provided at Camp Lemonnier.
"Everyone likes the gym, Wi-Fi and the galley," said Mittman. "Camp Lemonnier has a lot of things that remind you of home. Our soldiers have already contacted loved ones back home and let them know that things are fine here. The camp is taking care of them."