Deputy Defense Minister for Administration, Joseph F. Johnson, yesterday challenged the third batch of the platoon of soldiers from the Armed Forces of Liberia (AFL) assigned to serve in Mali to remain focused, vigilant and act like trained soldiers as they departed for the peacekeeping assignment.
Mr. Johnson brief’s admonition to the soldiers was delivered at yesterday’s ceremonies marking the deployment of the third contingent of AFL soldiers to Mali and the return of the second contingent dubbed, “LIBBATT 2”.
The Liberian soldiers are serving with the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA).
The second platoon of soldiers left the country for a peacekeeping mission in Mali on June 26 last year, and returned yesterday to a tremendous welcome ceremony coordinated by the hierarchy of the AFL, headed by the Chief of Staff (COS) B/G Daniel Dee Ziankahn, Jr.
The well-attended ceremony was conducted in collaboration with the Ministry of National Day (MOD) at the Roberts International Airport (RIA), Lower Margibi County.
Colonel Prince C. Johnson, III, who provided a brief history of the Mali mission said the return of the Liberian peacekeepers does not end the AFL mission, but brings to an end a year of peacekeeping duties for the second platoon commanded by Captain Ernest Appleton. Soldiers who returned yesterday are the second postwar peacekeepers who have served in international peacekeeping duties with distinction, Col. Johnson stated.
The soldiers are being hailed for a “job well done.” For that, the office of the Chief of Staff, in collaboration with the MOD, wants Liberians to know that they have flown the Liberian Flag very high on the international scene.
“Since its deployment to Mali,” Col. Johnson said, “the platoon has over the past 12 months conducted several missions in and out of its areas of operations both in Diabaly, Northwest and Timbuktu, Northern Mali, respectively.
These missions, he recounted, included escort, vehicle and foot patrols, reconnaissance and other special assignments.
In line with the administrative mandate towards personnel serving in peacekeeping duties, the UN through the MINUSMA scheduled a Medal Day Parade in honor of the Liberian Platoon on June 19.
The Liberian contingent consists of an infantry platoon assigned to MINUSMA Headquarters in Bamako and Timbuktu where they received UN Medals. B/G Ziankahn, B/G Sidiki Daniel Traore, Sector West Commander, MINUSMA, Lofa County Senator Stephen J. H. Zargo, chairman on Defense Intelligence and Security, Rep. Lester Paye, Co-chair at the Lower House and David K. Dahn, Assistant Defense Minister for Public Affairs, decorated the AFL personnel.
This is the second batch of AFL personnel to receive UN Medals since the restructuring of the AFL in 2006.
According to Col. Johnson, on June 23, 2013, the government dispatched a platoon of AFL troops to form part of the African-led International Support Mission to Mali (AFISMA)- an Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS)-organized military mission to support the Government of Mali against Islamist rebels in the North of the country.
Meanwhile, a new infantry platoon, headed by Capt. Stephen T. Powo, departed the country yesterday aboard a special UN chartered flight for Mali.
The outgoing platoon has already completed three months of pre-deployment training at the Armed Forces Training Command in Careysburg.
The pre-deployment training covered all tasks expected to be conducted during the tour of duty in Mali. It covered medical screening and physical training, which also covered Geo-Politics of Mali, International Humanitarian Law, Introduction to Patrol, and Individual Soldier Task. Map Reading/Land Navigation, First Aid, Road block, Cordon and Search, Ambush, VIP Escort, Control of IDPs, Urban Operations, Desert Warfare, Battle Drills, Offensive Operations, and Combat/Operational Stress Control were also part of the training.
In a related development, the AFL will today begin conducting a Field Training Exercise (FTE), named “Exercise Watch over IV” in the general areas of Firestone and RIA from June 23-27.
The exercise is an Internal Security Operations Joint Training designed for the AFL and other sister security agencies such as Liberia National Police (LNP), Bureau of Immigration and Naturalization (BIN), National Fire Service (NFS) and the Drugs Enforcement Agency (DEA).