Top U.S. NCOs Meeting With International Counterparts
By Kathleen T. Rhem
American Forces Press Service
BLOEMFONTEIN, South Africa, Feb. 6, 2006 Two top U.S. noncommissioned officers are visiting here this week to attend a conference on empowering and training senior NCOs.
Army Command Sgt. Maj. William J. Gainey, senior enlisted advisor to the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and Army Command Sgt. Maj. Michael W. Bartelle, senior enlisted leader for U.S. European Command in Stuttgart, Germany, are attending the International Warrant Officers Conference today though Feb. 10 at Tempe Military Base's South African School of Armor.
South Africa and many other countries use the term "warrant officer" to describe senior noncommissioned officers, roughly equivalent to pay grades E-7 through E-9 in the U.S. military services.
"During this conference, the aim and functions and tasks of warrant officers, warrant officer training, and the development of warrant officers will be debated," Warrant Officer 1 Jakes Jacobs, warrant officer of the South African National Defense Force, said yesterday in welcoming representatives from more than 20 countries to the conference. "I believe that we can learn from each other."
Senior representatives of several staunch U.S. allies, including the United Kingdom, Australia and Canada, are in attendance. Many other African nations also sent representatives.
Warrant Officer 1 Dick Walker, warrant officer of the joint support division of the South African National Defense Force, explained today that sergeants major and warrant officers fulfill different roles in different countries, adding that in some countries warrant officers or sergeants major are considered "junior officers."
"Although these sergeant majors operate at different levels, they all have the same aim at whichever level they operate in, and that is to support the commander in ensuring high standards of military professionalism in accordance with military and Department of Defense policies," he told conference attendees.
Walker acknowledged there are vast differences in structure and roles among countries represented at the conference. "Differences will more than likely become the basis for some interesting discussion and probably interesting questions," he said.
Bartelle, the EUCOM senior enlisted leader, said international conferences like this are valuable for the exposure they provide to peers in other militaries. EUCOM has operational responsibility for much of Africa. The Horn of Africa, however, falls under U.S. Central Command, and U.S. Pacific Command is responsible for operations in Madagascar, and island off Africa's east coast.
"If there's any way that we can provide assistance, we'll do that," he said in an interview. "And if there are things that they're doing that may benefit us, we can learn that as well. So the hope is, initially, to make the contacts ... and to also pass on and receive information that could benefit the noncommissioned officer corps all over the place."
In the same interview, Gainey noted that some countries in attendance at the conference are just starting their NCO corps. The Botswana Defense Force, for instance, has been in existence for less than 30 years. Other countries have older militaries, but are just now building professional NCO corps. Still other countries, he added, have established, successful NCO corps.
"It's very important that we be here to learn from one another," Gainey said.