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Enlisted Advisor’s Presence in China Visits Highlights NCO Importance

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, March 27, 2007 – The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff emphasized just how important U.S. military leaders believe noncommissioned officers are by including his senior enlisted advisor in all his talks with senior Japanese and Chinese leaders.

Marine Gen. Peter Pace made sure that Army Command Sgt. Maj. William J. Gainey was in on every meeting, dinner and exercise during the weeklong trip March 19-27.

“It raised some eyebrows, especially with the Chinese,” a Joint Staff official traveling with Pace said. “They are not used to enlisted personnel being anything more than technicians.”

The general sees Gainey’s participation as a plus for all involved. He gets another set of eyes examining problems, and the foreign military leaders get a firsthand look at what NCOs bring to the table.

“I think the Chinese have a much better understanding (of the role of NCOs in the U.S. military),” Pace said during an interview. “But because they don’t have that concept in their military, they still don’t have a complete understanding of what our NCO corps is all about.”

Pace took every opportunity to talk about the sergeant major and his place in the NCO corps and how important the U.S. NCO corps is to American military success.

“I think that resonated with the Chinese,” he said. “Having him side by side with me was a projection to the Chinese of the whole cloth of the leadership of our armed forces.”

The chairman wants more military-to-military contacts between the United States and China. For his part, Gainey wants to see that some of those contacts are between NCOs.

The sergeant major offered to sponsor a senior Chinese NCO during the next Chinese delegation to visit Washington. “I hope they will allow the NCO to visit me, and I will have him meet with a group of U.S. NCOs,” Gainey said during an interview. “It’s important we create understanding between the militaries. The NCO corps is basic to understanding the U.S. military.”

In China, NCOs are not trainers as they are in the United States.

“I had a full briefing on their NCO and enlisted policies by their (chief of personnel),” he said. “The general and I talked about how he could establish an NCO corps. He was taken aback by how General Pace would allow me to have as much authority. They were very open about it. The general told me that he could not understand it.

“I explained to him that General Pace delegates authority, but he cannot delegate responsibility,” Gainey continued.

Gainey accompanied Pace to a military exercise at Dalian Military Training Area. The sergeant major, an Army scout, noticed that every tank or armored personnel carrier was commanded by an officer. “In our tank platoon, we have one officer and the tank commanders are NCOs,” he said.

Follow-up will be interesting, Gainey said. He said he plans to work with the chairman and the Joint Staff to promote military-to-military contacts.

“I think we learned a lot from each other, and I think we broke some new, very positive ground,” he said of the Chinese. “We need to keep moving.”

Contact Author

Gen. Peter Pace, USMC
Command Sgt. Maj. William J. Gainey, USA

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