On Nov. 11, 2021, Combined Joint Task Force – Horn of Africa (CJTF-HOA) celebrated Allied Appreciation Day at Camp Lemonnier, Djibouti. Onlookers peered to the sky as Japan's P-3 Orion joined nine other U.S., U.K. and France aircraft in a low approach mission over Djibouti’s Ambouli International Airport. The event showcased the combined military presence in Djibouti and served to honor the shared partnerships, history and devotion to peace celebrated during Veterans, Armistice and Remembrance days.
Japan’s attendance at Allied Appreciation Day represents the long history of cooperation between the U.S. and Japan in East Africa.
Japan's Maritime Self-Defense Force has been operating in Djibouti conducting counter-piracy operations since 2009. The U.S. hosted the Japanese headquarters and housed personnel on Camp Lemonnier until Japan Self-Defense Force Base Djibouti was constructed a mile away in 2011.
Speaking at the Nov. 11 event, CJTF-HOA commanding general, Maj. Gen. William Zana said, “It’s a very rare day here in Djibouti that we don't have some sort of shared training, educational, civic or operational interaction. I believe we are all the more ready to succeed at our mission because of these interactions.”
Japan and the U.S. work together regularly on a variety of shared interests in East Africa. For example, in September, the Director General for International Affairs for Japan, Yasushi Noguchi, and other Japanese leaders visited the CJTF-HOA leadership at Camp Lemonnier to discuss future plans for continuing their combined cooperation in Djibouti.
Noguchi’s visit is one of many positive engagements between Japan, the U.S. and Djibouti forces. In July, U.S. forces traveled to the Japanese base for the first time in more than a year since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, and joined with Japanese forces to conduct a combined tactical vehicle recovery training. The training included using an M984 wrecker to tow an out-of-service Japanese vehicle, demonstrating the countries will support each other when called upon.
Also, CJTF-HOA and Japan Self-Defense Forces (JSDF) held additional joint training opportunities for service members including basic concealment techniques for sniper stalking, small arms combat marksmanship training, capabilities and static weapons display, and more.
In addition to operations and training, the U.S. and Japan have showcased their solidarity on several special occasions, including a WWII memorial and remembrance ceremony hosted by the Japanese, and a Patriot Day 9/11 ceremony and the Allied Appreciation Day event, both hosted at Camp Lemonnier.
“Broadening the scope of our partnership can set the tone as we continue to invest in the peace and stability in East Africa,” said Japan Self-Defense Forces Lt. Col. Naoki Okayama, chief of staff. “We can learn a lot from each other.”
Plans for continued cooperation include relationship-building activities, joint exercises, quarterly engagements with CJTF-HOA commander and the Japanese base commander, and intelligence sharing when possible.
“The relationship between CJTF-HOA and the JSDF is important to the region and to our countries,” Okayama said. “The more we work together, the brighter the future looks for our partnership.”