A Military of Infancy: Does Liberia Really Have An Army? – Part I

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Honoring Major General Suraj Alao Abdurrahman

History has taught us never to forget about our fallen heroes and heroines whose compassionate contribution to mankind is incredibly distinct. Whenever we fail to pay courtesy to deserving statesmen and outstanding global actors who are worthy of public admiration, we pierce our own consciences with sharp instruments of ingratitude and immodesty. We become no different from a vicious ingrate who lives in pretense and pomposity. This is when we practically define who a coward is. In this frame of obscurity, our action proves worthless as a result of our madcap opinion and premature perception. Our minds only become revived and redeemed when we recollect our memories to salute great history-makers and pacesetters whose illuminating shadows and indelible imprints are inherent within every sphere of human existence.

With this daring courage which subdues public ingratitude and guilt, I cannot widen my thoughts on this subject without reverently acknowledging a self-sacrificing character whose name shall remain a glowing image in Liberia’s post-conflict Military history. Certainly, his duty to service yesterday was without price and his legacy today is a conspicuous demonstration of his loyalty and commitment to a country he was never a citizen off. The death of Major General Suraj Alao Abdurrahman still remains a big shock to our nation even today. As all of us including his family and AFL personnel continue to mourn his demise, I am pondering over this question “How could our post-war military hero bid us farewell so soon”?

Nothing seems more important to us during this month of Armed Forces celebration other than remembering Major General Suraj Alao Abdurrahman who led our infant AFL from June 2007 to February 11, 2014. I am quite aware that his tenure was very challenging, but he did not one day contradict his ethics of professionalism. It was not an easy journey building a new defense force that is yet too far from an army-status. His task to command a juvenile military was huge, but nothing could easily twist his resilience and twirl his tenacity. Surely, this extraordinary son of Africa, specifically Nigeria will always remain a memorable symbol of African Solidarity as our nation consolidates its resources to rebuild a strong system of defense. Fallen General Suraj was a continental champion without borders. His determination to increase Liberia post-war military strength was unwavering.

Looking at ‘Army’ from a realistic context

It makes me upset when State actors begin to ignorantly brag about our current military status even though we have not reached the level of having a Brigade, Division, or Corp. They pretend to forget that Liberia is still far from having an Army. The current category of our military is between Battalion and Brigade. Our country is three steps away from achieving an army status. Before any nation can boast about having an army, its military composition must be 50,000 plus trained soldiers (air, ground and sea forces) along with modern equipment/technology (high-tech hardware) which is in compliance with universal standards of militarization. As a means of justifying my view, these are lucid definitions about different units or segments under a chain of any military arrangement or organizational structure.

Squad – 9 to 10 soldiers. Typically commanded by a sergeant or staff sergeant, a squad or section is the smallest element in the Army structure, and its size is dependent on its function.

Platoon – 16 to 44 soldiers. A platoon is led by a lieutenant with an NCO as second in command, and consists of two to four squads or sections.

Company – 62 to 190 soldiers. Three to five platoons form a company, which is commanded by a captain with a first sergeant as the commander’s principle NCO assistant. An artillery unit of equivalent size is called a battery, and a comparable armored or air cavalry unit is called a troop.

Battalion – 300 to 1,000 soldiers. Four to six companies make up a battalion, which is normally commanded by a lieutenant colonel with a command sergeant major as principle NCO assistant. A battalion is capable of independent operations of limited duration and scope. An armored or air cavalry unit of equivalent size is called a squadron.

Brigade – 3,000 to 5,000 solders. A brigade headquarter commands the tactical operation of two to five organic or attached combat battalions. Normally commanded by a colonel with a command sergeant major as senior NCO, brigades are employed on independent or semi-independent operations. Armored cavalry, ranger and Special Forces units of this size are categorized as regiments or groups.

Division – 10,000 to 15,000 soldiers. Usually consisting of three brigade-sized elements and commanded by a major general, divisions are numbered and assigned missions based on their structures. The division performs major tactical operations for the corps and can conduct sustained battles and engagements.

Corps – 20,000 to 45,000 soldiers. Two to five divisions constitute a corps, which is typically commanded by a lieutenant general. As the deployable level of command required to synchronize and sustain combat operations, the corps provides the framework for multi-national operations.

Army – 50,000 plus soldiers. Typically commanded by a lieutenant general or higher, an army combines two or more corps. The commander in chief may order formation of a field army to direct operations of assigned corps and divisions.

Considering these contemporary descriptions of various groups within any modern military hierarchy, anyone can easily agree with me that Liberia does not have an ARMY. Disappointingly, our country’s military sector lacks adequate funding, training, logistics/equipment, and technology. The strength of our Navy is very weak to an extent our country does not even have a gun-boat. Up-to-date, Liberia does not even have an Air Force. An army without an Air Force is incomplete.

Even though our military is 108 years old, but it is the least defense force in West Africa in terms of quantity and quality. It is unthinkable to know that our new AFL does not even have a single helicopter or jumbo jet to carryout air operations. This tells anyone how feeble our defense system is. The need for a rigorous security sector reform is critical to national development and growth as UNMIL draws down. Sometimes, I wonder how many of our soldiers are well-knowledgeable about map reading, military technology, intelligence, covert tactics, artillery strategies and other technical disciplines. I thought we should spend more time and resources in order to advance our new AFL, since its current numerical strength is infinitesimal (less than 2,500 men).

To be Continued

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