DJIBOUTI - Four Kenyan Defense Force sergeants major, representing their Army, Navy and Air Force branches, visited the Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa (CJTF-HOA), March 14-16, 2011, to gain a better understanding of American noncommissioned officer leadership style.

The visit came in the aftermath of remarks made at the U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) change of command ceremony, held March 9 in Stuttgart, Germany, where incoming commander, U.S. Army Gen. Carter F. Ham, remarked on the importance of having a strong NCO corps.

"I believe our efforts to build warrant officer and noncommissioned officer capability are among our very highest priorities," Ham said. "I believe that we reflect the very best of America when we truly respect the diversity in our own ranks and the diversity that exists among the many peoples of Africa."

The U.S. and Kenyan participants discussed topics including NCO training, future partnership opportunities and learning about each other's enlisted structure.

"It was evident since day one that the Kenyans are very excited to be partners with us," said U.S. Marine Command Sgt. Maj. Scott Mykoo of CJTF-HOA. "We have seen throughout this whole thing that we are brothers-in-arms. We want to learn from each other."

Kenyan Defense Force Army Sgt. Maj. Joseph Kithome wants to mirror the American NCO model.

"NCOs are the backbone of the military; they have the confidence to perform duties in the absence of officers , and U.S. NCOs are best at this," Kithome said. "In the Kenyan military there are no NCO academies or leadership schools, so the responsibilities and expectations that are placed on American NCOs are not yet in effect in the Kenyan army," he said.

The Kenyan Defense Force's goal is to learn how to narrow the gap between officers and NCOs and wants to take what they have learned from U.S. NCOs back to their services.

"We have been doing this for 230 plus years," said Mykoo. "It took us years to get to [this] point, and now we are partnering and sharing [what we know] with them to help them grow even faster to develop their [Soldiers] in their country," he said.

Mykoo said the NCO philosophy focuses on professional development and personnel management so NCOs must be able to take charge on any specific mission and operate one rank above his or her actual rank.

"NCOs are confident and can stand on their own without the help of commissioned officers, and that is what we are looking for -- training one level up," said Kithome.

Based on their experiences at CJTF-HOA, the Kenyan delegation plans on establishing NCO and sergeant major academies that will teach the lessons learned from their American partners, said Kithome.

"We want to train the Army, Navy and Air Force together to create cohesion within the entire military," Kithome said. "We intend to emphasize three things: leadership skills, personnel management skills and one-level-up training," he said.

Kithome concluded that he plans to return to CJTF-HOA to see the progress of the diplomacy that CJTF- HOA extends to the people of Africa."

"If I get a chance, I am longing to come back to Djibouti," Kithome said. "The relationships that we formed were excellent, and I want to keep the interaction between the United States and Kenya because we are working toward one goal -- stability, not only in Kenya or America, but for the whole world."