Enlisted Delegation Visits Chinese Counterparts
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, July 11, 2008 The difference between the noncommissioned officers of the People’s Liberation Army and those of the U.S. military is the difference between technicians and leaders, the senior enlisted leader of U.S. Pacific Command said after a visit to China.
Air Force Command Chief Master Sgt. James A. Roy, U.S. Pacific Command senior enlisted leader and head of a senior enlisted delegation to China, is welcomed by the 179th Infantry, People's Liberation Army, in Nanjing, China, June 18, 2008. U.S. Marine Corps photo by Gunnery Sgt. Demetrio J. Espinosa, Marine Corps Base Hawaii
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
Air Force Command Chief Master Sgt. James A. Roy recently led the first NCO delegation to the People’s Republic of China. The visit is part of broadened Sino-U.S. military-to-military contacts.
“We are interested in working with the Chinese to build a cordial relationship,” Roy said during a recent interview. “That’s what we hope to come out of this. We hope this encourages transparency.”
U.S. military leaders such as Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and Navy Adm. Timothy J. Keating, commander of PaCom and Roy’s boss, have such a military relationship at their level and want to expand it.
“We do this with our mid-grade officers and at the strategic level,” Roy said. “What we want is to expand this at the tactical level, so to speak, so U.S. and Chinese troops can work together in exercises or peacekeeping operations.”
The delegation consisted of 12 senior NCOs who arrived in China on June 16 for a five-day visit. “We included all services,” Roy said. While it wasn’t a conscious decision, the delegation also represented the diversity of the U.S. military, he added.
The delegation visited 179th Infantry Battalion of the People’s Liberation Army in Nanjing. “We visited with their soldiers and saw the command brief,” Roy said. “We observed the soldiers in physical training. We visited their dormitories and dining facility and ate with some of them.”
Roy said he was struck by the difference in philosophy between U.S. and Chinese NCOs. “If I had to sum up their enlisted corps, I would say they are technicians,” he said. The Chinese have six different grades, with Grades 1 and 2 being junior NCOs, Grades 3 and 4 as a mid-level tier, and Grades 5 and 6 being senior.
The delegation visited the NCO Academy at Wuhan, and the training was mostly technical. “They made it very plain that their NCOs are technicians,” he said. “NCOs are leaders in any U.S. organization, and we stress that in all our NCO professional military education.”
The opportunities to visit with Chinese NCOs were limited. “It was not as much as we wanted to or expected, and there were just as many or more officers than NCOs when we were able to visit with them,” Roy said. “At the social events the delegation attended, the members of the officer corps always outnumbered the enlisted.”
In China, officers do many of the leadership jobs that NCOs routinely do in the U.S. forces. Officers lead infantry squads -- a job done by corporals or sergeants in the U.S. military. Officers command every Chinese tank and are crew chiefs for the Chinese military’s aircraft.
The relationship between officers and enlisted personnel also is different in the Chinese military. “Our officers and NCOs have a mutual respect between two professional corps, and the mission is paramount,” Roy said. “I didn’t get that sense in China. I got the sense that it was not about the mission, but serving the person above you. [The U.S. NCO-officer] relationship is built on what’s best for the mission, and we support each other by supporting the mission.”
To be fair, he said, this may be because the idea of NCOs is relatively new for the People’s Liberation Army. It has only been since 1998 that any professional NCO corps has emerged. “We didn’t meet with any Grade 5 or 6 NCOs, although we heard about them,” Roy said.
U.S. Pacific Command will host a reciprocal visit later this year, the chief said. NCOs will be part of a Chinese delegation led by a major general and senior colonels.
“What we’re trying to do is establish a relationship with them,” he said. “It gives us a better understanding of them and them a better understanding of us. The hope of the command is, the more military-to-military engagements that we have, the more open they will become, the more transparent.”
The delegation met many Chinese soldiers, a few Chinese airmen and one Chinese sailor.
“We would like to visit with the navy and the air force, which we did not get the opportunity to do,” Roy said. “We’re going to open our doors so they can visit our Navy and Air Force, and we hope they would do the same in the future.”