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Command Sergeant Major Pushes NCO Development in Coalition Militaries

By Karen S. Parrish
Special to American Forces Press Service

KIEV, Ukraine, Oct. 20, 2006 – U.S. Army, Europe’s top noncommissioned officer says he is a man on a mission: promoting the growth of a professional NCO corps in the militaries of coalition nations.

Click photo for screen-resolution image
Command Sgt. Maj. Iuniasolua Savusa, U.S. Army, Europe command sergeant major, speaks to a group of troops from the Georgian 33rd Infantry Battalion during a visit to Krtsanisi Training Area, near Tblisi, Georgia. A task force of USAREUR soldiers is training the Georgian battalion, scheduled to deploy to Iraq in the coming months, on individual to battalion-level infantry tactics and combat lifesaver skills. Photo by Karen S. Parrish

(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.

Command Sgt. Maj. Iuniasolua Savusa often travels through Germany, Italy and the Benelux countries, meeting with soldiers, NCOs and other leaders to discuss training and NCO professional development. His mission this week remains the same, but the territory is very different.

Savusa has visited Azerbaijan and the Republic of Georgia, and is currently in the Ukraine. His main objective at every stop, he said, is to assess and offer assistance in developing these armies’ NCO corps.

The three nations are very different, but each has deployed troops to Iraq and Afghanistan in support of coalition efforts in fighting the global war on terror, each is developing an NCO corps as a prerequisite for NATO membership, and each has a military based on the former Soviet Union army’s force structure and doctrine.

One Georgian brigade sergeant described an NCO’s duties under the old system as doing the “dirty work” – performing manual tasks, not training and leading soldiers. That role has begun to change in each of the countries Savusa is visiting, and he came prepared to offer help in pushing that change.

On Oct. 16, Savusa spoke to a group of Azerbaijani officers serving as faculty at that country’s Armed Forces Training and Education Center. He praised their soldiers’ service in Iraq, Afghanistan and Kosovo, and offered help in training their army’s sergeants by accepting them as students at USAREUR’s Noncommissioned Officer Academy in Grafenwoehr, Germany.

“If you send your soldiers to our academy, they can then return to Azerbaijan to train other soldiers, or serve as NCOs in one of your units,” he said. “We fully understand our system may not encompass everything you want, but our academy could serve as a start.”

As Azerbaijan currently has a mostly conscripted military – service is compulsory for men – with a high turnover rate, sergeants’ ranks are still undermanned. But the force is changing; Azerbaijan instituted an NCO training course in 2004 and has worked extensively to transform its military.

U.S. military representatives serving at the U.S. Embassy in Azerbaijan, as well as Oklahoma Army National Guard troops and a range of NATO forces, have assisted by coordinating seminars, visits, courses and training exercises with Azerbaijan’s forces.

The Oklahoma Guard is Azerbaijan’s counterpart in NATO’s Partnership for Peace program, which pairs mature and developing military forces in ongoing relationships to increase interoperability among armies and to help developing forces meet NATO standards.

The commandant of Azerbaijan’s military training center, Col. Anver Efendiyev, praised U.S. forces who have worked with his nation’s military, and expressed interest in sending their junior NCOs to Grafenwoehr to attend USAREUR’s Warrior Leader Course.

“We are making changes in the system. We are producing platoon sergeants,” Efendiyev said. “But we don’t have enough trained NCOs. We have just started this work.”

He said his nation’s soldiers benefit from teaming up with U.S. forces. “We are a very young army, and our junior ranks are entirely conscripts,” he said. “Yours is a professional army.”

Savusa told Azerbaijani officers a trained NCO corps with legally defined authority is vital to establishing a professional army. Therefore, the training center commandant said he will request legislation outlining the duties and responsibilities of noncommissioned officers.

“NCOs have to be empowered by the officers in your army, to have the authority to maintain discipline,” Savusa said. “As your military transforms, U.S. Army, Europe and 7th Army stand ready assist you.”

In Georgia, NCOs are more firmly established: team, squad, company, battalion and brigade sergeants are in place. The German military runs an NCO training course that Maj. Darren Smith, deputy of U.S. European Command’s Office of Defense Cooperation in Georgia, said focuses on mid-career NCOs. “It’s much like our basic and advanced NCO courses,” he said.

Savusa said while he doesn’t want to disrupt the German-run courses, one of his objectives in visiting Georgia was to offer Ministry of Defense officials there access to the Warrior Leader Course, which could provide a foundation for their NCO training program.

Another training suggestion lies at the other end of the NCO education system spectrum: the U.S. Army Sergeants Major Academy.

During a roundtable discussion Tuesday with 20 Georgian senior NCOs, Savusa raised the topic of attendance at USASMA, receiving a unanimously positive response. The brigade sergeant for the Georgian 1st Infantry Brigade, Bde. Sgt. Manuchar Davituri, said the sergeant major course is “very critical to us.”

“We do not have the background in training that your NCOs receive,” Davituri said through an interpreter. “We need a thorough understanding of the theory of military science, and this course would be very important in that.”

On Oct. 18, Savusa visited Krtsanisi Training Area, near the Georgian capital of Tblisi, where a task force of USAREUR soldiers is training the Georgian 33rd Infantry Battalion on individual to battalion-level infantry tactics, as well as combat lifesaver techniques. Following that stop, he flew to Ukraine, where he will continue meeting with senior military leaders.

(Karen S. Parrish is assigned to U.S. Army, Europe public affairs.)

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Command Sgt. Maj. Iuniasolua Savusa

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