TOLAY, Ethiopia (July 27, 2009) -- When Sgt. Maj. Brian Warren recently spoke to a group of officers about how to best support new Soldiers and the importance of noncommissioned officer evaluations, his words were translated into Amharic -- the language of Ethiopia.

Warren, U.S. Army Africa's communications sergeant major, was one of several senior enlisted leaders from U.S. Army Africa and U.S. Africa Command who spent time mentoring Ethiopia National Defence Force (ENDF) officers -- the core cadre of instructors who will, in turn, help the Ethiopian military build its top enlisted ranks.

The guest lecture program is part of a 12-week course coordinated by U.S. Army Soldiers from Combined Joint Task Force - Horn of Africa (CJTF-HOA). The program takes place at an Ethiopian training camp near Tolay, roughly a four-hour drive west of the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa.

"We sometimes call this a 'train-the-trainer' program," Warren said. "In this case, the Ethiopian students ranked from lieutenant to major. They will go forth and instruct ENDF NCOs to become sergeants major. For them, it's a way forward."

Ethiopia recently established the noncommissioned officer ranks of sergeant major and command sergeant major, Warren said. The discussions covered a variety of topics that sergeants majors might face serving at battalion and brigade levels.

In late-2008, a CJTF-HOA team of U.S. Army NCOs from the Fort Sill, Okla. -based 2nd Battalion, 18th Field Artillery Regiment, began sharing coursework with ENDF instructors -- professional leadership development similar to what U.S. Army NCOs undergo when they progress through enlisted ranks.

At that time, ENDF training cadre suggested the U.S. Soldiers offer instructor training to support the newly-created senior enlisted ranks. The 2-18th Soldiers began that task in early 2009, offering insight to the ENDF on how they can instruct a sergeant major-level course.

A call went out to U.S. Africa Command for guest mentors to provide support. Sergeants major from U.S. Army Africa and U.S. Africa Command responded. In May, Command Sgt. Maj. Mark Ripka, U.S. Africa Command's senior enlisted leader, launched the guest visits. Mentors, to include senior enlisted leaders from CJTF-HOA, Special Operation Command-Africa, Marine Forces-Africa began rotating through the program, staying roughly a week at a time.

Supporting the course in Ethiopia is a great way to cooperate with African military counterparts, said Sgt. Maj. Kellyjack Luman, U.S. Army Africa's operations sergeant major, who spent the last week of June in Tolay.

"NCO capacity building will continue to grow, as the ENDF incorporate tools we offer with their own unique requirements," Luman said.

As U.S. Army celebrates 2009 as the Year of the NCO, Luman said the team of CJTF-HOA NCOs mentoring in Ethiopia exemplifies the NCO ethos at its best.

"Our NCOs are doing a magical job in an austere environment," Luman said. "And they are building lasting relationships."

Like many militaries in Africa, Ethiopia's forces traditionally rely on officers for leadership. U.S. Army, however, maintains the longstanding professional NCO corps, which offers leadership, guidance, and motivation to Soldiers of all ranks. That concept is catching on with the ENDF and other African nations who partner with U.S. forces, said Sergeant Major Bryan Witzel, U.S. Army Africa's senior logistics NCO, who just returned from a week at Tolay.

"Ethiopians appear to be very open people, open to new ideas," Witzel said. "The ENDF is looking to strengthen the capabilities of its NCOs. They have a clear concept of where they want to go."

Having U.S. Army sergeants major on hand added to the discussion, Witzel said.
"You can have the science of instruction - the lecture on Powerpoint slides," Witzel said. "Our visits provide the art behind the science."

Managing conflicts within an organization is something U.S. Army sergeants major often face. Witzel's lecture covered how "everyday conflicts are part of organizational behavior," he said.

"Our discussion focused on ways to understand and mitigate such conflict and how conflicts are okay if managed properly," Witzel said.

While establishing rapport, the U.S. Army NCOs also assessed ENDF capabilities to find better ways to partner.

"We learn their structure, they learn ours," Witzel said. "In the future, we can work better together in a combined effort."