Enlisted Leaders Exchange Ideas, Discuss Common Issues
By Kathleen T. Rhem
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, May. 10, 2006 The services' and joint commands' senior noncommissioned officers met here this week to share ideas and develop solutions to common issues.
More than a dozen E-9s who are the combatant command senior enlisted leaders and service senior enlisted advisors and their wives gathered in the Pentagon May 8 though today at the invitation of Army Command Sgt. Maj. William J. Gainey, senior enlisted advisor to the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
"We all have the same ultimate goal -- to help servicemembers and family members," Gainey said.
This is the second such conference. The first, in January, didn't include spouses. Gainey said many of the individuals involved were "in their own territory" during the January conference and not as willing to share ideas. But the participants approached this go-around with much more open minds.
"We all realize that good, open discussions on issues will help all the services," he told American Forces Press Service.
The top NCOs received briefings, followed by topic discussions, on such issues and agencies as U.S. Transportation Command, Army Materiel Command, U.S. Strategic Command, the National Security Agency's Central Security Service, the United Service Organizations, Joint Professional Military Education for NCOs, the Joint Personnel Recovery Agency, and NATO efforts to train NCOs.
The wives spent a day learning about each service's program for wounded troops and sharing ideas for the future. They also visited wounded servicemembers at Walter Reed Army Medical Center here. "I just hope that these ladies can go back to their commands and just spread the word," Gainey's wife, Cindy, said.
Gainey said the opportunity for open communications among the senior leaders is the most valuable reason to get them all together. "Do I expect them to all agree? No," he said. "But the discussion is healthy."
For example, in one session yesterday morning, the leaders agreed on how to nominate NCOs to attend the Keystone Joint Professional Military Education course at the National Defense University here and on a procedure for nominating top NCOs for assignments in combatant commands and joint task forces.
"If we agree to two things in one day, this is a historic day," Gainey announced to the group. He also urged attendees to educate the generals they support on the issues they discussed here.
Attendees felt the conference was important for the same reasons Gainey cited. Army Command Sgt. Maj. Michael W. Bartelle, U.S. European Command's senior enlisted leader, said he appreciated the forum as a way to expand his idea pool and assist him in formulating new approaches to how he does his job.
"I take full advantage of everyone else's ideas," he said. "In the end, we can develop a product that's not service-specific but a benefit to DoD as a whole."
Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy Terry D. Scott explained that conferences like this give the service senior enlisted advisors a chance to develop their responsibilities as force providers. This helps them understand the needs of their customers, in this case the combatant commands they provide servicemembers and capabilities to.
"Without open dialogue, we could very well be missing the mark," he said.
One topic near and dear to Gainey that brought about a heated discussion in the forum is how to recognize the sacrifices of servicemembers not on the front lines in Iraq or Afghanistan.
"The reality of life is that some soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines don't feel they're receiving full credit for their sacrifices," Gainey said.
He said intelligence analysts working in the United States are a perfect example of troops who are vital to the war effort yet not earning recognition for combat experience. "They're fighting the global war on terrorism in those rooms every day without seeing the light of day," Gainey said to the attendees May 8.
"They're fighting the global war on terrorism up here," he said, pointing to his head, "to keep the rest of us safe."
"Failure is not an option (in the war)," he said yesterday in an interview. "We need to know that everyone is doing their part, and they need to feel appreciated for doing it."
Lack of combat service, Gainey said, "does not mean that someone is not totally involved in this war."