A handful of U.S. Marines taught more than 220 Liberian soldiers non-lethal weapons skills February 17-March 18, 2012.
The three Marines built on an ongoing State Department-sponsored mission aimed at rebuilding Liberia’s military called Operation Onward Liberty. They and around 16 Liberian instructors went over intermediate riot control and peacekeeping techniques meant to restore control without causing fatalities.
Special Purpose Marine Air Ground Task Force 12, the Marines’ unit, is charged with sending small security and logistics cooperation teams into Africa to partner with local militaries facing regional terror threats or instability. Liberia was one of a half dozen countries the task force visited over the course of their six month deployment in support of U.S. Marine Forces Africa.
« You’re going to use lethal force in combat, but you’re not going to use lethal force in a riot, » explained Gunnery Sergeant Robert Navarro, team non-commissioned officer in charge, adding that deadly measures can sometimes lead to more chaos instead of restoring order.
Sergeant Mark Benz, who earlier taught SPMAGTF-12 Marines nonlethal weapons techniques, had to mold his curriculum to fit the Liberian soldiers’ work schedules and available training materials, but said he was none the less impressed by his students’ enthusiasm.
« They were pumped the whole time, » he said. « They had really good
The team’s hard work paid off at the end of the training evolution when their students put on a large-scale demonstration of their new skills for Burundi’s defense minister.
The team conducted the second of a three phase nonlethal weapons training program with the Liberians, said Navarro, building on Onward Liberty’s progress. Future training teams will move into the third and final phase of the training. A major focus of the mission was making sure the small group of Liberian instructors the Marines worked with could continue training their own men after the Marines left, he added.