Sea-based Marines deliver humanitarian supplies to Liberians
MONROVIA, Liberia — The streets were lined with hundreds of smiling faces and thumbs-up signs. Happy shouts of "Marines!" were directed towards a humanitarian assistance convoy of two seven-ton trucks and several humvees laden with thousands of dollars worth of hospital and school supplies making their way slowly through the city of Monrovia, Liberia.
3/25/2008 By Sgt Rocco DeFilippis, Marine Forces Europe
Marines from 4th Landing Support Battalion completed the first of two days of convoy operations March 25 delivering humanitarian assistance supplies throughout Monrovia as part of the exercise West African Training Cruise 2008 being held March 17 to April 5. The exercise is in conjunction with the ongoing African Partnership Station deployment and has a focus on the delivery of humanitarian assistance supplies to various clinics and schools in Monrovia, Liberia from a sea based command.
Operating from aboard the High Speed Vessel-2 Swift, the Marines showcased sea basing, and keeping a limited footprint ashore by returning each day to load the next shipment of humanitarian assistance supplies requested by the Liberian government and donated by United States European Command's J4 Humanitarian Assistance Directorate.
"We are working to establish those friendly relationships while at the same time exposing the Marines to a new and different culture," said Maj. Jason Smith, convoy commander and a Marysville, Wash., native. "I wouldn't call [the supplies] luxury items, but these supplies will provide a definite improvement to the quality of life at these facilities."
During the first day of convoy operations the Marines delivered medical supplies to JFK Hospital; Monrovia's main hospital, and Logan Town Clinic, a small clinic on the outskirts of the city. While in Logan Town they also delivered school supplies for Arthur Askie School.
The supplies consisted of multiple disposable medical supplies, furniture, text books and other school supplies. The total value of the items to be delivered over the two days is $58,000.
"Today is a day that the Lord has made, because we have been long awaiting these supplies to come in," said Rev. Elwood Jangaba, director of Agencies for Holistic Evangelism and Development International associated with the Logan Town clinic. "I think they are going to make a great impact to the community when we see the health care delivery system in this community brought to life."
"It's not only a great training exercise, but it's a good opportunity to experience something new working with another country in peace-time environment," said Lance Cpl. Brandon S. Malone, 4th LSB heavy equipment operator and Vienna, Ohio native.
Although the Marines of 4th LSB come from reserve units across the United States, Smith said the importance of the mission weighed heavily on the preparation training.
"Because of the magnitude of the exercise, the Marines knew that preparation for this mission would be key," Smith said. "All of the Marines have put a lot of time into this outside their own regularly scheduled training. All of the Marines were really excited once they got this opportunity."
The convoy fits into the larger picture of WATC 08, by serving as a component of a sea-basing exercise. During the first phases, equipment aboard Maritime Prepositioning Ships USNS 2nd Lt John Bobo and USNS LCpl Roy M. Wheat was linked up with forces from aboard the USS Fort McHenry (LSD 43), assembled at sea and then transferred between the naval platforms using the Improved Navy Lighterage System. Using the causeways and ferry system that makes up the INLS, the Marines were capable of moving vehicles from ship-to-ship in open seas for the first time.
"The importance of this phase for the Marine Corps is two fold," said Lt. Col. Roy Edmonds, exercise support team officer-in-charge and native of Dallas. "Not only does it show that we can operate from a sea base, transit through an austere port and execute a humanitarian assistance mission; but it also gives us an opportunity to conduct security cooperation with the Armed Forces of Liberia and establish positive relations through good will."
During the convoy, the Marines were aided by a variety of international and inter-agency organization such as the United Nations Mission in Liberia, the Liberian National Police, the Armed Forces of Liberia and numerous state department members who arranged security and traffic management, as well as other coordination during the convoy ashore.
"This event could not have occurred without the planning efforts of many different agencies," Edmonds said. "Truly, this has been an international team effort."
After the completion of the second day of convoys, the Marines will conduct a wash down of the vehicles to prepare for agricultural inspections and then transfer the vehicles back to the Maritime Prepositioning Ships, again using the INLS.
Overall, the Marines said the convoy provided a unique opportunity in a time when the Corps is fighting a war with one hand, and lending out the other to help those in need.
"For the young Marine, it's important for them to understand that the Marine Corps is more than just kicking down doors-we can actually help people in other ways," Smith said. "Because of the current mission in Iraq, for so many of these young Marines, that's the only part they know, so this is an opportunity for them to see a different part of the Marine Corps and make a difference in this part of the world."