News: AFL soldiers participate in post-deployment training
Story by Capt. Bryon McGarry
MONROVIA, Liberia - More than 200 Armed Forces of Liberia soldiers participated in redeployment training at Camp Ware’s Armed Forces Training Command Jan. 14-18 following their return from border operations in support of Operation RESTORE HOPE.
The deployed soldiers returned home Jan. 7-11 after spending four months along the Liberia and Ivory Coast border. As part of a joint-task force with the Liberian National Police and the Bureau of Immigration and Naturalization, the soldiers 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 ongoing forward deployment of AFL forces since its reformation in 2005.
Operation ONWARD LIBERTY mentors assisted the AFL throughout the planning, deployment and redeployment of soldiers in support of ORH. ONWARD LIBERTY is a U.S. Marine Corps Forces Africa-led operation comprised of joint U.S. service members 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.
Training curriculum included classes in post-trauma healing, conduct and discipline and personal financial management among other topics. The post-deployment training was the second-ever planned and executed by the AFL and was designed to help soldiers and families navigate the transition from deployment to the home environment constructively. The first AFL-led post-deployment training week was held in September 2012, also following AFL soldiers’ return from ORH border operations.
U.S. Marine Corps Capt. Jeff Sarchione, AFL Armed Forces Training Command mentor, said the training served as a key indicator of growth for the AFL. “Just as we’ve seen with our own servicemembers, deployments can be stressful on both troops and their families,” he said. “This training is equipping recent returnees with the tools they need to transition home more smoothly.”
AFL Maj. Prince Johnson III, assistant chief of staff for operations, noted that caring for soldiers and their families is an ongoing process, adding that a soldier’s initial few days and weeks following deployment are a crucial time. “In serving Liberia far from home, these soldiers have faced many challenges, from food and supply shortages to combat,” he said. “It’s very important to AFL and Ministry of Defense leaders that we take care of our soldiers and families during this transition period and let them know their brothers in arms have their best interests in mind.”
Johnson added that plans are in work to continue refining deployment transition training to include more direct pre- and post-deployment involvement of AFL soldiers’ family members.