DJIBOUTI — Secretary of the Air Force Deborah Lee James met with Airmen and senior leaders stationed at Camp Lemonnier and the U.S. Embassy, as well as senior members from the Djiboutian military, during her first visit to the country Nov. 12.
During her trip to the U.S. Embassy in Djibouti, James learned the role the Djiboutian military plays in defense of the country and what the government of Djibouti and the embassy are doing for refugees coming from Somalia and Yemen.
“We have seen more than 400 American citizens come to Djibouti as refugees from Yemen,” said Ambassador Tom Kelly, U.S. ambassador to the Republic of Djibouti. “The Djiboutians have, without a doubt, helped us save American lives.”
After leaving the embassy, James met with Airmen from Camp Lemonnier and Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa at Chebelley Airfield.
Camp Lemonnier is U.S. Africa Command’s primary base of operations in Africa, and CJTF-HOA is responsible for a 10-country, 2.4-million-square-mile combined joint operating area in East Africa. Its members engage with partner-nation militaries to help defeat violent extremist organizations and increase security and stability throughout the region.
“You’re doing such important work here and all over this region,” James said. “This is the hub of anti-terrorism operations in Africa and many other areas of responsibility.”
James also went on to address her top priorities as the Secretary of the Air Force.
“There are many people issues that the (Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Mark A. Welsh III) and I work on, but none more important than stopping the downsizing we have been going through in the Air Force,” James said. “In my judgment, we are as low as we can possibly go, so our number one priority going forward is to make sure that we don’t end up downsizing anymore.”
After addressing several other personnel related issues, James then turned to the second of her top three priorities — balancing readiness and modernization.
“Readiness today means training, making upgrades to our ranges and infrastructure. It’s also about funding current missions,” James said. “That’s the story of today, but it’s also about looking to tomorrow and what key technologies we need to invest in and what new aircraft we need for our aging fleet.”
James concluded her speech hitting on the final of her top priorities — making every dollar count.
“Make every dollar count. I always put that in my top three because we are all tax payers,” James said. “We all need to be as efficient as we can be going forward and ensure we make every dollar count.”
As her visit came to a close, James took time to speak to Airmen individually and learn what they do and how they support the East African fight against terrorism.
“We were able to communicate exactly what our mission is here and how we are contributing,” said Master Sgt. Charles Warrington, the 449th Air Expeditionary Group first sergeant. “She got to see the challenges we face, but also the many benefits we provide to the region.”