CAMP JACKSON, South Korea (July 16, 2012) -- U.S. and Republic of Korea Army noncommissioned officers will soon train together at the Eighth Army Wightman NCO Academy here.

Republic of Korea, or ROK, Army Sergeant Major of the Army Jeong Hae-cheon and Eighth Army Command Sgt. Maj. Rodney D. Harris signed a memorandum of understanding here, July 16, to implement the bilateral NCO training program.

Attended by many senior ROK Army and U.S. Army command sergeants major, the signing ceremony marked the beginning of the combined training program at the NCO leadership academy.

Starting in August 2012, ROK Army staff sergeants and sergeants first class will attend the Warrior Leader Course and Army Instructor Basic Course at the academy.

According to Eighth Army Wightman NCO Academy Commandant Command Sgt. Maj. William C. Baker, the initiative represents a milestone since it will be the first time allied NCOs will study together in the 51-year history of the academy.

Originally established in May 1960 as the 7th Infantry Division Noncommissioned Officer Academy, the academy was re-designated the Eighth Army Wightman NCO Academy in November 1969.

Baker said the courses will be conducted entirely in English and the ROK Army NCOs will have to pass the Defense Language Institute English exam prior to attending the course. During the courses, the ROK Army students will also be paired with American Soldiers who will serve as their sponsors.

Designed to strengthen the ROK-U.S. Alliance, Baker said the training courses will improve integration and increase the readiness of alliance ground forces.

"This course will allow NCOs from both armies to learn from each other as they communicate throughout the course," said Baker. "It will provide a strong base for the ROK Army to further develop and enhance their own NCO Corps, giving their NCOs the necessary skills to train, lead and develop their junior leaders."

The NCO Academy agreement is part of Eighth Army's focus on increasing its interoperability with the ROK Army.

Calling the bilateral training program "historic," Harris said the initiative strengthens the alliance where it matter most "where Soldiers are maneuvering together on the battlefield."

"This serves as a testament to the importance of what we're doing to strengthen the alliance on a peninsula where any given day we could be called upon to defend this nation," said Harris.

Signing the agreement was the last official act for Jeong, who will soon retire and step down from the ROK Army's top enlisted post.

"This is a great opportunity for the ROK Army and the ROK NCOs," said Jeong, "and the U.S.-Korea Alliance will grow."