Bolstering NCO corps a priority for Army's partner nations

By Joe Lacdan, Army News ServiceJune 20, 2023

Command senior enlisted leaders with the Republic of Korea-U.S. Alliance gather around the ROK 3rd Infantry Division's White Skull in South Korea, on June 23, 2022. The CSELs participated in the 2nd Annual Keystone Seminar, a three-day event meant to bring the senior NCOs together to build esprit de corps and learn about Korean military history. (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Kris Bonet)
Command senior enlisted leaders with the Republic of Korea-U.S. Alliance gather around the ROK 3rd Infantry Division's White Skull in South Korea, on June 23, 2022. The CSELs participated in the 2nd Annual Keystone Seminar, a three-day event meant to bring the senior NCOs together to build esprit de corps and learn about Korean military history. (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Kris Bonet) (Photo Credit: Staff Sgt. Kris Bonet) VIEW ORIGINAL

HONOLULU — Army enlisted leaders want to help allies build a stronger non-commissioned officer corps, which has long been a key facet of U.S. forces.

Citing a 2022 report on the importance of a strong NCO corps in the Ukraine War, Sgt. Maj. Scott Brzak, U.S. Army Pacific command sergeant major, said empowering NCOs is something the Army hopes to impart to its allied nations.

In addition to leading and mentoring, the Army charges NCOs with training new Soldiers, developing small unit tactics and providing a connection to leadership.

Senior NCOs from across the Army shared experiences from joint exercises with multinational partners during a panel discussion at the Pacific Land Forces Symposium in Hawaii, held in May. The enlisted leaders said that interoperability and cooperation among partner nations will be a key factor in armed conflict in the Indo-Pacific.

In July and August, U.S. Soldiers will train with foreign nations in the planning and execution of joint task force operations at Talisman Sabre, a large-scale, multi-national exercise hosted by the Australian military.

Building trust among its multinational allies continues to be a priority for the U.S. Army, as the service prepares for Talisman Sabre and Project Convergence 2024.

“There are several countries that are buying into empowering their NCOs and increasing their roles and responsibilities,” Brzak said. “There’s a lot of good learning going on from one another. We are learning just as much from them as they are learning from us.”

One example is Army NCOs working closely with South Korean allies on bolstering retention and trust among the Republic of Korea enlisted leaders. During various trainings, ROK NCOs work closely with American NCOs.

“They’re seeing how we train our Soldiers and how we execute our missions,” said Sgt. Maj. Robert Cobb, 8th Army command sergeant major.

South Koreans’ areas of focus include medical training and casualty evacuation for its enlisted leaders, Cobb said. U.S. and South Korean Armies have trained together for underground operations.

Cobb added that U.S. Soldiers work with their South Korean counterparts on sustaining the force during longer battles to build greater warfighting capacity. ROK leaders also would like greater retention among its NCO corps, Cobb said, as South Korea struggles to keep its NCOs longer than two years.

Building trust through shared experiences with allies can be critical to dominance in the Indo-Pacific and throughout each theater, said Sgt. Maj. Shawn Carns, I Corps command sergeant major. During Operation Pathways, I Corps, based at Joint Base Lewis McChord, Washington, takes part in 31 annual multi-national exercises in 13 nations hosted by USARPAC.

During the series of exercises, thousands of Soldiers participate in strategic movement simulation, operational maneuvers and tactical employment of land forces at different locations in the Pacific. The Army also tests its ability to receive and distribute its equipment.

“We prioritize communication, collaboration training and [a] learning environment,” Carns said. “It goes back to that relationship; you’ve got to build relationships professionally but also personally. One of the challenges is cultural differences. You’re going to get that culture difference and understand a little bit professionally.”

Carns said encouraging feedback from partner nations can be achieved by something as simple as sharing ideas over dinner.

Army Futures Command, headquartered in Austin, Texas employs 30,000 including scientists, doctors, Soldiers and engineers. AFC’s Future Vertical Lift Cross-Functional Team recently participated in the 2023 Experimental Demonstration Gateway Event, or Edge, at Yuma Proving Ground, Arizona. During the experiments, the Army tested its communication and its interoperability capabilities with 11 partner nations.

Already in fiscal year 2023 the Army has held 250 Soldier touchpoints, or testing and feedback sessions, where many enlisted Soldiers provide their inputs on future equipment, vehicles and concepts. That number has risen from the 200 touchpoints the service held in FY 2022.

“We have to have an Army that’s purpose-built to dominate the land force no matter what theater we’re operating in,” said Sgt. Maj. Brian Hester, AFC command sergeant major. “But we also have to have those warriors that are informing those scientists and those technologists and bringing unique capabilities that might be our future so that the Army can fight and win regardless of the theater, regardless of the situation.”

Hester said the Soldier touchpoints also help guide Project Convergence, the service’s annual series of experiments held each fall.

U.S. Indo Pacific Command identified three objectives: interoperability among allies, information sharing and expanded access across the region.

The command, which oversees an area that spans more than 36 nations and half of the earth’s surface, achieves those objectives through synchronizing information sharing and intelligence sharing agreements between partners and allies, said INDOPACOM senior enlisted leader, Navy Fleet Master Chief David Isom.

He added that allied nations have requested additional bases where partner militaries can train together.

The Army provides collaborative experiences with nations like Singapore, Australia and the Philippines in training exercises early in Soldiers’ careers, an experience Carns was not afforded until he became a senior NCO.

“It’s very important for us to understand [allied partners]” Carns said. “I didn’t understand joint and working with multinational partners [as a younger Soldier]. So, I was able to get that experience when I was a sergeant major.”

RELATED LINKS:

Empowering the Future: The Vital Role of NCO Professional Development in the Army

Army News Service

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