African partners take a photo together to mark their attendance at the African 2022 Senior Enlisted Leaders conference in Rome, Italy, in August 2022. (Photo by Staff Sgt. Flor Gonzalez)
African partners take a photo together to mark their attendance at the African 2022 Senior Enlisted Leaders conference in Rome, Italy, in August 2022. (Photo by Staff Sgt. Flor Gonzalez)
(Photo Credit: U.S. Army)

ROME, Italy - Senior enlisted leaders from over 20 African partner nations, the United States and NATO participated in the annual Senior Enlisted Leader Conference hosted by U.S. Africa Command Aug. 22-23. The conference marks the return of face-to-face engagements after COVID-19.

“Events like this are key to increasing the shared understanding between AFRICOM and our partners on the continent,” said U.S. Marine Corps Sgt. Maj. Richard Thresher, command senior enlisted leader, U.S. Africa Command, “and serve to strengthen the relationships we have already built, which are extremely important to our shared successes and increasing security and prosperity in Africa.”

The event enables senior enlisted leaders from across Africa to discuss a wide range of security issues.

The key objective of this event was to provide a forum for the U.S. AFRICOM command senior enlisted leader, component senior enlisted leaders, and National Guard senior enlisted to begin and strengthen relationships with African senior enlisted leaders.

“I am glad to be part of this conference because there are a lot of meaningful exchanges from NCOs who are willing to bring something to the army and who are giving an added value to the army and those they work with,” said Sgt. 1st Class Larissa Sama, an instructor in the Benin Army.

Key points discussed during the conference included defense security cooperation, the importance of leadership, noncommissioned officer professional military education programming best practices, and enlisted-to-officer transition programs.

“Enlisted members form the backbone of every professional military force. It is essential that all noncommissioned officers are trained and educated at each rank,” said Thresher. “Matching education with enlisted experience is key to building a trustworthy, capable force where decisions and actions can be delegated down to the lowest level.”

During the two-day event, representatives from each attending African country, senior enlisted leaders from the National Guard, and AFRICOM components shared insights on NCO development and answered questions from their counterparts.

The National Guard leaders attended because of their relationship with the African partners through the State Partnership Program. Through SPP, the partners conduct military-to-military engagements in support of defense security goals but also leverage whole-of-society relationships and capabilities to facilitate broader interagency and corollary engagements spanning military, government, economic and social spheres.

This conference also focused on officer and senior enlisted command relationships and military-to-civilian transition programs.

“To me, the last subject, that on how to transition from the military to the civilian, was very important,” said Cooper Manqueh, Liberia Forces sergeant major. “Is not that we do not know about it, but we do not have a program to cover that.”

U.S. Africa Command routinely conducts military-to-military engagements and security cooperation activities alongside African partners to build partner capacity, enhance regional cooperation, and increase interoperability.

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