Sunday, February 17, 2008

AIT Class 08-02 Graduation

The third Advanced Individual Training (AIT) for Infantry class of the new Armed Forces of Liberia graduated on February 8th, 2008 at Camp Ware, near Careysburg, Liberia. This particular class had the highest attrition of any of the class cohorts to date; with a total of 37 recruits not completing the training and consequently getting discharged from the service. However, the 484 AIT graduates are among the finest to go through the program thus far. Their attitude, behavior and test scores exceeded the last class across the board. The graduation is also significant because with the transfer of 464 of these troops to EBK Military Barracks, the Security Sector Reform for National Defense program has now passed the mid-point with 1,124 of 2,000 soldiers having completed their initial entry training.

A surprising and violent rain storm early in the morning threatened to put a damper on the ceremony. But the rain quickly passed and the ceremony went off without a hitch. With just two more classes of 500 to go, this graduation puts us on the downward slope. The guest speaker for the graduation was Lieutenant Colonel Wyatt who focused the history and roles of the infantry during his remarks.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Officer Candidate Recruiting Day (31 JAN 08)

[Armed Forces of Liberia (AFL) 2LT George, who returned from officer training in the United States just days ago, tells potential officer candidates about her experience as an officer in the new AFL]

The Liberian Ministry of National Defense (MOD), with assistance from the U.S. Office of Defense Cooperation (ODC) and DynCorp International, hosted a recruiting day at the African Episcopal Methodist University in Monrovia on January 31st, 2008. The purpose of the event was to encourage university students to consider future service a commissioned officer in the new Armed Forces of Liberia. Featured speakers included LTC Chris Wyatt (ODC Chief), Major General Suraj Abdurrahman (Command Officer-in-Charge, AFL) and Brownie J. Samukai Jr. (Minister of National Defense).

The MOD’s officer candidate recruiting day is part of a larger effort to find much needed qualified candidates to join the AFL as officers. After the guest speakers finished and the audience watched a 10 minute AFL recruiting video prepared by the DynCorp public affairs office, four AFL officers and one officer candidate took the floor and told the gathered audience of their experiences thus far in the new AFL. Without a doubt, this part of the event was clearly the highlight. The passion and conviction of articulate professional soldiers won many in the audience over.

The next step for those interested in a career in the AFL is to apply to the vetting process at the Barclay Training Center in Monrovia. We can only speculate how many, if any, of the students gathered will one day enter the army. But given the 149 applications submitted that afternoon, there at least is some interest.

AIT Field Training Exercise

[LTC Wyatt answers soldiers’ questions after a mission and “sand table” briefing at the B Company bivouac site]

Armed Forces of Liberia (AFL) Infantry Advanced Individual Training (AIT) Class 08-01 conducted its capstone event with a field training exercise (FTX) from 31 January to 03 February 2008 at Camp Ware, near Careysburg. The FTX is the culminating event for 484 new AFL soldiers who will soon complete 12 weeks of initial entry training. The focus of the FTX is to allow the new soldiers to put their recently learned skills to the test in a field environment. The intense heat of the dry season adds a challenging dimension for troops unaccustomed to wearing full field gear and moving through the bush as a team.

After the FTX troops will begin to prepare for their graduation ceremony which will take place on Friday February 8th, 2008 at Camp Ware. On that day 464 of these troops board trucks and then be transported to Edward Binyah Kesselly Military Barracks on the Roberts Highway east of Monrovia. The remaining 20 soldiers are officer candidates who will move to the Barclay Training Center (BTC) in Monrovia for their next phase of training. Many of these new soldiers will profit from a unique training opportunity when they depart for Nigeria at the end of February. They will attend the Nigerian Jungle Warfare School.