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U.S. Marines Help Build Romanian NCO Corps

National Guard Bureau

BUCHAREST, Romania, Nov. 30, 1999 – How do you establish a professional NCO corps in a military that has never had one?

Call in the United States Marine Corps.

Eight Marine NCOs from Quantico, Va., and Camp Pendleton, Calif., are “training-the-trainers” at the Romanian NCO school near the city of Pitesti. The Marines are slated to remain in Romania for two years.

Defense Secretary William S. Cohen praised the Marines' work as he spoke with European defense ministers here. Cohen said the training program is an example of U.S. commitment to Romania.

The program is an outgrowth of a 1998 visit by Romania's president and defense minister to the Marine Corps base at Quantico. Impressed by the professionalism of the American NCOs, Romanian Defense Minister Victor Babiuc asked DoD to help his military develop a professional NCO corps, one that would be interoperable with NATO.

Romania previously followed the former Soviet military model where NCOs were more like senior privates. They were conscripts with no real training, motivation or sense of esprit. In the Soviet model, senior conscripts were assigned as sergeants and put in charge of younger conscripts. After two years service, the soldier returned to civilian life.

Small unit leadership is at the heart of the three-month course Marine instructors devised for the Romanians, Marine Corps Sgt. Maj. R.J. Kirby said. “We did land navigation, close order drill, and a lot of NATO training so they will be interoperable," Kirby said.

The Romanian soldiers spent 12 nights in the field learning military operations in urban terrain and noncombatant evacuation operations, among other things. “It was pretty intense,” Kirby said.

The 25 Romanian NCOs trained in the program will in turn teach future classes of Romanian soldiers. The Romanians hope to train 750 NCOs per year, Kirby said.

The Romanian NCOs will first practice their teaching skills by instructing their Marine Corps trainers. The Marines will evaluate how they do, give them advice and help them through their first couple of classes, Kirby said.

The biggest obstacle the Romanians must overcome, Kirby said, is convincing some of the older officers that professional NCOs will benefit their military. “These young men have a tremendous amount of talent,” Kirby said. “They just need the opportunity and the experience. When I speak with Romanian officers I tell them they have to let the NCOs do NCO work."

The Romanian NCOs have learned there’s more to being a good NCO than just ensuring a soldier gets fed, Kirby said. “We teach they’ve got to take care of him, his family and any personal problems the soldier has. Everything in that soldier's life is their responsibility,” he said. “At the same time, a good NCO is ‘growing’ other soldiers who want to be just like him.”

The other Marines participating in the effort are: Gunnery Sgt. Leonard Barnett, Staff Sgt. Rafael Santos, Sgts. Frank Scott, Benny Barrios, Paul Haley, and Chris Cabanas, and Cpl. Shannon Middleton.

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