News: Deploying AFL soldiers complete Exercise GUARDIAN ANGEL
Story by Capt. Bryon McGarry
MONROVIA, Lberia - Armed Forces of Liberia soldiers slated to deploy to Mali completed Exercise GUARDIAN ANGEL at Camp Ware’s Armed Forces Training Command May 17. The exercise entailed 24-hour steady-state operations over the course of three days and was supported by Operation ONWARD LIBERTY mentors and evaluated by Special-Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force Africa personnel.
ONWARD LIBERTY is a U.S. Marine Corps Forces Africa-led operation comprised of joint U.S. service members who mentor and advise the AFL 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.
OOL personnel continue to mentor AFL leaders and training staff at all levels to ensure the deploying platoon is properly trained and equipped to succeed in partner-nation operations in Mali and to represent Liberia as a legitimate, capable and professional force for good.
OOL mentors worked with AFTC leadership to develop the exercise, which challenged the platoon with multi-faceted problem sets throughout. SP-MAGTF Africa personnel served as independent evaluators and assessed the platoon’s performance in several key areas, including conduct of security patrols, entry control point security, combat lifesaver skills and reaction to public disturbances.
SP-MAGTF Africa is comprised of approximately 150 U.S. Marines and sailors focused on strengthening U.S. Marine Corps Forces Africa and U.S. Africa Command's ability to assist partner nations. Unit training teams are equipped to provide assistance to partner nations in a variety of topics, including logistics, counter terrorism, communications, non-lethal weapons training, maritime security force assistance, military planning, small-unit leadership and vehicle maintenance.
Since deploying from the 2nd Battalion, 25th Marine Regiment out of Garden City, N.Y., in January, SP-MAGTF Africa has trained over 500 host nation personnel in Uganda, Burundi, Cameroon, Ghana, Burkina Faso, Seychelles, Mozambique, Tanzania, Senegal and Liberia.
U.S. Marine Corps Lt. Col. Robert Rhode, assessment team chief, said the platoon performed well during the exercise, especially considering the amount of training they’d received in just three months. “From the start, the platoon’s leadership did a good job evaluating the developing situation, planning and pressing ahead,” he said. “These soldiers are spectacular at individual tasks, and as a unit, the platoon showed either proficiency or mastery at most skills. Overall, a job well done and the AFL can be proud of their efforts.”
U.S. Marine Corps Maj. Gregory Starace, AFL AFTC mentor, said the exercise was a success thanks to the hard work and collaboration of AFTC staff and OOL mentors. “This platoon has been through a lot of training in a relatively short time,” he said. “We’ve established a great working rapport with the AFTC instructor corps over the last several months, and I think that’s translated into working well together to prepare these soldiers for their mission in Mali. This exercise is one more example of that partnership reaping rewards.”
AFL 1st. Lt. Nathaniel Waka, 1st Platoon, 23rd Infantry Brigade commander, said the exercise provided his soldiers an excellent opportunity to work through complicated scenarios, an important skill set to groom now before facing potentially high-stress events in Mali. “Real-world operations are often not simple and straightforward,” he said. “Being able to train and work together as a unit through multiple challenges happening at once will ensure that once we’re faced with it for real, we know how to execute effectively.”
U.S. Marine Corps Col. David Thompson, OOL officer in charge, praised the platoon and the AFL for reaching another key milestone. “The platoon’s successful completion of this exercise signals not only to the AFL and OOL but to the Liberian people that they are ready, willing and capable to defend Liberian interests and support Liberia’s neighbors in their time of need,” he said. “The AFL continues to grow in capacity and professionalism, and we are proud to stand by them and assist them as they progress.”