By Mr. Rick Scavetta (IMCOM)May 8, 2009
MONROVIA, Liberia - Midday sun beats down upon a long line of Liberian infantry waiting for a ladle-full of palm stew over rice.
The soldiers from the Armed Forces of Liberia's Company C, 1st Battalion, 23rd Infantry Brigade, shuffled along the hot, dusty ground, exhausted and soaked in sweat from morning maneuvers.
Then Sgt. 1st Class Eddie King, a U.S. Army Africa mentor, walks up.
"Hey Charlie," King yells, using Soldiers' phonetic way of saying the letter C.
A few reply in tired mumbles, "Cobras."
"Hey Charlie," King yells louder, smiling and pumping a fist in the air.
"Cobras," the Liberians begin to shout.
King, a 12-year veteran infantryman from Prince George, Va., is one of two U.S. Army Africa Soldiers supporting the Liberia Security Sector Reform, a U.S. State Department-led program to rebuild Liberia's military. The mentoring team also includes NCOs from U.S. Africa Command and the Fort Sill-based 2nd Battalion, 18th Field Artillery Regiment.
"It's a great working environment," King said. "With a combination of active military and contractors who are mostly retired military, there's a lot of experience being put to good use."
In recent years, the West African nation struggled through two civil wars. Now it's making efforts to build a professional military that supports peace and stability.
In 2009, the U.S. Army Year of the NCO, SETAF - now U.S. Army Africa - is undertaking new assignments on the continent. The mission in Liberia is indicative of the command's new role, sharing U.S. Army experience to enhance the security capabilities with African partner nations.
Shortly after arriving in January, King began mentoring Company C soldiers, even suggesting they use the C-lettered name from the venomous viper to build espirit de corps.
"My role is not to show them how to do things," King explains. "I simply share with them ideas based on my experience, so they can use that information to improve."
King's presence has inspired AFL soldiers, said Lt. Emmanuel Wisseh, a Company C officer.
"He always shares his experiences with us and the men prefer to have him around," Wisseh said. "Now they are highly motivated."