News: The heart of empowering NCOs
Story by Sgt. 1st Class John Laughter
GARMISCH-PARTENKIRCHEN, Germany - Across NATO, nations are searching for ways to build capabilities with existing assets while maintaining the high-level of cooperation gained from over a decade of combined efforts in Afghanistan.
In nearly all of the 28 NATO nations, there exists a capability, or as Supreme Allied Commander Europe Gen. Phil Breedlove describes it, an “untapped goldmine” of experience, ability, and knowledge within the enlisted ranks, especially in the noncommissioned officers.
The command senior enlisted leaders of U.S. European Command and NATO Allied Command Operations have orchestrated an international seminar, which brings together national-level command senior enlisted leaders from more than 30 nations.
The 10th annual International Senior Enlisted Seminar, held at the George C. Marshall European Center for Security Studies Sept. 9-13, brought these leaders together in order to enhance the sharing of ideas among the most senior noncommissioned officers while continuing to develop the noncommissioned officer corps of NATO, Partnership for Peace, and key-contact nations.
After meeting with the CSELs on Sept. 11, Breedlove said, “There is a richness and depth at ISES in the relationships that are built here.”
He went on to state that you can’t surge trust and the relationships built at ISES a critical part of NATO’s future interoperability.
Command Chief Master Sgt. Todd Small, command senior enlisted leader for Allied Command Operations, echoed Breedlove’s sentiment, “The relationships built over the course of the last decade, at each ISES, are the foundation of everything we do.”
During the six-day seminar, enlisted leaders discussed numerous topics ranging from noncommissioned officer development to ongoing NATO missions and emerging issues impacting allies and partners, such as gender perspectives in military operations.
This year, ISES participants received briefings and operational updates from ISAF and Afghanistan leaders such as Sgt. Maj. James Booker, senior enlisted leader for ISAF, Command Sgt. Maj. Gabriel Cervantes, senior enlisted leader of NATO-Training Mission Afghanistan, and Afghan Sgt. Maj. of the Army Roshan Safi.
ISES participants also joined the GCMC’s Senior Executive Seminar, which provided an in depth opportunity to engage with leading authorities and policymakers on current international security issues.
Command Sgt. Maj. Istvan Kriston, command senior enlisted leader of the Hungarian Defence Force, said the presentations and briefings at ISES build his own capabilities.
“The firsthand updates give me information to support my chief of defense. ISES helps you think outside of the box and develop critical thinking.”
Kriston went on to say, “ISES is a two-way conversation between command senior enlisted leaders that helps me advise my CHOD, build relationships with my fellow nations, and solve problems on a one-on-one level.”
Developing the one-on-one connections allows these senior leaders to continue to build the noncommissioned officer corps within their nations, which Breedlove has made one of his priorities since taking command of Allied Command Operations in May.
“I have made leadership one of my priorities and a fundamental part of that is developing noncommissioned officers,” Breedlove said. “I want to see more of our nations letting their NCOs lead, trusting them, empowering and enabling them to make decisions.”
Throughout the last 10 years, ISES has served as a springboard for many NCO development efforts to include the CSEL course at the NATO school, the NATO Year of the noncommissioned officer, and the soon to be released revised NATO noncommissioned officer strategy and recommended guidelines.
Through one-on-one relationship building, knowledge sharing between nations with experienced and newly created noncommissioned officer corps, and creating better ways to integrate noncommissioned officers’ abilities across the NATO structure, ISES has been the cornerstone for developing the NATO noncommissioned officer corps.
“Swapping insights, challenging and learning from one another brings richness and durability to the solutions that come out of ISES,” Breedlove said. “ISES is the heart of empowering our NCOs.”