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Partner Nations Look to U.S. Model of Enlisted Leader Empowerment

July 25, 2019 | BY David Vergun

"The strength of our military is our enlisted force, and the backbone is our enlisted leaders," Army Command Sgt. Maj. John Wayne Troxell, senior enlisted advisor to the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said at a briefing for Pentagon reporters.

In addition to Troxell, yesterday’s briefing panel included senior enlisted leaders from seven combatant commands and two subunified commands.

Sergeant major speaks to reporters alongside other senior enlisted leaders.
Briefing Reporters
Army Command Sgt. Maj. John Wayne Troxell, the senior enlisted advisor to the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, speaks alongside combatant command and subunified command senior enlisted leaders as they brief Pentagon reporters as part of the Defense Senior Enlisted Leader Council Symposium, July 24, 2019.
Photo By: Army Sgt. James K. McCann, DOD
VIRIN: 190724-D-SW162-6216C
Man on panel speaks.
Sgt. Maj. John Wayne Troxell
Army Command Sgt. Maj. John Wayne Troxell, the senior enlisted advisor to the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and several combatant command and subunified command senior enlisted leaders brief reporters at the Pentagon as part of the Defense Senior Enlisted Leader Council Symposium, July 24, 2019.
Photo By: Army Sgt. James K. McCann, DOD
VIRIN: 190724-D-SW162-6233C

Senior noncommissioned officers and petty officers execute mission command every day, relying on their training, education and initiative, while following commander intent, Troxell explained. 

These are the leaders needed in this complex and dynamic environment, he added.

Not all nations empower their enlisted leaders to have the range of responsibilities that NCOs in the U.S. have, he noted, using commissioned officers to do what NCOs should be doing.

Men stand beside howitzer.
Field Artillery
U.S. Army 2nd Lt. Hannah Levine, a field artillery officer with the 4th Infantry Division, reviews capabilities of the howitzer with an Afghan soldier on Afghan National Army base Maidan Shahr in Afghanistan’s Wardak province, Aug. 6, 2018.
Photo By: Navy Lt. Aubrey Page
VIRIN: 180806-N-QJ088-1001C

However, as U.S. forces train with allies and partner nations, they look at the level of trust and responsibility the U.S. military gives to its NCOs, he said. "The more we engage with them, the more they will adopt or mimic what we’re doing because they see how effective it is," he added.

Troxell noted that during visits to South Korea, he has seen that its military is beginning to adopt this model.

In Africa, NCO development has gone from being almost nonexistent to reaching a point at which more than 30 of the continent’s 53 nations are sending their NCOs to enlisted development courses patterned on the U.S. model that delegates more authority to enlisted service members.

A soldier from Ghana and a U.S. soldier, both in camouflage uniforms, talk while training together.
Jungle Warfare
U.S. and Ghanan soldiers train at Jungle Warfare School, Achiase Military Base, Akim Achiase, Ghana, Aug. 1, 2018.
Photo By: Army
VIRIN: 180801-O-ZZ999-001C

Marine Corps Sgt. Maj. Bryan K. Zickefoose, the senior enlisted leader for U.S. Southern Command, said NCO development in Central and South America is gaining ground. "It has grown. It is huge," he said, adding that empowered NCOs are vital to the region’s security and therefore are vital to U.S. security.

Army Command Sgt. Maj. Timothy L. Metheny, senior enlisted leader for the Resolute Support mission and U.S. forces in Afghanistan, noted that Afghan NCOs are being given more responsibility and are now training other Afghan soldiers, a responsibility that previously was handled by U.S. and coalition forces. 

Marine Corps Sgt. Maj. Anthony A. Spadaro, senior enlisted leader for U.S. Indo-Pacific Command, said Taiwan has had "explosive growth" in their noncommissioned officer education system, which is led by enlisted service members.