Approximately 40 senior enlisted leaders from Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Mexico and Peru visited Fort Benning, Ga., and Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., Oct. 28 - Nov. 4 to meet with senior enlisted leaders from the U.S. military and discuss ways to fine-tune their armies' senior enlisted and noncommissioned officers corps by participating in leadership development seminars.
During the visit, the group of students from the Colombian Sergeants Major Academy traveled to the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation at Fort Benning to learn more about the U.S. NCO professional military education system and to promote attendance to future WHINSEC courses.
"One of the most important principles here at WHINSEC is to foster relationships between partner countries," said Command Sgt. Maj. Carlos Olvera, the WHINSEC command sergeant major. "That's what this visit is doing. It provides us an opportunity to get to know each other, not only how we operate militarily, but culturally as well. I think this is important because the U.S. does not respond to a crisis alone, instead we respond with partner nations."
The U.S. delegation included senior enlisted leaders from Army South, U.S. Southern Command, U.S. Special Operations Command South, 12th Air Force (Air Forces Southern), U.S. Marine Corps Forces South, the Joint Interagency Task Force-South and WHINSEC.
This visit served to expose and educate future Colombian military and regional senior enlisted leaders to U.S. NCO professional military education, professional development, and to promote Colombian and U.S. military student exchanges.
"For many years, the U.S. has sent Soldiers to Colombia to provide training to our soldiers," said Colombia's Command Sergeant Major of the Army Henry Dulce. "Now, this two-way exchange will strengthen the ties between both our armies."
Throughout the visit, the senior leaders were able to discuss ways to improve the Colombian military senior NCO development system by fostering discussions and ideas on conducting senior level NCO development. In addition, Colombian senior enlisted leaders shared their achievements and accomplishments throughout the region.
"The Colombians have been engaged in internal conflict for well over three decades so they bring with them a wealth of knowledge that we can learn from," said Olvera. "We know that they are capable and willing to share their experiences to help make our region safer."
The relationship between Colombia and the U.S. enlisted ranks will continue to grow as there is a plan for the U.S. to start sending some students to the Colombian Sergeants Major Academy starting next year.
"The beauty of the Colombian senior NCO academy and especially the sergeants major that are attending this visit, is that Colombia has pioneered the joint international training doctrine that we try to mirror here in the U.S.," said Command Sgt .Maj. William B. Zaiser, the SOUTHCOM command senior enlisted advisor. "I cannot emphasize enough how great it is that Colombia has been able to establish this program that includes the most senior NCOs in the region."
The goal for each of the senior leaders NCO courses is to prepare U.S. and partner nation sergeants major and first sergeants for command responsibilities as senior enlisted leaders.
This engagement directly supports Army South's theater security cooperation line of effort. The expectation from this commitment is for direct engagement with command sergeants major from Army South, the Maneuver Center of Excellence, WHINSEC and Colombian army, along with the Colombian army sergeants major academy students that will furthermore establish linkages and strengthen relationships for future security cooperation in the region.
"Their ability to work side-by-side with us to help us force multiply in some of those countries that are truly desperate for good partner nation capacity building is key," said Zaiser. "Their efforts have significantly been instrumental in building stability in the region."
The engagement also supports one of SOUTHCOM's priorities in building the capabilities of regional militaries and security forces to confront internal challenges to stability, sovereignty, and security by sharing expertise and information and providing training and logistics support.
"In our resource constrained environment, we are not able to engage as much as we would like to within the SOUTHCOM area of responsibility," said Zaiser. "When we don't do that, sometimes others step in. In this case, Colombia has stepped in and projected security cooperation training outside their borders into countries like Panama, Honduras and Guatemala.