DJIBOUTI, Camp Lemonnier - The Combined Joint Task Force - Horn of Africa, Task Force Tomahawk and representatives from the Southern European Task Force, Africa (SETAF-AF) welcomed a group of Japanese soldiers to take part in their “Halfway 15”, a 15-mile ruck march to promote physical fitness and foreign relations at Camp Lemonnier, Aug. 12, 2023.
Since early July, nearly 200 members of the CJTF-HOA and Camp Lemonnier have spent some of their nights in Djibouti reaching new milestones. Task Force Tomahawk has been hosting a series of ruck marches called the ‘Road to Thunderbird 30’ to prepare their soldiers for a 30-mile ruck march around Camp Lemonnier.
Members of the SETAF-AF 489th Civil Affairs Battalion worked closely with a variety of foreign partners in Djibouti by holding social engagements both in and outside of Camp Lemonnier. During a Japanese foreign exchange program, U.S. Army Sgt. 1st Class Albert Munoz and his team invited the members of the Japanese Self-Defense Force to take part in the ruck, which has helped bring them together.
“We share in the same joys and struggles and have the same shared understanding of what it’s like to serve our countries while far away from family,” said Munoz.
Lt. Col. Kosuke Suzuki, Japanese base commander, and the visiting Japanese soldiers gave thanks to CJTF-HOA Task Force Tomahawk and civil affairs personnel for welcoming them to Camp Lemonnier and cheering them on during the march.
Suzuki stated that events like these really help promote stronger relationships between Japan and the U.S and that they hope to take part in future marches. U.S. Army Spc. Christopher Boyce talked about how the inclusion of Japanese soldiers brought a unique feeling to this march.
“Seeing foreign allies struggling alongside me was really cool,” said Boyce. After finishing the ruck and making it back to the starting point, Boyce noted how he found comfort running the ruck with people from a different nation.
“Rucking normally sucks but getting to do it with foreign partners really showed me we’re all the same, we just happen to be wearing two different uniforms.” Boyce said