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Morale and Conditions of Service

After Doe assumed power, his government made the improvement of the soldiers' living conditions a central priority. Early in his tenure, the head of state enjoyed taking visitors to view the roofless, decaying structure at the BTC in which he and his family had been forced to live before the coup. With their low pay, no housing allowance, and only a limited number of overcrowded, crumbling barracks available, many enlisted men lived in conditions of near squalor. Poor living facilities have frequently been cited as an important contributing factor for the move to overthrow the Tolbert regime.

Among the PRC's first acts was an announcement that the wages of all security force personnel would be increased significantly. AFL privates had their pay raised to $250 per month; it has been reported that before the coup they had been paid as little as $78 per month. Sergeants saw their wages increase to $264; second lieutenants' pay went up to $319; colonels received $816 each month; and a lieutenant general, the highest rank in the AFL at that time, earned $1,363. Soon afterward, the financial difficulties that gripped the country caused the government to seek various ways of cutting its heavy payments to government workers. In 1984 the AFL soldiers, who had not received a wage increase since the coup, reportedly were not collecting their pay until a full month after the checks were due. The soldiers were favored by the government, however, compared with civilian workers, whose salaries had been cut by as much as 25 percent and who had not been paid for three months in early 1984.

The PRC also pledged to ameliorate the enlisted men's poor housing conditions. In radiobroadcasts during the first four days after the coup, the new government announced that various public and private buildings and compounds would be requisitioned for soldiers' housing. Shortly thereafter, the government announced that it would undertake a major program to build barracks to house soldiers. United States financial assistance and technical advice was promised in 1980 and was instrumental in carrying out the construction of over 1,000 dwellings that were nearing completion in 1984. New units had been constructed or were nearly complete at the BTC, Camp Schieffelin, at the military installations located in the Todee area, and at Camp Jackson at Naama near Gbarnga. Despite the new construction, the lack of adequate housing remained a serious problem for most soldiers stationed elsewhere in Liberia. Because of financial limitations, however, in 1984 there did not appear to be any plans to expand the effort to build new quarters.

The military was also seeking funding and authorization to construct a new building to house the offices of the Ministry of National Defense. The ministry was housed in old, often decrepit buildings scattered throughout downtown Monrovia. Given the shortage of government funds and the unwillingness of the United States to finance the construction of such a facility, it appeared unlikely in 1984 that it would be built, despite the desire of government and military leaders.

The military also suffered from a shortage of uniforms, belt this problem was being redressed in 1984. Cotton jungle camouflage fatigues had become the army's standard uniform and were considered appropriate for all occasions. The system of Liberian army ranks was identical to that of the United States Army, although rank insignia in the officer grades were distinctive (see fig. 13). The coast guard uniforms and ranks were patterned closely on those of their United States counterparts.

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