By Petty Officer 1st Class Larry Foos, Combined Joint Task Force - Horn of AfricaNovember 20, 2009
CAMP LEMONNIER, Djibouti - While on convoy patrol one day in late October, U.S. Army Sergeant Hipolito Nieves noticed a wet spot on the ground at a checkpoint outside Camp Lemonnier. He searched the area and confirmed with his convoy commander that someone had been there and likely fled upon their approach. This defensive posture is one of many patrols conducted around the perimeter to protect the camp.
This event is a snapshot of life for the U.S. Army's 1-65th Infantry Battalion, Charlie Company, a National Guard unit from Puerto Rico, also known as the 'Borinqueneers.' As the security force for Combined Joint Tasked Force - Horn of Africa (CJTF-HOA) and Camp Lemonnier, Charlie Company carries weapons to protect the camp. It also operates the entry control checkpoints, protects U.S. and allied ships at the massive Djibouti Port, and guards the U.S. Embassy in Djibouti.
"Charlie Company is very proud of their unit and the job they do," said Captain Jay A. Escobales, company commander. "They understand the history and have a real commitment for this deployment. Their performance is superb on every mission."
With commendations that include recognition for meritorious and decorated service in both World Wars and the Korean War, and the distinction of carrying out the last recorded U.S. Army battalion-sized bayonet charge (February 2, 1951), the 65th Infantry is again taking part in overseas operations, and is the first full-staff Puerto Rican unit assigned to the Horn of Africa.
"My Soldiers have the expertise for this type of mission," said Escobales. "Our primary mission is to provide camp safety and security, so the commanders can perform their intent without incident."
According to Nieves, the unit's convoy team is accompanied by an interpreter and Djiboutian Army personnel to ensure bilateral, host-nation support, and to eliminate unnecessary force.
"These Soldiers are our sensors out there," said Escobales. "Their mission is to prevent and detect any enemy activity around the base and, at the same time, show the locals that we are here to protect."