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Experts prepare Liberian troops for Mali

British and French military experts have completed weeks of training Liberian military personnel at Camp Ware in Careysburg, Montserrado County in preparation for the sixth deployment of Liberian troops to Mali this September on a UN peacekeeping operation.

Mali has been battling terrorist attacks for years, and Liberia has been one of many countries helping to restore peace there under a UN operation.This batch of Liberian soldiers from the Armed Forces of Liberia (AFL) will replace returning Liberian peacekeepers that are expected to end their one year mission in Mali this September.

Liberia’s Chief of Staff Gen. Prince C. Johnson,II, Deputy Defense Minister for Administration Mr. Olandrus Dickson, British Ambassador to Liberia Mr. David Belgrove and French Embassy Charge d’Affairs Mr. Hugh Nagy witnessed military tactics acquired by Liberian soldiers from their British and French trainers on Wednesday, 7 August at Camp Ware.

Ahead of the exercise, the foreign trainers, the Liberian military authorities and dignitaries were led to the exhibition hall at Camp Ware where weapons including mines and other explosive devices that the soldiers have been trained to defuse were on display.

These devices are commonly used by militants to cause havoc in areas infested with terrorists.As part of the training for what to expect in the risk zone of Mali, the Liberian soldiers have been given skills to detect and defuse Explosive Ordinate Disposal (EOD) and Improvised Explosive Device (IED) when they are on patrol missions in their peacekeeping operation.

In a mock exercise, the soldiers were seen searching suspected agents connected to unfriendly forces at military checkpoints to avoid the military zones being hit by enemies.At some points they fired at and neutralized the operator of an enemy vehicle that attempted to force its way through the military checkpoint before the soldiers further exchanged fire with other enemies that targeted the military base.

For the purpose of the mock exercise, the gunfire did not include live bullets, but it still didn’t seem so easy for some civilian observers including some journalists not to find comfort zones when the heavy gunfire commenced.

Liberian Army Chief of Staff Gen. Prince C. Johnson, II told an interview at Camp Ware that it’s important that the British and French counterparts have brought in their own expertise “to enhance our guys who will be deployed to Mali in September.”

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“With this training we’re getting, it builds the morale of the troop,” Gen. Johnson says, adding that it gives them that experience that whatever they will encounter during their mission in Mali they will know the kind of response to give.He adds that the AFL has a company in Mali, and the deployment of this troop in September will be Liberia’s sixth rotation of peacekeepers there since it embarked upon the mission in 2013.

Gen. Johnson expresses thanks to the British and French governments for the support and expertise provided the Liberian army.British Ambassador David Belgroves says he is pleased that his country’s army and the French armed forces are here training Liberian armed forces for their deployment to Mali.

He notes that other countries are working in Mali to preserve the peace there, adding that it is very important to work together as a very good example of military cooperation before they go into the mission.French Embassy Charge d’Affairs Mr. Hugh Nagy says he is impressed that the level of experience that the AFL has is pretty much high.

He says from the opinion of the trainers, the newly trained AFL soldiers are one of the best units ever trained here, saying “we have high expectations for them when they will reach Mali.”

The foreign trainers including British Detachment Officer in Charge Capt. Charles Gale and the leader of the French Detachment Major CoovremVianney say their impressing of the troop is very high, saying they are ready to go for the mission.By Winston W. Parley

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