EDWARD BINYAH KESSELLY MILITARY BARRACKS, Liberia - Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf presided over the Armed Forces of Liberia’s 2012 Affiliation Day at Edward Binyah Kesselly Military Barracks Dec. 27. The third-annual event served as an opportunity for Liberian government leaders to thank the Ministry of Defense, AFL soldiers and their families for their service and to reflect on AFL accomplishments.
The president praised the ongoing efforts of AFL soldiers to grow in capacity and professionalism, giving special thanks to U.S. supporters and mentors. “We know that there are still many areas to work on for our brave men and women at arms,” she said. “But we are so thankful for all the sacrifices our Operation ONWARD LIBERTY mentors have made to help build our AFL capacity.”
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.
The culminating festivities at EBK followed presidential visits earlier in the day to the AFL’s Armed Forces Training Command at Camp Ware for the dedication of a new housing complex for soldiers and families and a ribbon cutting at EBK’s new medical clinic.
Various entertainment events were interspersed among the formal portions of the program, lending an air of celebration to the day. AFL soldiers participated in a bench-press contest, tug-of-war pull and performed cultural dances for the crowd.AFL 1st Lt. Jimmy Robinson, a legal officer, reflected on the festivities. “Today means a lot to me,” he said. “The President has set a day aside to recognize military members, and it makes my family and I very proud.”
Robinson also discussed AFL efforts to change the public perception of its soldiers. “Some people thank us for our service, but some are still not sure about us,” he said. “I am very confident, though. We’re working very closely with our U.S. mentors, and we’re making our military a vibrant one. We appreciate the efforts of the U.S. government and our mentors very much.”
U.S. Marine Corps Capt. Mark Tucher, OOL operations mentor, echoed Robinson’s enthusiasm. “It’s a great day and the AFL has a lot to be proud of,” he said. “They’ve accomplished a lot this year and continue to grow every day. It’s extremely rewarding to see the enthusiasm and professionalism exhibited at every level by these troops. They’re definitely moving in the right direction.”
In her closing comments, President Sirleaf reiterated the importance of the AFL mission to soldiers and families. “I am so proud of you for taking care of our country, your spouses and families,” she said. “The AFL is the pride of Liberia and I thank you for your service to this great country.”