One of the primary missions of the Combined Joint Task Force - Horn of Africa (CJTF-HOA) is to strengthen U.S. partners and build relationships amongst nations. While partnership building often takes the form of joint operations or knowledge sharing, it can also be something as simple as bonding over a shared interest–like basketball.
CJTF-HOA service members recently visited the Japanese Self-Defense Forces base in Ambouli, Djibouti to engage in some friendly competition.
U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Craishod Norris, CJTF-HOA Japanese foreign liaison coordinator, and his teammates went head-to-head against the Japanese team and were invited to partake in a cultural Japanese drum performance alongside Japanese taiko drum players.
“Engagements like these give us the chance to visit the Japanese base in a more relaxed setting,” said Norris. “They also help us strengthen our relationship through a common appreciation of sports and culture.”
After spending a little over a month together, the foreign liaison team and Japanese Ground Self-Defense Forces Maj. Ishizawa Mitsuharu, JGSDF liaison officer to CJTF-HOA, found they all shared a collective interest in sports and the idea of a sports-focused culture exchange came to fruition.
“My team and I were super excited for this opportunity,” said U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Craishod Norris, CJTF-HOA Japanese foreign liaison coordinator. “Being able to build relationships with our foreign partners and play a sport I’ve grown up playing has been a truly unique experience.”
The CJTF-HOA team were thankful for the chance to play a sport they love with service members from a foreign nation.
U.S. Navy Hospital Corpsman 2nd Class Isaiah Gordon said, “I’m glad I was able to take part in the game, I think it’s really cool, especially as someone who doesn’t get to go to all these different bases too often.”
U.S. Army Sgt Alex Burns, CJTF-HOA foreign liaison coordinator, stayed behind after the game with a small group of service members to spend some additional time with the Japanese players and plan potential future activities like this one.
“Laid back events like these make us feel more like a team with our foreign partners.” Burns said. “It inspires community amongst service members from different branches and nations and helps them get more involved with our mission to create a multinational community here in Djibouti.”