ROBERTS INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT, LIBERIA -- Six Marines of the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit (Special Operations Capable)'s Air, Naval Gunfire Liaison Company (ANGLICO) were recently sent into Liberia to provide liaison between U.S. military forces and those of the Economic Community of West African States' Military Forces (ECOMIL).
Over 12 days in Liberia, these Marines coordinated high-speed, low passes by 26 MEU (SOC) AH-1W "Super Cobra" attack helicopters, facilitated logistics drops of concertina wire to assist Nigerian peacekeepers' construction of security check points and facilitated the link-up of Marine combat engineers with Nigerian forces at Monrovia's port facility, explained Capt. Michael Charney, ANGLICO's officer-in-charge.
"A highlight for us was seeing the great job that the Nigerians were doing," said the Elmhurst, Ill., native. "At times, we would often see eight to ten Nigerian peacekeepers effectively handling a crowd of a couple thousand Liberians," he said.
While the crowds were enormous, they were very peaceful, said Cpl. Rodney Taylor, an ANGLICO forward observer. "Many of the Liberians seemed to be curious and just wanted to see the Marines," said the Beckley, W.V. native.
Taylor explained that when he and his fellow Marines first stepped foot into Liberia, the downtown areas of Monrovia, especially on Bushrod Island, were ravaged from the brutal civil war and appeared unsalvageable at the time. But, since the ECOMIL forces deployed into those areas, Liberia's citizens have begun the task of rebuilding their communities and have made very visible progress.
"Markets started opening, people were cleaning the streets and looking for jobs. It was as if the city did a complete 180 degree turnaround," Taylor explained.
This wasn't the first time that some of these Marines found themselves at the forefront, interacting with the people of a war-torn nation. In April, while in Mosul, Iraq supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom, Sgt. Nicholas M. Grungo and two of his fellow ANGLICO Marines also observed many people who were very "Pro-American" and were exhausted from fighting under an oppressive regime.
"We did some liaison work with U.S. Army Civil Affairs personnel and visited some local hospitals in Iraq. All in all, the people were pretty friendly and appeared to be relieved and pleased to finally see Americans there. But, we never forgot that we were in a war zone and to keep our guard up," said the 23 year-old Blackwood, NJ native.
Now in Liberia, Grungo and his fellow ANGLICO Marines saw another opportunity to try to make a difference for an oppressed people. "Even though the people of Liberia were very friendly, it still got your attention when thousands of people rushed up to you. It was a weird experience and they just wanted to touch us to see if we were real since they had waited for assistance to end their suffering for so long."
After completing their work with the ECOMIL forces and various humanitarian organizations around Monrovia, the ANGLICO Marines packed their gear and awaited their helicopter ride to the ships of the USS IWO JIMA Amphibious Ready Group.
To learn more about the Marines of ANGLICO and the rest of the 26th MEU (SOC), visit them on the web at www.26meu.usmc.mil.