DJIBOUTI -- Nearly 40 members from both Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa (CJTF-HOA) and Camp Lemonnier, Djibouti, visited the allied South Korean Navy Destroyer, Republic of Korea Ship (ROKS) Choi Young DDH-981 in the port of Djibouti, Gulf of Aden, May 8.
The ship was docked in the Gulf of Aden between Yemen and Somalia in the Horn of Africa – a melting pot of international military members. This culture of U.S. military forces combining with allied countries offered a unique opportunity to learn from one another.
"Being deployed here has offered the ability to understand the other U.S. military branches better; but, this was an opportunity for us to interact with a completely different nation," said Petty Officer 1st Class Mark Kozee, "It's the kind of experience that can only serve to make our Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Marines better and well-rounded."
Navy, Marines, Army and Air Force members were all involved in the meeting with the South Korean navy. Commander of the ROKS Choi Young DDH-981, Capt. Kim Kyung-Ryul, welcomed his visitors aboard, offering South Korean hospitality and cold traditional tea on the sweltering day.
Sitting directly across from a painting of the vessel, Kyung-Ryul answered questions about the ship’s capabilities from behind a sprawling table in a conference room. He shared a video highlighting South Korea’s history and its naval accomplishments. The mood was light during the meeting as the Kyung-Ryul posed humorous questions and anecdotes to military members.
The tour fell in line with CJTF-HOA’s mission to perform unified action with international partners.
"It's important that we recognize who our partner nations are and learn as much about each other's culture as possible," said Staff Sgt. Neil Loaiza, U.S. Marine Corps, who also attended the trip.
The group was then guided to the bow where the eclectic crowd of military uniforms joined for a group photo of solidarity. While in formation for the photo, the group shouted a long-standing U.S.-Korea partnership mantra in unison, “We go…together!,” pumping a fist towards the sky. Both the Korean and U.S. photographers captured this meaningful moment.
The final stop was to see a naval helicopter on board, the AW-159 Wildcat maritime helicopter.
While departing the ship, Kyung-Ryul shook the hand of each of his visitors and presented them with his commander’s coin. Several U.S. service members from various units offered their coin to the commander in return.