Wednesday, June 18, 2008

President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf Addresses the AFL

{From left: Minister of National Defense Brownie Samukai, President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, Major General Abdurrahman the Command Officer in Charge. Pictured on the far right is Deputy Minister of National Defense for Operations Dionysus Sebwe.}

Edward Binyah Kesselly Military Barracks, Liberia, May 23rd, 2008:

President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf paid her first official visit to the newly reformed Armed Forces of Liberia when she spoke to the entire army early on the morning of May 23rd, 2008 at Edward Binyah Kesselly Military Barracks outside Monrovia. She came to address the troops for the first time. Although the visit came more than two years into her term in office, this was the opportune moment. The army just recently increased in size from 1,124 to 1,634 soldiers. She spoke to over a thousand of those soldiers. During her talk to the soldiers she stressed the pride all Liberians feel towards the new soldiers and the sacrifices they have made for their nation. She also took the opportunity to express her personal interest in ongoing renovations to the barracks and ways to improve soldiers’ lot in life. President Johnson-Sirleaf promised to work with the United States to continue training the AFL to ensure they have the necessary tools to do their job.

It was a long anticipated and awaited visit that in the end came on rather short notice. The AFL received notification just two days before the visit. We went through a few different plans as to where to assemble the troops for the visit. Ultimately the band stand adjacent to the dining facility was the site chosen. Troops were all abuzz that Friday morning as her motorcade drew near. After her brief address she took three questions from the soldiers. One could easily see the respect and awe the new Army has for its democratically elected Commander in Chief in the eyes of the nervous soldiers who asked her questions that morning. Given the checkered past of the its predecessor, this new AFL seems to be on firm footing early in its development with respect to its role under civilian leadership. The three soldiers asked thoughtful questions about pay, living conditions and other opportunities for troops. It was a very exciting visit for all concerned.

Africa Commmand's Command Sergeant Major Meets the AFL

{CSM Ripka speaks to the graduates of Intantry Advanced individual Training at Camp Sandee S. Ware, near Careysburg, Liberia (May 23rd, 2008)}

U.S. AFRICOM’s Command Sergeant Major (CSM) Mark S. Ripka recently conducted a week-long visit to the nascent Armed Forces of Liberia (AFL). His well-received visit was deeply beneficial to the new AFL and its officers, NCOs and soldiers.

CSM Ripka spent a full week with the new Liberian army (May 21st-28th, 2008). Over the course of the week he toured all of the AFL’s active military installations including; the Barclay Training Center (BTC), Camp Sandee S. Ware and Edward Binyah Kesselly (EBK) Military Barracks.

At the BTC CSM Ripka met with the 36 officers, NCOs and junior enlisted enrolled in the Instructor Training Course. While speaking informally to the students he answered their questions about service as a career soldier, the role of the NCO and his own experiences over his long and very successful career. Later in the day he toured EBK Military Barracks, the new AFL’s operational base along the Roberts Highway between Monrovia and the international airport.

On Friday May 23rd, CSM Ripka was the guest speaker at the graduation ceremony for 506 AFL soldiers who completed Infantry Advanced Individual Training (AIT) at Camp Ware, near Careysburg, Liberia. His speech focused on core values of soldering; candor, courage, commitment, and competence. He also remarked about the interest and pride in the new army of Liberian President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf who for the first time addressed the rest of the AFL earlier in the morning at EBK Military Barracks (an event CSM Ripka also attended). After the graduation CSM Ripka traveled along with the troop convey that transported 481 of the AIT graduates from Camp Ware to their new home at EBK Military Barracks where he also observed reception and assignment operations conducted by AFL officers and NCOs.

On Monday May 26th, CSM Ripka held an officer professional development class at EBK for all of the new army’s officers. He shared his views on the relationship between officers and NCOs in a professional military. He also met with all the NCOs. In that discussion he spoke about the role of the NCO in a professional military. This interaction with Liberian commissioned officers and NCOs was a rare opportunity for soldiers in the new army to learn from an experienced NCO who has reached and succeeded at the highest levels in the military and to further develop themselves professionally.

Marines Visit Monrovia

{4th Marine Logistics Group members receive a briefing at JFK Hospital in Monrovia from Master Sergeant Carlton Lewis the Senior Medical Mentor with the AFL (on the right)}

The 4th Marine Logistics Group visited Liberia in late May (18-21) 2008 to determine how they might contribute to humanitarian assistance projects and investigate opportunities for military-to-military cooperation with the Armed Forces of Liberia. They visited several sites around Monrovia including the Port of Monrovia, humanitarian assistance projects which the Navy Seabees worked on from March to June 2008 as part of the Africa Partnership Station, JFK Hospital in town and EBK Military Barracks along the Roberts Highway outside Monrovia.

The 4th MLG will be the first unit to conduct military-to-military cooperation with the new Armed Forces of Liberia. Marines hope to conduct initial training with mobile training teams as early as August 2008 at EBK. This will mark a significant milestone in the development of this new army, as the AFL is now beginning to reach the stage where cooperation and training with foreign militaries is possible. The initial Marine efforts will be small land intended to test the waters so to speak. This is really about a proof of concept and an effort to get these sorts of activities going now rather than waiting until a couple of years from now when the full 2,000 soldier army is ready for operational status (likely to be in 2010). The initial cooperation will center around two activities at EBK; supply training and civil affairs.