The Armed Forces of Liberia surely did Liberians proud when they successfully participated last year in peace-keeping operations in Mali. They performed as creditably as those who undertook Liberia’s first peace-keeping mission in the Congo in 1960. Among the middle level leaders of that contingent were members of the Class of 1959 of the Booker Washington Institute (BWI), including Paul Perry and Mansfield, who later became AFL Generals, Prince A. Page and Arthur Bedell, who upon their return joined the AFL Air Wing and went on to become jet pilots. Prince became President W.R. Tolbert, Jr.’s personal pilot, flying him to many parts of Africa, Europe and the United States.
These BWI boys who went to the Congo had one serious advantage: they had all been trained in ROTC (Reserved Officers Training Corps) by Liberian military experts, including Doc Sirleaf, former husband of President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Major Daniel Agabus Walker and others. During those days, BWI boys who drilled in the school’s Cadet Corp, stole the show on Flag Day every year when they came to parade in Monrovia with their khaki uniforms, army helmets and carbines (a short-barell light weight firearm). Their teacher, Doc Sirleaf, used to command them to “Hit ‘em pieces. If you brake ‘um, I will pay for ‘um!”
The time has come for Minister Brownie Samukai to restore the ROTC Program at BWI. With President Sirleaf now keenly interested in BWI’s renaissance, the ROTC Program would do much to restore discipline to the campus. Who knows? This could be the harbinger (forerunner) to discipline throughout Liberia. For the ROTC Program in most of our boarding schools would do much to restore discipline in Liberian youth. This would, to an immeasurable degree, fulfill Armed Forces Day Orator Kofi Woods’ dream of the AFL to “civilianize” itself; for it would be reaching out in a highly positive way to the nation’s youth, who comprise over 65% of the population.
We submit that the AFL could not get more charitable than that, rescuing millions of our young from the debauchery (decadence, vice) that the 14-year civil war left them.
But Minister Samukai might come back and say to GOL, “We need money for this, too—restoring the ROTC Program to BWI and introducing it to other schools.” In the 1950s and 1960s at BWI, there were not more than two AFL Officers—the Instructor and his assistant—that managed the program. Surely it should not take much money to assign two officers to each of the first 20 leading high schools. That would be a good beginning. The Program could be gradually expanded to include others and this could go a long way in bringing discipline to the Liberian citizenry.
It is possible that the United States Armed Forces and other partners could lend a helping hand by meeting some of the costs of the program. We are positive that it would not be asking too much, especially now that Ebola has almost been defeated and President Obama is recalling the troops. Liberia has enough troops to handle this program effectively. America would not need to send any troops for that. We might need some money and technical expertise to kick off the program.
In an earlier editorial, we called on the Defense Ministry, now that it has rehabilitated and reopened the John Hilary Tubman Military Academy (JHTMA) in Todee, to have it linked up with BWI to enable some of its cadets to take courses in Agriculture and the other trades—Architecture, Drafting, Arts and Crafts, Auto Mechanics, Business Administration, Building Construction, Carpentry, Cabinet Making, Ceramics, Electricity, Electronics, Heavy Duty Mechanics, Machinery, Masonry, Plumbling, Refrigeration, etc. We think a partnership between these two training institutions would be ideal, since they are both in the same vicinity—Kakata, where BWI is located. Kakata is right up the street from Todee, which hosts JHTMA.