As the Armed Forces of Liberia’s 2013 recruit vetting process nears completion, the service is preparing its drill sergeants for the first round of recruit training since 2010.
More than 770 Liberian civilians have applied to enlist into the military, however, less than 150 will be selected. A team of seven AFL drill sergeants will conduct their training.
“Having drill sergeants is very important,” said AFL 1st Sgt. James Gant, Armed Forces Training Command senior drill sergeant. He said they will help shape the future force.
In the past, contractors trained the Armed Forces of Liberia soldiers. Gant said, over the last several years seven AFL soldiers have completed the U.S. Army Drill Sergeant School in Fort Jackson, S.C., and now are equipped to train the AFL’s recruits.
As the AFL’s senior drill sergeant, Gant wanted to ensure his team was fully prepared to support Liberia’s next iteration of soldiers.
U.S. Army instructors teamed with Gant in a weeklong refresher course to help reinforce the concepts the drill sergeants learned at Fort Jackson. The refresher training revisited fundamentals including the importance of maintaining professional relationships, leadership skills, and core subjects designed to create a productive learning environment for the recruits.
“This program is very important because we have to refresh the drill sergeants,” said Gant. “We needed to get our drill sergeants up to the level where they need to be.”
He said the U.S. Army’s support was invaluable and he’s proud of the drill sergeants’ accomplishments.
“We have Liberians now who have been trained,” said Gant. He said the training will help the AFL will become more independent.
“We are in a position where we can train our own army,” said Gant. “It’s a plus for the Liberians and the country as a whole.”
U.S. Army Sgt. 1st Class Francisco Latimer and Staff Sgt. Ashley Gregory taught the refresher course while supporting Operation Onward Liberty’s mission to mentor and assist the AFL as it seeks to develop a national military that is responsible, operationally capable, and is a force for good among the Liberian people.
Gregory said the AFL should tailor the material they received in training and the refresher course to their needs “to make it unique to their country. They should take ownership of it.”
She said the training is available so the AFL can learn from the U.S. military’s collective experience.
“We’re helping them get their army where they would like it to be,” said Gregory. “They’re writing their own history as a country … it’s new and they’re rebuilding, and I’m just glad to be a part of it.”
In addition to work in the classroom, Latimer and Gregory held practical exercises using AFL soldiers acting as “recruits” attending initial entry training. During the scenarios, the drill sergeants used their authority and knowledge to complete objectives such as leading the recruits in physical training or in cleaning the barracks.
Latimer said the recruits challenged the drill sergeants during the training: they failed to follow simple instructions, performed tasks incorrectly, and actively disobeyed directives. Latimer said the drill sergeants handled the scenarios well.
“They’re more confident,” said Latimer. “They know they can do it. Now they’re eager to start their first cycle.”
As the AFL narrows the list of possible recruits, it is essential to have skilled drill sergeants ready for action, he said.
“The Liberian drill sergeant has the most important role in a soldier’s life,” Latimer said adding that the AFL drill sergeants will leave a life-long impression on the recruits.
“They are going to be the first face the recruits see,” said Latimer. “They’re somebody the recruits will never forget. When they’re in training, they’re recruits, when they finish they will be soldiers … professional soldiers.”
And, he said, that professionalism is important for Liberia as well.
“The drill sergeants are shaping their nation’s future army,” said Latimer. “Liberia is entrusting its sons and daughters and is putting them in their hands.