News: AFL soldiers return home from Operation Restore Hope
Story by Capt. Bryon McGarry
MONROVIA, Liberia - Operation ONWARD LIBERTY mentors joined Armed Forces of Liberia soldiers and their families at Edward Binyah Kesselly Military Barracks Jan. 10, to welcome home AFL soldiers returning from a deployment conducting operations on the Liberian border.
Approximately 220 AFL soldiers returned from the border of Liberia and the Ivory Coast, where they were deployed in support of Operation RESTORE HOPE. The soldiers were part of a joint-task force with the Liberian National Police and the Bureau of Immigration and Naturalization focused on denying Ivorian rebels the use of Liberian soil as a staging ground for attacks into the Ivory Coast. Operation RESTORE HOPE marks the largest forward deployment of AFL forces since its reformation in 2005.
OOL mentors were on hand to congratulate the returning soldiers on a job well done. ONWARD LIBERTY is a U.S. Marine Corps Forces Africa-led operation comprised of joint U.S. servicemembers who mentor and advise the Armed Forces of Liberia in order to develop a national military that is responsible, operationally capable, and respectful of civilian authority and the rule of law. OOL’s goal is to assist the AFL in building a professional and capable military force that can effectively contribute to the overall security environment in Liberia.
AFL Maj. Prince Johnson III, assistant chief of staff for operations, praised the returning soldiers’ dedication to mission accomplishment. “You have made all of us proud,” he said. “The Liberian people see what you’re made of. They see that you’re out there protecting them. Continue to make them proud now that you’re home.”
Johnson briefed the returning soldiers on the importance of pacing their transition back into their home routines, and stressed counting on their fellow soldiers to help them navigate the process. The AFL has developed a week-long redeployment training curriculum to help returning soldiers and their families make the transition back to normalcy easier. The redeploying soldiers participated in that training the week of Jan. 14.
AFL Pfc. George Gamah, a communication specialist, said his unit’s return home marked a successful end to a solid deployment. “It’s good to be home,” he said. “We’ve all worked very hard for four months and I’m very proud of what we’ve accomplished.”
OOL mentors have provided continuous support and guidance to the AFL throughout the planning and execution of RESTORE HOPE. U.S. Marine Corps Capt. John King, OOL logistics mentor, has played a particularly prominent role in the AFL’s operational progression and commended them on their growth toward a self-sustaining military force.
“The successful redeployment of AFL soldiers from joint border operations is a significant milestone in the AFL’s development,” he said. “It serves as yet another stepping stone toward establishing the AFL as a professional army that is operationally capable and a force for good among the Liberian people.”