By Richard Bumgardner, USASACAugust 25, 2014
LIBERIA (Aug. 25, 2014) -- The Republic of Liberia in West Africa has a long connection with the United States, having been colonized by freed African-Americans in the 1820s. Since the early 1940s, U.S. military advisers have played a key role in the development of the Liberian military, and assisted with building security in the West African region.
That security assistance tradition continues today, as two groups of U.S. Army Security Assistance Command Soldiers, from the U.S. Army Security Assistance Training Management Organization, known as SATMO, at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, traveled to Liberia, to teach members of the Liberian Army how to build a stronger non-commissioned officer corps.
"We see what NCOs are doing in different countries and we try to develop those NCOs," said Staff Sgt. Johnny Gonzales, a medic with SATMO. "To show officers that they can delegate authority and they can trust their NCOs, because if you build up the trust between officer and NCO, you are able to accomplish more."
That wisdom from a modern-day Army NCO is the result of training built from hundreds of years of military experience, as the American NCO Corps was founded during the birth of the Continental Army, at the beginning of the American Revolution. The early American NCO was based on a unique mix of British, French and Prussian military traditions, and has evolved into what is now considered the standard around the world; being at the front of any charge, by leading Soldiers in battle and by mentoring and training them in peacetime.
Today, Gonzales and his fellow Soldiers were sweating under an African sun, conducting a Mobile Training Team, or MTT, deployment, in order to create a core of senior NCO instructors within the Liberian Army.
During phase one of the four phases of training, a Senior Leader Course was given to 30 Liberian soldiers, with the top 15 performers identified to be trained as instructors. These hand-picked soldiers were entered into phase two, the Army Basic Instructor Course, which gave these key soldiers the skills necessary to teach future senior NCOs from the Liberian Army.
Upon graduation from the basic instructor course, members of SATMO assisted these senior NCOs with establishing necessary Programs of Instruction for what became the newly minted Liberian Army Senior Leader Course. During phases three and four, these same senior Liberian NCOs were put to the test by having to train an additional 45 Liberian soldiers, graduating the last students in late July.
Experiences like this don't only benefit host nation militaries, as the members of SATMO also benefited from the cultural interaction.
"We gained a new cultural understanding of the Liberian people," said Capt. Chris Hudson, the SATMO team's officer in charge. "The United States and Liberia have always had a close relationship, and we were able to expand on this while working together to train their army. This training is extremely important not only to the host nation, but to the U.S. Army. SATMO's motto is 'training the world, one Soldier at a time.' We are continually trying to grow our reach exponentially by using the train-the-trainer model. This allows us to directly and indirectly reach a larger population."
Using the old proverb, "by teaching a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime," members of SATMO have provided the Liberian Army a core of experienced senior NCOs who can serve as NCO Academy instructors for future courses. They have help the Liberians generate the capability to fully sustain the Senior Leader Course without external support.
Deploying small mobile training teams from its SATMO Engagement Branch to any part of the world to conduct capacity building operations, technical MTTs and higher-level training allows U.S. Army Security Assistance Command to support Army Materiel Command's global mission and the overall U.S. security cooperation program.