Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Armed Forces Day in Liberia (2008)

{AFL military police complete an unarmed combat demonstration during Armed Forces Day events at the Barclay Training Center in Monrovia, February 11th, 2008}

There are “big” days and then there are “BIG” days. Armed Forces Day in Liberia is one of the latter. 2008 marks the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Liberian military. In 1908, the Frontier Force, Liberia’s first military arm, came into existence. The current Armed Forces of Liberia (AFL) can trace it roots to the Frontier Force. Needless to say, the Liberian government and the Ministry of National Defense in particular was intent on the day (February 11th) being filled with exciting and successful events.

Among the many AFL activities for the public that day were: an officer commissioning ceremony, cross country combat run, rucksack march, unarmed combat demonstration (by the military police), marching music demonstration by the AFL Band, presidential troop inspection, a parade through the streets of Monrovia and a military ball in the evening. The 500 plus soldiers who participated are likely for a long time to remember the events and the extremely warm reception they received from the public.

Armed Forces Day provided an opportunity for ordinary Liberians to see their army and form their own opinions regarding the progress of the reconstituted AFL. Judging by the warm reception and the countless tear-filled eyes on display, many likely see the value of the new AFL. Or at least they are content with the current product. For most Liberians this was their first glimpse at the product of a now two year plus process to rebuild the army under the aegis of the U.S. Government. I’ll have to confess that we put a great deal of effort into preparing the army and venues for this day. The troops rehearsed endlessly. In the end it all paid off, as Armed Forces Day proved to be a great success and a source of pride for all Liberians involved. As it turns out the events also served to help us prepare for the subsequent visit by President Bush to Liberia. From that standpoint, Armed Forces Day success lasted beyond the events of the day.

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