ASTANA, Kazakhstan--A group of U.S. military senior NCO's visited Astana, Kazakhstan to participate in an NCO symposium August 22-26.

Service members from U.S. Army Central, U.S. Air Force Central, and the Arizona Army and Air National Guard had an opportunity to meet with their foreign counterparts to review the past years progress in development of the Kazakhstani NCO corps.

"Events like these allow us to come together in a professional environment to discuss current issues relevant to both our nations and share ideas that benefit one another," said Command Sgt. Maj. Eric C. Dostie, U.S. Army Central's senior noncommissioned officer.

Since their independence from the Soviet Union, Kazakhstan has been working with the U.S., building a lasting and important partnership.

"The more we can work with other countries and expose our military to joint experiences the better prepared we are because in today's world the reality is that we are never going to fight alone but rather always together as a coalition," said Sgt 1st Class David Barberet, USARCENT security cooperation branch noncommissioned officer in charge.

This year, Kazakhstan's NCO corps is celebrating its 20th anniversary. This event had a special meaning because it was attended exclusively by NCO's.

"The significance of this being an NCO driven event is to show the relevance of the NCOs in today's armed forces, that our roles and responsibilities have evolved and that we can offer a lot," said Dostie.

Command Sgt. Maj. Pavel Shishkin, Ministry of Defense NCO directorate chief of training, stated that through overcoming numerous obstacles, the NCO corps has developed monumentally, gaining respect and recognition for its role in the military.

"During the past few years alone, we have completed more than 60 joint engagements with the U.S. forces and have shown to our commanders the necessity of the NCO corps. We have built trust by reassuring them that they can rely on our NCO's to achieve their goals," said Shishkin.

Modeled in large part after the U.S. Army NCO program, the Kazakhs were eager to hear about the future NCO initiatives and current training plans.

"The development of our NCO corps foundation was modeled after the U.S. with input and ideas from other nations. This process made it unique and original, tailored to fit our needs. We still are constantly improving our NCO corps and gaining insight from current models," said Shishkin.

One day of the visit was dedicated to members breaking into several smaller working groups to discuss unit specified priorities and training initiatives. Each of these groups aligned with their specialties and subject matter knowledge. This ensured particular needs could be addressed in a more focused and detailed manner. The working groups determined the best ways to accomplish each of the desired initiatives and briefed the plans for future engagements to the rest of the groups at the end of the breakout session.

"When they find something they like they implement it and are very quick to adopt new ideas if they think it will better their corps," said Barberet.

The group was given a tour of the NCO academy in Schuchinsk that showcased the academy's curriculum and demonstrated how the instructors achieve their training goals by mentally and physically challenging their students. Key members of the delegation were invited to speak to the current class of cadets during the tour. During the question and answer session Dostie addressed several key points about the qualities of good NCO's.

"What makes a noncommissioned officer special is the relationship you will have with your Soldiers and the key to your success will be this relationship. You must always set the example by being a leader that they will want to be one day. Never take shortcuts, and inspire them with your actions," said Dostie.

Other key areas of discussion and priorities during the symposium were safety, family support groups, train the trainer programs, educational system development, and drill sergeant courses.

During the visit, the Kazakhstani NCOs hosted an informal dinner and, although there were many new faces, some old friends were also reunited. Command Sgt. Maj. Dostie and Command Sgt. Maj. Temirbek Khalykov, Kazakhstan Armed Forces senior NCO, both attended the U.S. Army Sergeants Major Academy together. Khalykov was the first NCO from Kazakhstan to attend the course.

Getting to know one another on a more personal level is important as the military is a small tight knit community. Throughout a career the chance is high that one will work alongside someone they know.

"It's very important to get to know who you're working with outside of a work environment because it tells you who they are and you can get a better appreciation for what they value. It's all about knowing the person," said Barberet.

The event concluded with an agreement on future proposed events and a gift exchange.
"These events signify the next level of our partnership and I am more than confident knowing the views expressed by my commanders that our partnership will continue to grow in the future because every year brings us new challenges and opportunities for us to work together," said Shishkin.

"It's amazing how they've established an NCO corps and come so far in such a short time. The backing the president and minister of defense have for them really shows how important this is to them, their country, and their armed forces. I look forward to working with them and helping develop their corps through several planned engagements in the upcoming years," said Dostie.