Pennsylvania Guard Takes Over Horn of Africa Security Mission

By Sgt. Jalen Miller, Combined Joint Task Force - Horn of AfricaFebruary 21, 2024

U.S. Army Lt. Col. Erik Ponzek, left, commander of 2-112th Infantry, and Command Sgt. Maj. Jason Barclay, 2-112th Infantry senior enlisted leader, unfurl their unit's colors.
240210-Z-NH807-1191 (Photo Credit: Sgt. Jalen Miller) VIEW ORIGINAL

CAMP LEMONNIER, Djibouti – The Pennsylvania National Guard’s Task Force Paxton assumed control over the security mission in East Africa from Task Force Tomahawk during a Feb. 10 transfer of authority ceremony.

Task Force Paxton comprises primarily Soldiers from the 2nd Battalion, 112th Infantry Regiment, 56th Stryker Brigade Combat Team, and Soldiers from eight other companies from across Pennsylvania.

Task Force Paxton now has the essential mission of providing critical security support at installations across the Horn of Africa. As the United States’ largest tactical unit on the continent of Africa, the security task force makes up more than two-thirds of the Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa force and is critical to providing security and building partnerships throughout East Africa in support of U.S. Africa Command.

“We look forward to joining that proficient team that you’ve built,” said U.S. Army Lt. Col. Erik Ponzek, commander of 2-112th Infantry. “We strive to meet the expectations of each mission set in the Horn of Africa, working tirelessly through the heat of the long days to overcome the challenges ahead.”

During the ceremony, Ponzek and Command Sgt. Maj. Jason Barclay, the 2-112th Infantry senior enlisted leader, unfurled their unit’s colors. This act represents Task Force Paxton assuming control over the SECFOR unit in CJTF-HOA.

Task Force Tomahawk included about 1,000 Soldiers from Oklahoma’s 1st Battalion, 179th Infantry Regiment, 45th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, and from the Nebraska and Indiana National Guard. They have been deployed to the Horn of Africa for nine months, providing operational security and crisis response operations across outstations in the Horn of Africa.

U.S. Army Maj. Gen. Jami Shawley, CJTF-HOA commanding general, gave a heartfelt goodbye to the Task Force Tomahawk, thanking them for their outstanding professionalism, discipline and resilience.

“Tomahawk, your accomplishments and sacrifices only add excellence to your distinguished heritage. When Tomahawks of the future look back and talk about their distinguished legacy, the pride in their eyes when they talk about the shoulders of giants that they come from, those are your shoulders,” Shawley said.

During their tenure at Camp Lemonnier, Task Force Tomahawk operated security posts across Africa and provided landside security operations for naval vessels. The team also conducted Emergency Defense Readiness Exercises in Tanzania, Madagascar, Kenya and other East African nations to support CJTF-HOA’s crisis response mission.

U.S. Army Lt. Col. Brent Weece, commander of Task Force Tomahawk, expressed appreciation for his Soldiers’ work.

“As we completed this ceremony nine months ago, I couldn’t predict all the events and challenges that Task Force Tomahawk would face, but I was confident that our Soldiers would succeed,” said Weece.

The 2-112th Infantry’s call sign, “Paxton,” is derived from a Native American word meaning “Where the waters stand” for a specific place in Dauphin County, Pennsylvania. The unit’s heritage traces to the Logan Guards of Lewistown, Pennsylvania, and the Bellefonte Fencibles, who were both organized in 1858 and went on to fight with distinction for the Union Army during the Civil War.

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