By Rick Scavetta, U.S. Army AfricaJuly 30, 2010
MONROVIA, Liberia - When army mechanics from the Armed Forces of Liberia turn wrenches in the motor pool at Edward Binyah Kesselly barracks, they can rely upon lessons learned from U.S. Army Africa maintenance experts.
Master Sgt. Gary Donald and Chief Warrant Officer 4 Randy Austin recently spent a week with AFL troops discussing vehicle maintenance and motor pool operations.
"The event's purpose was to familiarize the Armed Forces of Liberia with U.S. Army maintenance and motor pool operations and to lay the groundwork for future partnership events," Donald said. "We covered U.S. Army basics - preventive maintenance, procedures for dispatching vehicles, how to order parts, accountability of supplies and motor pool safety measures
Like most learning scenarios, the work began with lengthy discussions. But it was the hands-on application that resonated among the AFL mechanics, Donald said. Altogether, more than 50 AFL maintenance and transportation troops took part in the familiarization event. They gained an understanding about the U.S. Army's maintenance and motor pool operations, Austin said.
"All the AFL soldiers were highly motivated with meaningful questions and comments," Austin said. "They are interested in learning more about how the U.S. Army trains, to include how our Soldiers repair broken generators and vehicles, plus how we use wreckers to recover disabled vehicles."
Liberia's military uses a mix of Ford Rangers and German-built trucks. They have new tools on hand. But they face challenges, though, such as obtaining supplies and repair parts and availability of manuals for their gear, said Austin, who's served for more than 34 years in uniform.
A veteran of Iraq, Austin's been to Africa several times during the past year, to include assignments in Burkina Faso and Tanzania. He was fascinated by how eager AFL mechanics are to learn more about their profession, he said.
"By sharing the U.S. Army maintenance system- a proven way to do this type of business - the Liberians are able to adopt what works for them and apply it to their own maintenance program in the future," Austin said.
Since early 2009, U.S. Army Africa has regularly sent U.S. Army noncommissioned officers to Liberia to work with the AFL. The initial success of USARAF's support to Liberia is one of several examples of the command's role in partnering on the continent - engaging in sustained ways to create effective African forces that support elected officials and foster peaceful environments.
U.S. Army Africa continues to support U.S. Africa Command with security sector reform in Liberia through ongoing familiarization events.
Donald has served for more than two decades in uniform, including tours in Iraq, Afghanistan, Haiti and Kosovo. But, it was his first time visiting Africa. Donald was glad to see the AFL mechanics were eager to gain knowledge, he said.
"It was a good learning experience for me too," Donald said. "There are so many U.S. personnel who have been helping in Liberia and left their mark by offering good ideas that the AFL has adopted. I'm glad to be a part of that."