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NEWS | May 9, 2024

Michigan National Guard partners with Armed Forces of Liberia as NCO Academy takes shape in West Africa

MONROVIA, Liberia – From Feb. 19 to March 4, 2024, instructors from the Michigan National Guard’s 177th Regional Training Institute (RTI), assigned at Fort Custer, Michigan, assessed an instructor “dry-run” event led by the Armed Forces of Liberia (AFL) as the West African nation edges closer to standing up its own Non-Commissioned Officer (NCO) Academy.

The instructors convened at Camp Ware, Liberia, home of the AFL’s Armed Forces Training Command (AFTC), to refine their curriculum development, administration and presentation skills. Follow-on meetings also took place at Barclay Training Center (BTC) in central Monrovia, where AFL Chief of Staff, Brig. Gen. Davidson Forleh, received the U.S. instructors and thanked them for their exchange of knowledge with AFL counterparts.

“You could take the instructors from the AFL right now and run a professional military education course anywhere in the world,” said U.S. Army 1st Sgt. Brian Brace, State Partnership Program (SPP) desk officer for the Michigan National Guard. “The Liberian instructors are passionate, knowledgeable and invested; they believe in what they are doing.”

Michigan and Liberia have partnered for 15 years under the National Guard Bureau’s SPP for a mutually beneficial cooperation across multiple lines of effort. The AFL was completely rebuilt after a devastating civil war ended in 2003. For this “new” AFL, developing a self-sufficient NCO Academy has been a long-term goal.

U.S. Army 1st Sgt. Derren Mazza, an instructor with the 177th RTI, began working with the AFL instructors in late 2022.

“From my first visit here 18 months ago, the AFL instructors have come lightyears from where they started,” Mazza said. “Even with significant challenges for resourcing and facilities, they look for solutions to effectively orchestrate a course; this is a testament to the readiness of this group to conduct a Basic Leader Course immediately.”

The AFL’s motto is “A Force for Good.” By all accounts, the Liberian military lived up to this creed during ten years of support (2013-2023) for the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA). The AFL gained a reputation for adherence to human rights and the law of war; ideals the U.S. Government has worked hard to embed into Liberia’s military institutions. The Michigan National Guard played a role in Liberia’s Security Sector Reform through the U.S. AFRICOM-sponsored Operation Onward Liberty (OOL).

“Michigan and Liberia have come a long way together; even after 15 years, this partnership continues to show its value,” said AFL Command Sgt. Maj. Cooper Manqueh. “We thank our partners for helping us develop tools for building strong NCOs, because the NCO corps is the backbone of a strong army.”

In their meetings with AFL leadership, the 177th RTI instructors also presented several courses of action to launch the AFL’s first Basic Leader Course at Camp Ware. As the AFL’s NCO Academy gains momentum, the facility has the long-term potential to become a regional hub for enlisted professional military education in West Africa.

According to AFL 1st Sgt. Austin Doe, an AFTC instructor, the vision for the AFL’s NCO Academy is clear: “We’re refining today’s NCOs to be the leaders of tomorrow,” he said.