DJIBOUTI CITY, Djibouti – A rare sight of U.S. military uniforms in formation could be seen marching in this year’s Djiboutian Independence Day military parade in Djibouti City on Jun 27. At the invitation of the government of Djibouti, Camp Lemonnier and Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa (CJTF-HOA) sent a formation of U.S. Army Soldiers of the Arkansas National Guard to join Djiboutian Armed Forces and militaries of four other nations in the parade.
The U.S. military formation, the 39th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 153rd Infantry Regiment, 1st Battalion, is assigned to CJTF-HOA. Its participation also marked the first time U.S. military members had marched in a Djiboutian Independence Day parade since the creation of CJTF-HOA in 2002.
This year’s Djiboutian Independence Day celebration marks the 40th anniversary since Djibouti gained its independence from France. In addition, the annual event highlights Djiboutian culture, including singing, dancing, and promote its values of peace, equality and national unity. The military parade gives the Djiboutian Armed Forces an opportunity to offer the public a view of its capabilities and its good relationships with the militaries of its multinational partners.
President of Djibouti, Ismail Omar Guelleh, hosted the event and invited international partners to unite with his countrymen in a show of solidarity. The Djiboutian Armed Forces were joined by military formations from Italy, Japan, France, China, and the United States.
Djiboutian flags lined the roadside as far as the eye could see. The large floral display creating the 40th anniversary logo was surrounded by the flags of Djibouti’s partner nations participating in the parade. The main stage held distinguished guests, while the bleachers were filled with high-ranking officials from each country. Military officials of various branches saluted each passing unit in a show of mutual respect. Locals crowded the bright green bleachers alongside the road, wearing colorful garments and some donning special 40th anniversary shirts and hats.
U.S. participation in the parade was widespread. Leaders of CJTF-HOA and Camp Lemonnier were joined by U.S. Army Brig. Gen. Benjamin F. Adams III, Kentucky National Guard Land Component commander. The Kentucky National Guard partners with the Republic of Djibouti through the National Guard State Partnership program. This partnership is used to cooperate on many shared initiatives and to provide operational support to U.S. Africa Command.
The parade was historically significant in regards to joint participation, highlighting the melting pot of military interests in the region and showed mutual respect and support for continued Djiboutian independence.