ROBERTS INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT, LIBERIA -- Marines and Sailors of Lima Battery, Battalion Landing Team 1/8, recently executed the third of a series of immediate action drills at Roberts International Airport with ECOMIL forces (Economic Community of West African States Military Forces) stationed here to maintain security for the airport.
Lima Battery, the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit's quick reaction force (QRF) recently established ashore, gives the JTF-Liberia Commander the ability to rapidly support ECOMIL forces, should that assistance be required. While the mission of the entire QRF is to support ECOMIL forces anywhere in Liberia with more than 150 Marines, a smaller subset of nearly 50 Marines and Sailors has begun coordinating with the ECOMIL peacekeepers at the airport as an Airfield QRF.
The purpose of these drills is to maintain the QRF's proficiency and focus, said 1st Lt. Stephen M. Sarnecky, a platoon commander with the airfield QRF. "We are here to provide the Nigerian QRF any type of immediate support inside Roberts International as well as vehicular or heliborne support to ECOMIL forces outside the airfield," he said.
"The drills also ensure that the Marines here have a firm grasp of the layout of the airfield, the way that our forces and the Nigerian peacekeepers conduct operations and ensures that we are more prepared to support the Nigerian QRF, if required," Sarnecky said.
Sgt. L. Godspower, a Nigerian Platoon Sergeant, leads the First Nigerian Battalion's QRF Platoon at the airfield and was among the first ECOMIL forces to arrive in Liberia August 4th. His platoon has been conducting immediate action drills every day since he arrived at the airfield and he welcomed the Marines' participation, he said. "The best thing about the Marines is the firepower that they bring to the QRF," Godspower said, referring to the vehicle-mounted M2 .50 caliber and M240G machine guns poised behind his platoon as he spoke. "If our QRF and their QRF can join together and move together, we will be better prepared to respond as one unit," he said.
The morale remains high among the Nigerians here, Godspower said. "We are all proud to be here to rescue our brothers from the suffering and bloodshed," he said.
That same sense of pride is also prevalent among the Marines here as the presence of U.S. forces continues to foster an environment where the flow of humanitarian aid can resume in a country struggling to recover from a brutal civil war.
For Marine QRF platoon sergeant, Sgt. Bryan M. Toblin of Jacksonville, Fla., one of the best aspects of the combined immediate action drills is that the Liberian people inside and outside the airfield's perimeter can see the ECOMIL and U.S. forces working together. "It lets them know that we are here and have the ability to respond," he said.