CAMP SHELBY, Miss. – Addressing challenges facing the National Guard and unleashing the collective experience and knowledge of senior enlisted leaders from across the country to identify solutions drove the agenda at the Command Senior Enlisted Leader training forum Oct. 26-28.
The annual event, hosted by Senior Enlisted Advisor Tony Whitehead, senior enlisted advisor to the chief of the National Guard Bureau, brings together the CSELs from each of the 54 joint-force headquarters to collaborate, share best practices and discuss issues across the force.
“We have 54 states, territories and the District of Columbia, and those are 54 different ways of getting things done,” Whitehead observed. “However, when we get together, we find out that there are a lot of commonalities that will help us get after those things that challenge our Soldiers, our Airmen and their families.”
He said the forum offers a great opportunity for CSELs to get to know one another, learn about each state’s capabilities, and discuss ways to best advise their adjutants general.
The three-day event included multiple guest speakers, joint force updates, and an emphasis on the CNGB’s top four priorities – people, readiness, modernization and reform. In addition, the attendees took the Army Combat Fitness Test together.
“Having the ACFT as part of our training was a great opportunity for our command senior enlisted leaders to see what some of the challenges and some of the great things about the ACFT,” Whitehead said. “It will better inform leaders in ways to help our Soldiers get about doing those things that will make them better warriors.”
This year’s keynote speaker, Army Gen. Daniel Hokanson, chief of the National Guard Bureau, talked about the importance of taking care of our Soldiers, Airmen and their families. One common theme across the force, noted the CNGB, was finding child care over the drill weekends, especially for dual-serving families. He encouraged the CSELs who have successfully addressed the issue in their states to share solutions.
Hokanson also stressed the importance of getting medical care for all Guard members. He said one of his highest priorities was to ensure every service member has the medical care they need to stay ready because they never know when they will be called up to support their state or nation.
“At the end of the day, the reason the National Guard is here is to fight in our nation’s wars,” Hokanson said. “We are manned, trained and equipped to fight wars. We are part of combat rotations in both the Army and Air Force.
“The manning, the training and equipping,” he continued, “allows us to do all those other things that we do: respond to COVID-19, wildfires, hurricanes, flooding and disasters within our communities.”
Hokanson asked the CSELs to work with their organizations to ensure all units meet their regimental requirements and look for ways to improve processes.
“We need to make the organization the best we can,” Hokanson said. “We need to continue to prove the incredible value we provide for our nation. We also need to secure the required funding for modernization and full-time manning so we can maintain the capabilities we currently have.”
The latest CSEL forum, Whitehead said, will be a big step in the right direction.
“The energy we’ve developed as a command senior enlisted leader team is going to be a force multiplier as we go forward,” he said. “I am so proud of what they [the CSELs] have done for their Soldiers, Airmen and their families, but more importantly, I am excited about the ideas they have about how we can get after doing those things in the future.”