YEREVAN, Armenia — Members of the 35th Infantry Division staff met with the Armenian National Defense Research University, members of the ministry of defense general staff, and students of the Vazgen Sargsyan Military Academy September 1-16, 2023, as part of the Kansas Army National Guard State Partnership Program. The purpose of the visit was to facilitate discussions and training on mission command and the officer/non-commissioned officer relationship from a U.S. Army and National Guard perspective.
This year marks the 20th anniversary of the State Partnership Program between the Kansas National Guard and the Republic of Armenia and the 30th anniversary of the State Partnership Program overall. Over the years, the Kansas National Guard has worked closely with the Armenian Ministry of Defense, Ministry of Health, Rescue Service and other governmental offices and agencies, cooperating on military-to-military, military-to-civilian and civilian-to-civilian events.
Topics for engagements are chosen through discussions between the two entities and depend on the capabilities and interests of each.
“One of the first things we did was meet with the commander of the NDRU — which is the equivalent of the U.S. Army War College — and his staff and talk through what he wanted out of the engagement,” said Lt. Col. Jason Inskeep, deputy operations officer for the 35th Infantry Division. “And then similarly, we talked with the commander of the military academy to see what his intent was. A big part of it is making sure we are meeting the commander’s intent.”
Mission command and officer/NCO relationships were chosen as topics in part because of the significant differences between the two countries’ doctrines.
“Currently, they are in the process of revising their doctrine and looking at how they utilize their NCO corps,” said Inskeep of the Armenian military. “Their NCOs don’t have the same types of responsibilities that NCOs have in the U.S. Army.”
Discussions centered around the U.S. Army’s concept of mission command, which allows for decentralization and the execution of disciplined initiative.
Command Sgt. Maj. Richard Peplow, senior operations NCO for the 35th Infantry Division, also noted of the differences in the way the doctrine of the two militaries codifies officer/NCO roles and responsibilities, remarking that the concept of mission command might seem somewhat strange to militaries in other countries.
“The Armenian idea of how their NCO corps works is completely different than in the United States Army,” said Peplow. “I hoped to be able to give the Armenian officers a different point of view. We weren’t there to say ‘Our way is the right way.’ It was about having an open dialogue about how we operate and the success we’ve had with it.”
Peplow, who recently returned from the 35th Infantry Division's 2022 deployment in support of Operation Spartan Shield, said it was helpful being able to provide real-world examples from his experiences.
“It was my first visit to Armenia and I didn’t really know what to expect,” said Peplow. “But I was pleasantly surprised with how open and accepting everyone was of us bringing a somewhat unusual, different way of doing things and their willingness to at least listen.”
With the Armenia/Kansas Army National Guard relationship being now well-established, Inskeep sees many more opportunities in the future to continue the conversations.
“Over the past 20 years, the amount of involvement we have had has only increased,” said Inskeep. “There’s a lot of opportunities to participate in exercises and instruction. The division is the unit of action for the Army, so it’s a good opportunity for us to teach what we know and what we do, and also for us to learn from their experiences.”