Camp Lemonnier Welcomes New Commanding Officer
During a change of command ceremony at Camp Lemonnier, Djibouti (CLDJ), April 28, 2010, Captain Darius Banaji relieved Captain Bill Finn as commanding officer of the only U.S. military installation on the continent of Africa.
The U.S. Ambassador to Djibouti, James Swan; The Japanese Ambassador to Djibouti, Masiki Noke; Commander Navy Region Europe, Africa, Southwest Asia, Rear Admiral David Mercer; Djibouti Deputy Defense Chief of Staff, General Hassan Ali Kamil; as well as nearly 200 U.S. and Djiboutian military, state officials, and civilians gathered in the camp's recreation facility, 11 Degrees North, to welcome Banaji.
"I look forward to building on the foundation Captain Finn created not only on camp, but also in the community with our Djiboutian hosts," said Banaji. "I have relieved him before in Hawaii and I am confident following in his footsteps as commander at Camp Lemonnier" . While at CLDJ nearly a year to the day, Finn has initiated and witnessed the metamorphosis of the camp. When Finn took command in June 2009, there were nearly 1,500 personnel deployed to camp. Now there is a multinational force of more than 3,000 personnel along with nearly 800 local national personnel who work at the camp every day in support of various commands and missions.
"I am proud of the work the dedicated personnel on camp have accomplished during my time here," said Finn. "I am also proud of the strong personal relationships we have been able to build with the Djibouti City community and the Djiboutian government."
During the change of command ceremony, Finn took time to specially recognize key Djiboutian government officials and the Djiboutian people.
"The U.S. is very fortunate that the Djiboutian government and its citizens have embraced our presence in their country, and we have the responsibility to be the best tenants possible," said Finn at the ceremony. "We must always be transparent in our operations, maximizing opportunities for Djiboutian businesses and people on camp, and above all else be outstanding representatives of the U.S."
During his tenure, Finn helped shift the camp from a skeletal expeditionary infrastructure to a thriving expeditionary environment, offering most of the support elements that would be found at any Navy installation and capable of transitioning to an enduring facility in the future. Finn helped foster construction projects for a new chow hall, new recreational facilities, a new post office and chapel, and an ATM; the first on camp.
While cementing the camp's infrastructure, Finn also dedicated countless hours to improving ties with the local community and businesses.
"Captain Finn made a difference for the camp by working with local leadership and the local media to give a face to the camp," said Mahamed Abdillahi, the camp's community relations specialist and a local Djiboutian. "Before the community was not aware of what Camp Lemonnier was. Now you can indentify Camp Lemonnier with Captain Finn."
Abdillahi added that there is also more trust from the local community toward the camp because of the efforts of Finn and his staff.
During the ceremony Finn received the Legion of Merit for his extraordinary work while serving as the camp commanding officer. Along with the change in the camp's command, Commander Brian Wilson relieved Commander Dave Cook as executive officer at camp. After leaving Djibouti, Finn will report to Naval Facilities Engineering Command (NAVFAC) Pacific, Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, as the operations officer while Cook will report to Offutt Air Base, Nebraska, as a planner for Joint Functional Component Command (JFCC) - Global Strike.
"I'm happy to have taken command of such a dedicated and talented group of people," said Banaji, "and I know that the staff and I are excited about the direction of Camp Lemonnier and potentially ushering in a new 'enduring' era here in the Horn of Africa." Camp Lemonnier provides, operates and maintains superior service to meet the needs of regional tenant commands, and facilitate operations in the Horn of Africa, while promoting positive relations between the United States and African nations.
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