AUCKLAND, New Zealand (Sept. 10, 2013) -- The largest annual gathering of land power senior military leadership in the Asia-Pacific region -- Pacific Armies Management Seminar, known as PAMS, and the concurrent Pacific Armies Chiefs Conference -- introduced a Senior Enlisted Leader program to this year's events.

Thirteen senior enlisted leaders representing nine different nations came together providing a unique opportunity to build relationships among the most experienced enlisted professionals leading their respective Army's noncommissioned officer corps.

This integrated Senior Enlisted Leader, or SEL, program enables senior non-commissioned officers, known as NCOs, and Warrant Officers from throughout the Asia-Pacific region to foster relationships, while engaging in the exchange of ideas and concepts addressing contemporary regional security challenges.

The SEL spent the day discussing "duty of care," a term that collectively captures the responsibilities to take care of Soldiers and their families. The day-long event started with emotional testimony from parents whose son died while serving in the New Zealand Army and shaped the group's discussion throughout the day.

The collective group of sergeants major and warrant officers talked candidly about a series of topics including how best to care for troops, both in theatre and at home, the challenges of post-traumatic stress, methods and programs to support survivor families and lessons learned throughout the years.

Sgt. Maj. of the New Zealand Army W01 Danny Broughton said co-hosting this SEL forum "is an amazing opportunity to add to the international stage to discuss many of the issues that we have in common. I feel very privileged and honored to co-host this first senior enlisted portion. We're able to identify issues and share ideas and solutions."

Sgt. Maj. of the Army Raymond F. Chandler III said it's important to remember and understand that the role of the non-commissioned officer within the U.S. Army has expanded greatly since 2001, and while America's efforts in the Pacific were limited as the U.S. was fighting two wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the commitment to the alliances and partnerships in the region never wavered.

"That continued presence to try and build partner nation capacity and stronger NCO corps is finally being codified today and during this week with this first senior enlisted conference for [Pacific Armies Management Seminar/Pacific Armies Chiefs Conference]," Chandler said.

The effect of the SEL program is that it fosters an environment where colleagues can network, develop trusted, cooperative and collaborative relationships while also creating respect and understanding across cultures.

"We get to share more ideas on how to train and develop the NCOs across the different countries," said Command Sgt. Maj. Frank Leota, U.S. Army Pacific's senior enlisted advisor. The SEL program is another step toward reinforcing these skills and attributes so critical to strengthening armies across the Asia-Pacific.