A Platoon of the Armed Forces of Liberia (AFL) assigned with the United Nations peacekeeping force in Mali will for the first time participate in the medal parade in that West African state.
To form part of the ceremony, the Minister of National Defense, Brownie J. Samukai, Jr., as head of an 18-man delegation departed the country on Wednesday for Mali to observe the AFL's participation in the UN Medal Parade.
Minister Samukai was authorized by the Commander-In-Chief (C-I-C) of the army and President of Liberia, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, to participate in the first Medal Parade for the AFL troops serving under the MINUSMA mission in Diabali, Mali.
Minister Samukai is being accompanied by the Chief of Staff (COS) of the AFL, Brigadier General Daniel Dee Ziankahn among others to witness the ceremony that is scheduled for Friday, June 6 in Mali.
While in Mali, the Liberian delegation will assess the status, conditions and well-being of the troops and will hold discussions with Malian authorities on bilateral security cooperation, and with MINUSMA authorities on the rotation of AFL troops.
Last year, C-I-C Sirleaf ordered enhanced Infantry Platoon of AFL personnel to Mali to form a part of the peacekeeping operations in June 2013.
Prior to departing for Mali, Chief of Staff Ziankahn participated in the third and final leg of the AFL training, code named “Bonfire: Operation Watch Over III.” The exercise was implemented by the AFL in collaboration with authorities at the Ministry of National Defense in Monrovia.
Defense authorities were represented at the occasion by the Deputy Minister for Operations, Saint Jerome Larbelee, while other representatives were officials from the offices of the Grand Bassa County Superintendent as well as mentors of the AFL.
The well-attended exercise, which climaxed the Bonfire exercise ‘Watch Over’ was held on Wednesday, June 4, in Little Bassa, Grand Bassa County amidst drumming and singing of various Liberian songs led by the AFL Band Unit.
Operation Watch Over, according to COS Ziankahn, is part of the AFL’s training involving field exercises where the soldiers are divided into factions fighting a ‘mock war.’ One fighting force used gorilla or jungle/rebel tactics, while the other, under government soldiers' command, countered the rebel force using conventional warfare tactics.
The Little Bassa ceremony was the third and final of a series of such trainings, which the AFL has used over the years to exercise the skills they acquired while in training, and at the same time, socialize with residents of local communities.
“Operation Watch Over” is intended to also expose the troops to the different terrains across the country in case of any eventuality so that they will be prepared to defend and protect the territorial limits of Liberia.
It is also intended to build the bridge of confidence between civilians and the new army, which operates on the motto, “A Force for Good”.
“Because we are a civilian army…, we are obliged to maintain such status where the civilians will build confidence in the men and women of the AFL,” AFL’s 23rd Infantry Brigade Commander, Colonel Prince C. Johnson interjected.
Several community members, including Moses Wee, Esther Garmai and Annie Koon, said they had hoped for the return of the soldiers to their community to entertain or reliev them of their various health situation free-of-charge.
During the climax of the exercise, the AFL medical outreach team performed medical services for the community and shared gift items that included food and non-food items.