Liberian Coast Guardsmen and sailors from partner nations Sierra Leone and the Ivory Coast graduated from a Liberian Coast Guard-led joint boarding officer training course at the Liberian Coast Guard Base on February 22. The graduation ceremony served as the culminating event of a six-week training curriculum provided by U.S. Embassy-Monrovia.
U.S. Embassy-Monrovia, in coordination with U.S. Africa Command, U.S. Marine Corps Forces Africa and Operation Onward Liberty, partner with the Government of Liberia to enhance the operational capabilities of the Liberian Coast Guard (LCG) and the Armed Forces of Liberia.
Onward Liberty is a U.S. Marine Corps Forces Africa-led operation comprised of joint U.S. service members who mentor and advise the Liberian Armed Forces (AFL) in order to develop a national military that is responsible, operationally capable, and respectful of civilian authority and the rule of law. Operation Onward Liberty’s (OOL’s) goal is to assist the AFL in building a professional and capable military force that can effectively contribute to the overall security environment in Liberia.
U.S. Coast Guard Commander. Patrick Clark, U.S. Embassy-Monrovia Office of Security Cooperation maritime advisor, congratulated the LCG on its ground-breaking accomplishments. “The JBOC represented the first time since the AFL and LCG were re-established that they have, with their own instructors, provided training to one of their west-African neighbors,” he said. “While on the surface this may seem a small step, it represents a significant step forward for the AFL and LCG.”
Clark added that the LCG’s high-caliber performance in the course proves that they have reached a level where they can both sustain their own training and export it to their neighbors, which will enhance the maritime security efforts of partner west-African nations.
In the first of three training phases, U.S. Embassy-Monrovia enlisted the assistance of a U.S. Coast Guard mobile training team from the International Training Detachment of Coast Guard Training Center Yorktown, Va., to train more than 20 Liberian Coast Guardsmen on the various facets of maritime security surrounding boarding of vessels.
The first phase of the course curriculum involved USCG trainers instructing LCG trainees. The second phase put LCG trainees in trainer roles themselves to ensure thorough understanding of the material and to enable the LCG to pass knowledge gleaned from the course onto future LCG trainees. The third and final phase, the joint boarding officer course, served as a culmination of the first two instruction phases and entailed the newly trained LCG trainers providing instruction on maritime boarding techniques to their fellow Liberian Coast Guardsmen and Sailors from the Ivory Coast and Sierra Leone.
LCG Seaman Julius Koffa, JBOC trainee, said that the benefit of the training structure was evident. “Our Liberian trainers are very knowledgeable,” he said. “I think the U.S. Coast Guard prepared them well, and I feel like we’re getting the training from real professionals.”
USCG Chief Petty Officer Tim Tolliver, MTT lead instructor, said he was constantly impressed by the professionalism and motivation the LCG trainees exhibited throughout. “The LCG trainers that conducted the last phase of training have been sharp from the first day we began training them,” he said. “I’m thoroughly impressed by these guys. As long as they keep training, they’ve got what it takes to succeed and excel.”
Tolliver added that the proficiency the LCG has gained through learning and instructing JBOC has made them the resident experts for the west-African region, which will enable them to both cultivate relationships with partner nations’ maritime forces and to standardize maritime training and operations across national borders.
LCG Petty Officer 3rd Class Fred Moore, lead JBOC trainer, agreed that establishing standardized training is key to bolstering maritime partnerships between partner nations. “Having the same standard of training is good for interoperability,” he said. “We’re able to exchange ideas and tactics more effectively and work better together.”
LCG Seaman Samuel Zarbay, JBOC trainee, said he appreciated that the training went beyond mere practical instruction on boarding security. “The USCG and our own LCG trainers both emphasized the need for camaraderie and cohesiveness for a boat crew,” he said. “When we respect one another and like one another, it helps us function better as a team.”
Zarbay added that trainers also stressed the importance of empathizing with subjects to better understand situations boarding crews may find themselves in. “Knowing what a subject is going through helps us figure out what needs to be done,” he said. “That, coupled with the rule of law to guide us, enables us to make the proper decisions when we’re in a boarding situation.”
Ivory Coast Lt. j.g. Kati Frank Coulibaly, JBOC trainee, said that the training was both practical and useful. “Even though we’re from different countries, many things are universal,” he said. “In partnering with our neighbours, we’re able to train to the same standard and agree on the right way to do things.”
Tolliver, who has been deployed more than 200 days and trained security personnel in seven countries over the last year, said the LCG stands apart from previous organizations he’s mentored. “Ultimately our goal is to instruct ourselves out of a job,” he said. “These trainees have done a great job making the curriculum their own. The LCG has the mindset, attitude and motivation to keep that professional growth going and continue to make Liberia proud.”