Senior leaders from 13 countries in Third Army/U.S. Army Central's area of operations came together for the fifth Land Forces Symposium in Columbus, Ga., Aug. 1 through 4.

The LFS was co-hosted by Chief of Staff of the Army Gen. George Casey, Jr. and Third Army commander Lt. Gen. William G. Webster.

During the four-day event - which addressed multilateral approaches to regional challenges - participants not only exchanged ideas, but focused on how to exchange efforts to address 21st-century challenges.

This was done through a series of panel topics on consequence management/critical infrastructure protection, regional security challenges and security cooperation programs.

Panelists included experts from both U.S. and partner nations who shared their knowledge and experience.

"At Third Army, we believe in teamwork and that maintaining a strong team enables synchronized efforts on a daily basis," Webster said as he spoke on the important role LFS plays in U.S. Central Command's area of operations.

"LFS brings together our partner nations' militaries, as a team, to build trust and to enhance our abilities to support each other both individually and collectively.

In the end, this will lead to better interoperability and mutual understanding."

In conjunction with the panel discussions, participants traveled to Fort Benning to observe live fire and urban operations demonstrations that provided insight into the tactics Soldiers and coalition forces are using.

Additionally, this was the first time LFS added an NCO component.

During the event, NCOs had a separate program that focused on issues important to enlisted Soldiers.

At times during the symposium, the NCO and officer programs overlapped.

During his opening comments to the delegates, Gen. James D. Thurman, commander, U.S. Army Forces Command, spoke about NCOs and their value.

"I am heartened to see that this LFS has a parallel program that is for senior noncommissioned officers," Thurman said.

"The U.S. Army takes great pride in our NCOs and the important work they do training and mentoring Soldiers.

Our NCOS are experienced professionals who not only provide inspiration and motivation to our troops, but also valuable advice and guidance to the officers."

Command Sgt. Maj. John D. Fourhman, Third Army command sergeant major, led the NCO portion of LFS which brought together sergeants major and senior NCOs from partner nations.

Fourhman said he designed the NCO portion to focus on three levels of training.

"I chose to focus on training for our NCO component because that is one thing that is common to everyone in this room," Fourhman said.

"That is our common ground, regardless what country you are from. It is through forums like this that we can get a better understanding of how we all operate."

This is the last year Third Army will co-host the symposium on an annual basis.

Future symposia will be held every two years. In the interim year, a maneuver symposium will be held that will be focused at the division and brigade levels.

Webster touched on this at the closing symposium where he left delegates with a message about the importance of fostering military to military relationships.

"We will no longer hold LFS annually," he said. "The next Land Forces Symposium will be held in two years, in 2012, and will be co-hosted in one of your countries. So as you depart, remember that you are part of this team. We must continue to strengthen the relationships we have built here at LFS. We must continue to work together, learn from one another and combine our efforts to deter destabilizing influences. This will make us stronger, more capable and inclined to work together with a greater degree of cooperation in the future."