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NEWS | March 14, 2014

National Guard State Partnership Program taking shape in Liberia

By Master Sgt. Denice Rankin Michigan National Guard

LANSING, Mich. - In February, two Michigan National Guard members, Capt. Margaret Mieras of Sparta, and Master Sgt. Angela Adams, of Kentwood, traveled to Monrovia, Liberia, Michigan"s newest partner in the Departments of State and Defense State Partnership Program.

The Michigan Soldiers were part of a SPP traveling contact team, sent to develop the Armed Forces of Liberia"s knowledge in personnel accountability. Mieras is employed full-time at the Michigan National Guard armory in Jackson, Mich., as the training officer with Headquarters and Headquarters Detachment, 246th Transportation Battalion and Adams is assigned there as the 272nd Regional Support Group"s mobilization and operations sergeant.

The State Partnership Program began in 1993 and Michigan was one of the first three states to participate through its partership with Latvia as the country recovered from more than 50 years of Soviet and German military occupation. The Liberian-Michigan partnership began in 2010 following a 15-year civil war in Liberia which ended in 2003. Now, after a decade of peace, the Liberians are making strides to become independent.

A goal of the SPP is to provide military-to-military engagements in support of defense security goals. These engagements provide the ability for countries to independently sustain and support the national security objectives of their government.

"We are helping them develop better systems and processes for personnel management to improve and grow and look to an independent future with new hope," said Mieras.

While in Liberia, the Michigan Soldiers taught the AFL ways to manage personnel accountability such as promotions, leave of absence, pay tracking, sponsorship program, and other personnel factors that contribute to Soldier retention. Mieras explained that there are small adjustments that will have an impact on troop morale and welfare.

When asked what they would like to see implemented, Liberian Soldiers told Mieras and Adams that they would like to have updated identification cards. Currently, a Soldier may actively serve in the military but his or her ID card may have expired at the completion of their last enlistment. Some soldiers said their pay fluctuated and some had not received a pay statement since 2007—but all soldiers can rely on receipt of a 50-pound bag of rice each pay period.

The Armed Forces of Liberia have a few challenges ahead to tackle the administrative requirements of its budding military. The AFL does not have the equipment to view or print a unit manning report which is used to capture its units" personnel strength in numbers by category (officer, warrant, or enlisted), their military occupation skills, and duty status changes. Rather than store the information in a database, the Liberian personnel record-keepers maintain the information manually.

By the end of the week, Mieras and Adams assisted 64 AFL administrative soldiers in the steps necessary to develop standard operating procedures for numerous aspects of personnel accountability. U.S. Marines stationed in support of Operation Onward Liberty—a U.S. State Department initiative to mentor and advise the AFL in their development of a capable military—doubled as couriers to transport Mieras and Adams to four different locations in Monrovia, Liberia.

"The way ahead is promising and hopeful," said Mieras. "We are working on the logistics to get the Liberian soldiers into MOS [military occupation schools] to become better qualified. This will help the unit and the AFL as a whole."