Sierra Leone’s first Lieutenant General and former Chief of Defense Staff (CDS), Samuel Omar Williams over the weekend bowed out of the army when he formerly handed over the Baton of Office to his successor, Lieutenant General John Edson Milton.
The traditional but sombre ceremony took place at the Army Myohaung Officers’ Mess at Wilberforce Barracks.
In his handing over speech, Lt. Gen. S.O. Williams spoke about his over 30 years service in the army having been recruited as a Cadet Officer alongside twenty-seven others in 1977. He maintained that his experience in the army spans several areas and that he has seen the ups and downs of the military. “I believe I am leaving fully fulfilled,” he stated.
Highlighting some his achievements as CDS, he said he oversaw the deployment of Republic of Sierra Leone Armed Forces (RSLAF) battalion to the African Mission in Somalia and shared in the troop’s prowess and remarkable performance. He however lamented that the battalion could not be replaced due to the ebola outbreak in the country. He said he had completed plans for the deployment of Military Attaches to some of the country’s major embassies abroad such as in China and the African Union.
In the area of infrastructural development, the former CDS said the Gondama and Wilberforce Barracks have seen construction of new quarters as part of his projected 50% accommodation plan. Under his watch, government has approved the Kambia Barracks and by June construction on that site will commence.
Speaking about his successor, Lieutenant General (Rtd) SO Williams said, “I know he is in a better place to command the Armed Forces than me since he was born and bred in the barracks. I will miss the military environment and the Mess.”
After receiving the Baton, Lt. Gen. John Edson Milton said his predecessor will join the ranks of great Generals who served their country diligently. He noted that as the first Lieutenant General in the history of the RSLAF, the institution’s history will never be complete without the mentioning of “that giant leap and achievement,” he stated.
The new CDS went on to note that even though Gen Williams is leaving them, he feels assured that the men and women of the army will remain splendid in every aspect. He recalled the over thirty years service of his predecessor and the various capacities he had served and hoped that the RSLAF will always remain in his thoughts.
The new CDS is taking over the military at a critical time in the history of the RSLAF and the nation as a whole following the excruciating ebola outbreak. He said the ebola outbreak affected the army’s peacekeeping operations as it denied a whole battalion from relieving the previous one.
Lt. Gen. Milton paid tribute to the President and Commander-in-Chief, Ernest Bai Koroma for support to the army and assured that his latest orders to him to ensure a professional and disciplined army “are unambiguous and a very clear order” he stated.
He assured that improving the welfare of his troops and ensuring standards in their operations are top on his agenda.
He maintained, “In the military, orders are given not to limit discretion but to aid an officer to know your Commander’s intent. To achieve the Commander’s intent is the greatest of satisfaction and I have no doubt in my mind that with you and my men solidly behind me, we will succeed.”
Lt. Gen. Milton maintained that the army has come a long way from the Burma war to Kaladan, Myohaung and Cameroon, “it has produced men of valour, courage, bravery and international repute; it has had its own fair share of trials, tribulations, persecution and reformation. In all of these, what is comforting is that it has stood the test of time as a formidable unit.”
He called on all officers and men for collaborative work to ensure that the RSLAF maintains its standards. “Therefore I say to you, while I am determined and ready to provide the required leadership, I demand of you to provide the undivided loyalty and support. Support to the extent that when I ask you to charge you ask how far. When I ask you to complete a task at 5pm, you complete it by 3pm”.