News: ONWARD LIBERTY pre-deployment training key to effective transfer of authority
Story by Capt. Bryon McGarry
MONROVIA, Liberia - Outgoing Operation ONWARD LIBERTY personnel completed the transfer of authority to their joint U.S. military replacements Feb. 22. The OOL mentor team, comprised of service members from the U.S. Marines, Michigan Army National Guard and U.S. Air Force, completed a personnel rotation that began in December 2012 with the USAF and culminated with the arrival of OOL’s Marine replacements in early February.
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.
All OOL service members participate in service-specific pre-deployment training to prepare them for their roles as AFL mentors. However, as OOL is USMC-led, particular emphasis was placed on ensuring the incoming Marine mentors had a robust understanding of the operating environment they would be deploying to. The incoming Marines participated in pre-deployment training at Ft. Story, Va., Jan. 7-16, covering topics including cultural awareness, foreign-weapons handling and campaign planning.
U.S. Marine Corps Gunnery Sgt. David Jones, former OOL senior enlisted advisor to AFL’s 1st Battalion, 2nd Infantry Brigade, redeployed from Liberia in advance of the incoming Marines to train them at Ft. Story and provide continuity and perspective gleaned from his own one-year deployment. “Hopefully my experiences as a mentor in Liberia are helpful in preparing this new group of Marines to continue the mission,” he said. “I’ve been part of a team that I feel made great strides in helping the AFL become more professional and self-sustaining, and I’m confident this incoming team will continue that trend.”
U.S. MARFORAF emphasized the need to leverage outgoing mentors’ experiences and ensure continuity. By playing a direct role in training OOL newcomers, Jones was able to ensure that awareness of OOL processes, progress and ongoing challenges was maintained. Col. David Thompson, OOL officer in charge, said the continuity OOL pre-deployment training provides is critical to maintaining hard-fought gains and continually building AFL capacity ahead of ONWARD LIBERTY’s scheduled end in December 2014.
“The reach-back training the incoming team received via Gunnery Sgt. Jones was critical to setting us up for success,” he said. “Our outgoing team made great strides in 2012, and the 2013 team has hit the ground running to build on that progress and further develop the AFL’s capacity.”
In 2012, OOL mentors supported the AFL as it continued to develop and overcome the challenges facing it to accomplish numerous noteworthy goals, including plan development and execution of a non-lethal weapons course and an instructor trainer course, and the conduct of officer and non-commissioned officer promotion boards. AFL soldiers were also continually deployed through 2012 conducting operations along the Liberia and Ivory Coast border in support of Operation RESTORE HOPE.
U.S. Marine Corps Capt. Steve Draper, OOL logistics mentor, said the pre-deployment training highlighted key differences with other deployments to areas of operation like Iraq and Afghanistan, where many Marines are used to deploying of late. “This mission and environment are different in so many ways,” he said. “The training we’ve received really helped us mentally prepare for the unconventional roles we’ll play here in mentoring the AFL. We’re all focused on helping the AFL continue growing as a self-sustaining force for good; a military Liberians are proud of.”