News: Liberian president celebrates armed forces’ dedication, professionalism
Story by Capt. Bryon McGarry
MONROVIA, Liberia - Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf presided over the 56th Liberian Armed Forces Day at Barclay Training Center Feb. 11. The occasion served as an opportunity to honor the dedication of uniformed Liberian civil servants who have volunteered to protect the country’s citizens and maintain stability and security.
The president thanked the United States government and the United Nations Mission in Liberia for their roles in helping the Liberian people build a new democracy following the devastating civil wars Liberians faced a decade ago. Johnson Sirleaf gave special thanks to Operation ONWARD LIBERTY mentors for their role in bolstering Liberia’s national defense capacity and moving Liberia toward self-sustaining security.
“The United States of America continues to be our lead partner in restructuring the Armed Forces of Liberia, but we must continue to build the AFL’s capacity to stand on its own,” she said. “I thank especially our ONWARD LIBERTY mentors for lending their expertise and professionalism and helping our military grow.”
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.
The president added that her administration’s new national defense strategy would be released in the coming months and remains in line with her previously stated intention to insert Liberians in key AFL leadership positions as soon as feasible. Senior officers from Liberia’s west-African partner nation Nigeria are currently serving in the top AFL leadership positions as mentors to the fledgling AFL and work hand-in-hand with OOL mentors to develop AFL capacity.
U.S. Air Force Maj. Lauren DiDomenico, OOL legal mentor, said the Liberian armed forces should be proud of their accomplishments, and she was optimistic about their continued progress. “The Liberian armed forces are gaining capacity and proficiency every day,” she said. “We’re working closely with them to navigate the various challenges they face, and we’re seeing them take ownership of tasks and processes more and more as time goes by. We’re definitely moving in the right direction and Armed Forces Day is a good opportunity to look back on all that these service members have accomplished thus far.”
Uniformed service members from the Armed Forces of Liberia, the Liberian National Police, the Bureau of Immigration and Naturalization, the Liberian National Fire Service, the Liberian Sea Port Police and the Liberian Boy Scout Association participated in a parade and various skill demonstrations that entertained the approximately 800 attendees. The parade marked the culmination of a week-long public outreach campaign to inform Liberian citizens of the AFL’s mission and capabilities and to bolster their image as a force for good.
Armed Forces Day festivities included demonstrations by the AFL Unarmed Combat Team, Trick Drill Team and Battle Drill Team. The UCT delivered a high-energy display of skill in disarming simulated combatants wielding knives and pistols to the delight of the crowd. The BDT then displayed their tactical proficiency in executing movement to contact against a simulated enemy.
As part of its effort to build awareness, the AFL also coordinated several community-outreach events the week of Feb. 4 to 8, including a symposium on AFL training, regimentation and maintenance at Monrovia City Hall, an armed services soccer game at Monrovia’s Samuel K. Doe Sports Complex, AFL-led worship services at a local church and mosque and a community clean-up day in Monrovia’s Gardnersville neighborhood.
AFL 1st Lt. Dessaline Allison, headquarters AFL chief of public affairs, said the cooperative planning among Liberian agencies was instrumental to event successes. “We’ve all been planning Armed Forces Day and its supporting events for months,” he said. “It’s very rewarding to see all of our efforts to show the Liberian people that their uniformed service members are ready, willing and capable are paying off.”
In her closing comments, President Sirleaf praised uniformed service members and their families for their sacrifices and dedication to their nation. “This is your day,” she said. “I thank you for your discipline and dedication to duty. You truly exemplify honorable service and we are all so proud of you. Keep the lone star hoisted forever and happy Armed Forces Day.”