NEWS
U.S. Military Joint-Service Team Steps Up for Operation Onward Liberty 2011
U.S. Marine Corps Forces, Africa (MarForAf) recently received the first wave of new mentors bound for Liberia to participate in Operation Onward Liberty(OOL)--a U.S. Department of State-funded, U.S. Africa Command program aimed at rebuilding the
MONROVIA, Liberia - Major Andrew D. Hamilton takes notes during an Operation Onward Liberty familiarization brief, January 10, 2011, while in-processing and preparing for a six-month rotation to Monrovia, Liberia. Hamilton is one of approximately 50 U.S. military personnel serving in the new rotation of advisors and mentors to the Armed Forces of Liberia. Operation Onward Liberty is a U.S. Department of State-funded, U.S. Africa Command program aimed at rebuilding the Armed Forces of Liberia. (U.S. Marine photo by Sergeant Matt Lyman)
U.S. AFRICOM Photo | | Thursday, January 13, 2011 | MONROVIA, Liberia - Major Andrew D. Hamilton takes notes during an Operation Onward Liberty familiarization brief, January 10, 2011, while in-processing and preparing for a six-month rotation to Monrovia, Liberia. Hamilton is one of approximately 50 U.S. military personnel serving in the new rotation of advisors and mentors to the Armed Forces of Liberia. Operation Onward Liberty is a U.S. Department of State-funded, U.S. Africa Command program aimed at rebuilding the Armed Forces of Liberia. (U.S. Marine photo by Sergeant Matt Lyman) Download full-resolution version
U.S. Marine Corps Forces, Africa (MarForAf) recently received the first wave of new mentors bound for Liberia to participate in Operation Onward Liberty(OOL)--a U.S. Department of State-funded, U.S. Africa Command program aimed at rebuilding the Armed Forces of Liberia (AFL).

This group represents the first of a batch of what will be approximately 50 service members, assembled based on their individual talents and experience, tasked with providing Security Force Assistance (SFA) in support of Liberian Security Sector Reform (LSSR) initiatives. They stopped at MarForAf headquarters for in-processing and briefings prior to heading to Monrovia, Liberia to start their six or 12-month tour as military advisors and mentors.

"The Marines are coming from varied backgrounds, most of them are combat arms while a few of them are from the supply and logistics fields," said Maj. Brett Clarke, Action Officer for OOL, MarForAf. "These Marines are representative of the whole Marine Corps; they are coming from all over the Marine Corps."

Operation Onward Liberty is a joint-venture between the Marine Corps, Air Force and Army. Fifteen airmen and nine soldiers, some legal clerks and some medics, are preparing to provide mentoring and training to members of the Armed forces of Liberia.

The OOL mission is a five-year program to ensure Liberia has the capability and capacity to defend her borders and come to the aid of her sister countries if that need should arise.

"This team will focus more on company-level training;" added Clarke. "These guys will be focusing and ensuring that they can do company-level operations on up to battalion-level and eventually up to the regimental-level."

Operation Onward Liberty supports Liberia's post-conflict military transformation by assisting in the development of the AFL, which will become a force capable of defending Liberia's legitimate national interests.

Master Sergeant Craig Wilson is serving as the senior enlisted advisor for this iteration of OOL. Wilson is a supply administration Marine by trade and was plying his craft in Okinawa, Japan, when he heard about the OOL mission's need for Marines.

"[Getting this billet] was sheer happenstance. The opportunity was offered by my command to come to Monrovia, Liberia, and they were shopping around to see if anyone was interested and I threw my name in the hat and sure enough I got accepted," explained Wilson.

There aren't currently any solid requirements a Marine needs to meet before volunteering for OOL but a mixture of Marine Corps and life experiences may contribute vastly to a Marine's ability to relate to the Liberian people.

Wilson spoke about his time stationed in Albany, Georgia during the floods. "Providing [local people] with humanitarian and relief support…that experience is really going to help out a lot. I'm really looking forward to getting down there and meeting and helping out the Liberian Army to help continue setting up their whole structure," added Wilson.

As the new OOL staff completes their pre-operational training they will start making the trek to Liberia to do their part to train and mentor the AFL during their six or 12 -month rotation.

Operation Onward Liberty is a joint-service venture with support from Economic Communities of Western African States partner nations, and the United Kingdom which provides a Ministry of Defense-level advisor.

When Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf was elected president of Liberia in 2006, Liberia had only three years ago been in the throes of civil war; started by a military coup d'etat. One of her first presidential actions was to disband the military hoping it would discourage dissent and allow her to give her country a fresh start from the ground up. Sirleaf then petitioned the U.S. State Department to lend a hand rebuilding the AFL. That partnership is the LSSR program, and OOL was created to address reformation efforts in the Liberian Defense Sector, specifically the AFL.

Early LSSR efforts saw a force of 2,000 AFL soldiers recruited, extensively screened, mentored and trained by State Department contractors for a period of two years. U.S. Africa Command took over the program January 1, 2010 and tasked the Marines from MarForAf with spear-heading the program and referred to the program as LDSR, highlighting the fact that MarForAf efforts concentrated on the defense sector, a subset of the overall security sector that the U.S. State Department is committed to support.

Liberia Defense Sector Reform, not a widely known doctrinal term, is sometimes used to differentiate the defense sector from the larger security environment (Police forces, border agencies, etc). In this case MarForAf provides SFA to support the desired reform efforts of the Liberian government, observations and lessons learned from OOL will prove extremely valuable to any future security sector reform efforts on the continent of Africa.
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