War on Terrorism

Friday, April 06, 2012

Djibouti: Texas Guard members share best practices for border protection, patrol

By Army Staff Sgt. Malcolm McClendon
Task Force Raptor

DJIBOUTI, Djibouti  – When Army Staff Sgt. Vern Baker was standing guard at a U.S. Border Patrol checkpoint, he never imagined he would one day share that experience with foreign military members halfway around the world.

But Baker, along with other Texas National Guard members, soon found himself discussing best practices with Djiboutian soldiers who hosted a border operations seminar here March 12-16.

Djiboutian army Sgt. Mohamed Houssein, Rapid Action Regiment, said he welcomed discussing the subject with Guard members from Task Force Raptor, U.S. Army 3rd Squadron, 124th Cavalry Regiment, Texas Army National Guard, Combined Joint Task Force – Horn of Africa.

“It’s good that we can get together and discuss these topics,” Houssein said. “We might deal with different issues on the border, but the basics are still the same.”

Houssein said he enjoyed the demonstrations that the U.S. Soldiers shared searches of vehicles and personnel.

“We learned how U.S. Soldiers look for contraband in vehicles and on people,” Houssein said. “They included us in the exercises, which gave us a better understanding of the process.”

The experiences shared by the Djiboutians gave Baker and the other Guard members insight into their counterparts’ border-operation practices as well.

“They are actually very similar to us in how they conduct searches,” said Army Staff Sgt. Jeff Schmidt, also from TF Raptor, U.S. Army 3-124th Cav., Texas Army National Guard. “They rely on the buddy system to provide security as they conduct personnel or vehicle searches.”

Back in Texas, Baker was part of Operation River Watch, an initiative that called for the National Guard to assist the Customs and Border Protection Agency on the U.S.-Mexico border. He said that experience helped him better understand what Djiboutian soldiers deal with every day on their own borders.

“Back home, we have a whole agency dedicated to the safeguard of our borders,” Baker said. “Here, the Djiboutian soldiers head up their own border protection and operations.”

At the end of the week-long seminar, Baker left with a better understanding for the role Djiboutian soldiers carry out.

“I have a better appreciation for what they do here to protect their country,” he said.

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