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Home : News : State Partnership Program
NEWS | March 6, 2024

Michigan Guard, Liberia Partner on NCO Academy in West Africa

By Capt. Andrew Layton, Michigan National Guard

MONROVIA, Liberia – Instructors from the Michigan National Guard’s 177th Regional Training Institute assessed an instructor “dry-run” led by the Armed Forces of Liberia Feb. 19 to March 4 as the West African nation edges closer to standing up its own Noncommissioned Officer Academy.

The instructors convened at Camp Ware, Liberia, home of the AFL’s Armed Forces Training Command, to refine their curriculum development, administration and presentation skills. At follow-on meetings at Barclay Training Center in central Monrovia, Brig. Gen. Davidson Forleh, AFL chief of staff, thanked the U.S. instructors for exchanging knowledge with AFL counterparts.

“You could take the instructors from the AFL right now and run a professional military education course anywhere in the world,” said U.S. Army 1st Sgt. Brian Brace, State Partnership Program desk officer for the Michigan National Guard. “The Liberian instructors are passionate, knowledgeable and invested; they believe in what they are doing.”

Michigan and Liberia have partnered for 15 years under the Department of Defense National Guard Bureau SPP. The AFL was completely rebuilt after a devastating civil war ended in 2003. For this “new” AFL, developing a self-sufficient NCO Academy has been a long-term goal.

U.S. Army 1st Sgt. Derren Mazza, an instructor with the 177th RTI, began working with the AFL instructors in late 2022.

“From my first visit here 18 months ago, the AFL instructors have come light-years from where they started,” Mazza said. 

The AFL’s motto is “A Force for Good.” During 10 years of support, from 2013 to 2023, the Liberian military lived up to this creed for the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali. The AFL gained a reputation for adhering to human rights and the law of war, ideals the U.S. government has worked hard to embed into Liberia’s military institutions. The Michigan National Guard played a role in Liberia’s Security Sector Reform through the U.S. AFRICOM-sponsored Operation Onward Liberty.

“Michigan and Liberia have come a long way together; even after 15 years, this partnership continues to show its value,” said AFL Command Sgt. Maj. Cooper Manqueh. “We thank our partners for helping us develop tools for building strong NCOs because the NCO corps is the backbone of a strong army.”

In their meetings with AFL leadership, the 177th RTI instructors also presented several courses of action to launch the AFL’s first Basic Leader Course at Camp Ware. As the AFL’s NCO Academy gains momentum, the facility has the long-term potential to become a regional hub for enlisted professional military education in West Africa.

AFL 1st Sgt. Austin Doe, an AFTC instructor, said the vision for the AFL’s NCO Academy is clear: “We’re refining today’s NCOs to be the leaders of tomorrow,” he said.