Liberia's President Johnson-Sirleaf, U.S. General Ward Attend Historic Activation of Liberian Military Unit

Petty Officer 1st Class Daniel P. Lapierre
U.S. Africa Command Public Affairs

MONROVIA, Liberia - An Initial Entry Training Class prepares to give honors during a pass and review ceremony at the activation Armed Forces of Liberia 1st Battalion 23rd Infantry Brigade at the Barclay Training Center in Monrovia, Liberia August 29, 2008. The Liberian Armed Forces were activated under the 2008 National Defense Act. (Photo taken by Petty Officer First Class Daniel P. Lapierre, U.S. Africa Command)
MONROVIA, Liberia - An Initial Entry Training Class prepares to give honors during a pass and review ceremony at the activation a new infantry battalion with the Armed Forces of Liberia at the Barclay Training Center in Monrovia, Liberia August 29, 2008. The battalion trained with the assistance of the United States and the international community. The Liberian Armed Forces have been activated under the approved 2008 National Defense Act. (Photo by Petty Officer First Class Daniel P. Lapierre, U.S. Africa Command)
MONROVIA, Liberia - Her Excellency Madam Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf (front, middle), President of Liberia, General William E. Ward (front, right), Commander of United States Africa Command, and Major General Suraj Alao Abdurrahman (front, left), Command-Officer-In-Charge of the Armed Forces of Liberia, participate in a review of the troops during an activation ceremony for a new infantry battalion at Barclay Training Center in Monrovia, Liberia August 29, 2008. The battalion trained with the assistance of the United States and the international community. (Photo taken by Petty Officer 1st Class Daniel P. Lapierre, U.S. Africa Command)
MONROVIA, Liberia - Graduates of an Initial Entry Training class participate in the activation ceremony for a new infantry Battalion with the Armed Forces of Liberia at the Barclay Training Center in Monrovia, Liberia August 29, 2008. The battalion trained with the assistance of the United States and the international community. (Photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Daniel P. Lapierre, U.S. Africa Command)
MONROVIA, Liberia - The United States Ambassador to Liberia Linda Thomas-Greenfield is recognized during a ceremony for the activation of a new infantry battalion at Barclay Training Center in Monrovia, Liberia August 29, 2008. The Liberian Armed Forces have been activated under the approved 2008 National Defense Act. (Photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Daniel P. Lapierre, U.S. Africa Command)
MONROVIA, Liberia - Her Excellency Madam Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, President of Liberia, U.S. Army General William E. Ward, Commander, U.S. Africa Command, and Major General Suraj Alao Abdurrahman, Command-Officer-In- Charge of the Armed Forces of Liberia, watch Initial Entry Training soldiers during the activation of a new infantry battalion August 29, 2008. The battalion trained with the assistance of the United States and the international community. (Photo by Mrs. Meg Riggs, U.S. Embassy, Liberia)
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MONROVIA, Liberia, Sep 2, 2008 — Liberia's new democratic government took an historic step toward establishing its own security August 29, 2008, with the activation of a new infantry battalion trained with the assistance of the United States and the international community.

"This historical day marks a new beginning for our Armed Forces. Once again it can perform the primary duty of defending the Sovereign territory of Liberia against external aggression, insurgency, and terrorism." said President of Liberia Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, who presided over the activation ceremony. Also in attendance was General William E. Ward, commander of United States Africa Command.

The 1st Battalion of the 23rd Infantry Brigade is expected to provide security and promote peace within Liberia. The remobilization of the Armed Forces brings control of security forces back to the government of Liberia.

"Congratulations on your activation," Ward, commander of U.S. Africa Command, told the Liberian service members. "Together with today's graduates and the projected stand up of the second battalion, you are the foundation of Liberia's new Army. This foundation is essential to Liberia's growth as a nation and I am proud to be here to celebrate this with you."

Following 14 years of civil war, Liberia's military was deactivated and demobilized in 2003 as part of an international peace initiative that included the deployment of peacekeepers from the Economic Community Of West African States (ECOWAS). Since then, the United Nations has been responsible for security in Liberia. The Armed Forces of Liberia are being rebuilt with U.S. assistance, while the police forces are being rebuilt with U.N. assistance. The government of Liberia's security reconstruction activities are part of a program known as Security Sector Reform (SSR).

The total strength of the Armed Forces is 2,133 service members,. The activation of the Armed Forces is under the guidance and regulation of Liberia's 2008 National Defense Act. Service in Liberia's Armed Forces is open to all qualified personnel ages 18-35 years old. Recruits must be clear of human rights abuses or violations. The minimum service length to serve is five years.

Liberia is home to more than 3.5 million people. Over 75 Percent of the population remains unemployed. The goal of the SSR is to create jobs, attract investment opportunities, provide education, and improve medical treatment for the Liberian population.

The United States has contributed over $750 million in bilateral assistance and more than $750 million dollars in assessed contributions to the United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL). In 2008, the United States is contributing $162 million bilaterally and $179 million through UNMIL, according to the U.S. Department of State's Bureau of African Affairs.

The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) also plays an integral part in the rebuilding of Liberia's infrastructure. USAID's rehabilitation efforts include expanding access to electricity, building roads, refurbishing government buildings, and promoting business development. In addition to strengthening Liberia's infrastructure, USAID also is active in improving healthcare for the Liberian population and ensuring transparency of the government.

The establishment of the 1st Battalion, 23rd Infantry Brigade, along with the restructuring efforts of the Liberian government, are steps toward bringing about a positive change to help rebuild Liberia.

"While this ceremony marks the completion of forming the battalion, it is only the beginning of its legacy," Ward, commander of U.S. Africa Command, said during the August 29 ceremony. "Soldiers may join and depart the unit, but the story, the reputation of the 1st Battalion will endure. What that legacy is depends on each of you. Your deeds will shape your unitts history and reputation, building traditions that show your fellow soldiers and the Liberian people that the Armed Forces of Liberia are a proud and admirable organization."


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