Recently, a two-man traveling contact team (TCT) from U.S. Army Africa Inspector General's Office shared professional knowledge with 18 officers and NCOs of Armed Forces of Liberia during a week-long engagement.
At the request of the AFL, Capt. James Watson and Sgt. 1st Class Bobby Conn journeyed to Camp Sandee Ware, near Monrovia, Liberia, to assist in development of an Inspector General cell.
According to Watson, AFL is a relatively newly formed and compact organization.
"AFL is about eight years old and they are standing up their first IG cell," Watson said. "The Republic of Liberia is a small West African nation with a young and ambitious armed force. AFL is an evolving and developing organization. This was the fourth USARAF IG TCT visit to Liberia and our goals included reviewing and helping AFL to refine their newly drafted IG doctrine."
In the U.S. Army, the Office of the Inspector General assists commanders in determining the state of discipline, efficiency and other areas of concern. Often they are asked to work as a problem-solving and impartial fact-finding agency with the objective of helping Soldiers, Families and civilians resolve issues of concern, impropriety or wrongdoing. An IG office is often the place where complaints from these stake-holders are received, investigated and resolved.
During the TCT, Watson gauged the development of the AFL IG cell and provided advice on the establishment of objectives as well as developing a plan for sustained mentorship from USARAF's IG office.
Conn, a native of Ashland, Ky., discussed a few topics covered by the team during their engagement.
"We presented several real-world issues and cases similar to what will occur in a typical IG office," Conn said. "These scenarios were discussed during open forums which offered the AFL staff a varied perspective to IG operations. We're helping the AFL IG cell grow and develop and in turn building partner capacity for the entire organization."
Conn said the TCT adapted to challenges during their engagement.
"We occasionally held discussions in outdoor classrooms. It allowed us to escape some of the heat in the classrooms. But the AFL participants were eager and kept the discussions lively," Conn said.
Currently, AFL Maj. Davidson Forleh is in charge of the AFL IG cell.
Forleh, Watson, Conn and other inspector general personnel have had a partnering relationship since 2010. Forleh described some of the benefits he and his team received from the TCT.
"This is the first IG cell for the AFL. Capt. Watson and Sgt. 1st Class Conn are significantly impacting its development," said Forleh. "Their involvement has been very informative and rewarding for everyone that has been part of the discussion."
"The knowledge that these gentlemen have imparted to us will take us a long way. Particularly valuable to us is the standard used to conduct investigations and make reports. Capt. Watson gave us a copy of the Army regulations and those are tremendously helpful," Forleh said.
According to Watson, the USARAF team shared how Army IG offices conduct business.
"This was a follow-on visit with the AFL, so they already had a basic idea of how a U.S. Army IG [office] operates. One aspect of Army management is the role of the NCO Corps. Incorporation of NCOs in the AFL isn't as wide ranging as it is in the U.S. Army," he said.
Watson explained the importance and roles of NCOs in the IG system.
"We shared some ideas on how to incorporate noncommissioned officers into their office structure. Previously, they had only commissioned officers. And at a minimum NCOs advise officers before they make decisions. Additionally, NCOs can often offer a different perspective to a situation or decision making process," Watson said. "We have learned through more than 230 years that NCOs are the backbone of the U.S. Army."
Watson said leaving the cool climate of Winter-time Italy to travel to equatorial Africa offers a challenge in adjusting to high heat and humidity.
"The classroom environment offered an unexpected challenge for us. We improvised and decided to conduct many of our discussions outdoors in a gazebo. Interior rooms were almost 100 degrees Fahrenheit at nearly 100 percent relative humidity. Through this simple change, we were able to persevere and share information," Watson said.
One of the things they shared with the AFL IG was the U.S. Army's regulations governing IG operations.
"We discussed inspection regulations and provided the AFL with a copy of our regulations," Watson said.
Overall, Watson believes the team has made a long-lasting impact on the burgeoning AFL IG cell.
"I think we made difference and that the AFL IG cell is well on the path to becoming fully functional. They are a growing organization and will have an equally growing IG cell," Watson said.
What does the future hold for the AFL Inspector General's office?
"In the near future, I see them working independently without any mentorship from others. I remain hopeful we can continue our partnership and continue to have valuable exchanges between U.S. Army Africa IG and the AFL IG," Watson said.