MONROVIA – An assertion highlighting and acknowledging the excellent and remarkable status of the military partnership between the United States Military and that of the Armed Forces of Liberia over the weekend became a center of attraction during the celebration of the 66th anniversary of the Armed Forces Day just as an observation was made how over the years the AFL has grown and improved in terms of quality of training, staffing and the upgrading of facilities at various formations throughout the country.
These remarks came from no less than a top US military officer, Major General Pablo Estrada who delivered the keynote address of this year’s edition of the Armed Forces Day held at the Barclay Training Center(BTC) which was attended by an array of government officials led by President George Manneh Weah, who is also the Commander in Chief of the AFL, members of the diplomatic corps, Captains of industries, religious leaders, civil society organizations, top security functionaries, among others.
General Estrada who chose to speak on the general theme of the importance of partnership and factored in the status of the partnership between the US Military and that of the AFL said having served in Liberia as the Officer in Charge, Army Forces and Liaison, 23rd Infantry Brigade of the Armed Forces of Liberia under the Operation Onward Liberty Program, he has had a fond memory of the country and its people and the excellent working relationship he had with members of the Liberian Armed Forces.
“Each time I visit Liberia, I am amazed by the beauty of this country and the wonderful people. Today I want to speak to you on partnership and look at the partnership between the US military and the Armed Forces of Liberia, a partnership that grows each year as we grow from our past.
“My experience with partnership began more than ten years ago as part of “Operation Onward Liberty,” working here in Liberia toward defeating Ebola. I spent nearly a year here, and during that time I came to know and appreciate you, the people of this special place, your values – and of course – the deep history shared by the U.S. and Liberia that stretches back now more than 200 years”, he said.
The well decorate US top military officer said he was very proud to have been a part of the close cooperation shared by the Michigan I National Guard and the Armed Forces of Liberia which have been working together since 2009 and have accomplished much together during that time.
“In 2021, it was a proud moment for us when we saw Soldiers from the Armed Forces of Liberia training alongside U.S. forces at Camp Grayling in Michigan. But much of what has been accomplished is your own. It’s because of your own hard work and commitment to your vision for the Armed Forces of Liberia to be “A Force for Good”.
Major General Estrada also took some time to speak on the rapid transformation the AFL has undergone over the years, which he said represents a tremendous growth and listed a few instances of the upward movement in the status of the Liberian army.
“For instance, the Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali. The AFL began their support for this mission in 2013 with a platoon-size element and now is contributing a company-size element of 150 Soldiers. You have also increased your Military Staff Officer support every year, while branching out from Mali across Africa with a total of over 14 military support officers.
“Additionally, in 2018 and 2019, the Armed Forces of Liberia backfilled UN military posts in Voinjama and Zwedru to fill the void and provide stability after the UN Peacekeepers successfully fulfilled their mission.
“In 2015, Watch Over 6 became the first Liberian National inter-agency exercise. Its focus was Defense Support to Civil Authorities, and it showcased true inter-agency coordination. Nearly every military, civilian, and governmental agency in Liberia were players and participated”, he said.
He further said since the first Watch Over exercise, the event has been held again successfully many times and noted It showed the Armed Forces of Liberia working together with other agencies to promote peace and stability that everyone in this country understands is essential for Liberia’s future and democracy.
“The United States and Liberia, as two of the oldest continuous republics in the world, share a unique history paired with common democratic values. As Liberia looks to this year’s National Elections, the country understands that the AFL, as an apolitical, professional military, will continue to be a force for good in helping to coordinate with the inter-agency to ensure peaceful elections”, he said.
He said on the second note it was worthy to acknowledge that the quality of training in the Armed Forces of Liberia is developing and cited that in December 2022, the first basic training class since 2016 graduated with 176 new soldiers and that this recruit class will also include, for the first time, “professionals” – doctors and lawyers who will be directly commissioned as military officers to reflect their advanced degrees and experience and that they will graduate at the end of this month.
“In addition to Northern Strike, held in Michigan every August, Liberia has also participated in several multinational exercises including Sage Eagle 22-2, and has participated annually in Obangame Express, the largest maritime exercise in West & Central Africa. That exercise recently featured Liberian sailors working with U.S. Naval Forces.
“This past year, in 2022, officials in Liberia began working with the Latvia National Armed Forces, a Baltic State and NATO member, to craft a Status of Forces Agreement that will enable combined training in Liberia. This is an exciting development and an example for other partnerships that the National Guard has around the globe.
Finally, your facilities are constantly improving.
He said on the third note, the facilities of the AFL are constantly improving mentioning that EBK, Camp Ware, Camp Tubman and other locations are receiving barracks renovations. “Additionally, the 14 Military Hospital opened in September 2021 and is a fully functioning hospital, including an operating room, a NICU, in-patient services, x-ray, lab, an emergency department, and a cafeteria”, he said.
“These are all things that I clearly see as I look at the Armed Forces of Liberia. They are a part of what makes it a credible organization for peace, stability, and sustainable democracy.
“Yes, the U.S. and Liberia are partners. It is a partnership that grows deeper and stronger each year. And the value of our cooperation goes both ways. We see our work together as an investment in capability, interoperability, and relationships. This means that every time a U.S. Soldier visits Liberia, they gain an irreplaceable experience that teaches them how to work in a new environment with new colleagues. It helps them understand something new about how the world works.
“Like Kennedy said, we are building on our partnership year by year. I know we will continue to grow and accomplish much more together because of our shared democratic values and a historical relationship unique in the world.
“That is why I am proud to say with you today that “the Love of Liberty brought us here”, he said.
According to the information contained from his rich curriculum vitae, Major General Estrada has been decorated with so many honors including ,Meritorious Service Medal (with 2 Bronze Oak Leaf Clusters), Army Commendation Medal (with 2 Bronze Oak Leaf Clusters), Army Achievement Medal (with 2 Bronze Oak Leaf Clusters), Army Good Conduct Medal, Army Reserve Components Achievement Medal (with 4 Bronze Oak Leaf Clusters), National Defense Service Medal (with 1 Bronze Service Star), Armed Forces Reserve Medal (with Silver Hourglass and M Device), Army Service Ribbon, Overseas Service Ribbon (with Numeral 2)
Army Reserve Components Overseas Training Ribbon, Michigan Service Medal (Broadsword) (with Gold Oak Leaf Cluster), Michigan State War on Terrorism (with M Device)
Michigan Outside the United States Service Ribbon (with Numeral 2) and Michigan State Partnership Ribbon
He holds a Bachelor’s of Science degree in Geographical Sciences and a Master’s of Science degree in Management from the United States Military Academy and Kettering University respectively.
As for his military Schools attended, he got went to Field Artillery Officer Basic Course, Field Artillery Officer Advanced Course, United States Army Command and General Staff College
United States Army War College as well as fellowships from Tufts University
Harvard University, General and Flag Officer Homeland Security Executive Seminar
Army Strategic Education Program – Basic (ASEP-B)
He was commissioned as a second lieutenant on May 25, 1988.