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Enlisted leaders from CENTCOM region countries discuss role of NCO in today’s military

By By Sgt. Leon Cook, U.S. Army Central Public Affairs

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EL PASO, Texas, June 8, 2015 – Senior noncommissioned officers and officers from a number of countries in the U.S. Central Command region recently gathered here to discuss the role of the NCO corps in their nation’s military.

Representatives from Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Kazakhstan, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Uzbekistan attended the first Multinational Noncommissioned Officer Symposium at the U. S. Army Sergeants Major Academy here May 18-22, an event hosted by U.S. Army Central, or ARCENT.

The symposium aimed to strengthen relationships, improve interoperability and serve as a forum for partner nations to learn from each other, said Command Sgt. Maj. Ronnie Kelley, ARCENT’s command sergeant major.

"I hope everyone learned something from this that can make their country stronger,” said Kelley. “That goes for us too."

The sergeant major of the Jordanian army Sgt. Maj. Mohammed al-Smadi, said, “I learned a lot from seeing how the NCO became so important in the U.S. Army.”

NCOs have been noted as the backbone of the U.S. Army for more than

230 years, having developed the values needed to become a dedicated fighting force.

Brig. Gen. Ibrahim Harfouche, from the Lebanese armed forces, said, “We need to learn to let our NCOs take charge of the things NCOs do (in the U.S. military). They're very professional and very good at their jobs, and we need to let them do it.”

Attendees shared their insights on how the NCO corps works within their countries.

“I like to work with a lot of teams,” said Adib Mikhomalo, a sergeant major in the Lebanese Ranger Regiment. “You always find something you're looking for in some other country. You have a problem, and you find a country that has already solved that problem. You get experience from everyone. For example, in my country, we deal a lot with mountains and probably some countries don't have mountains. So they ask us how we deal with mountains, and we ask them how to deal with deserts and flat areas.”

Symposium attendees toured the sergeants major academy here, which was a return to familiar ground for Command. Sgt. Maj. Temirbek Khalykov, the sergeant major of Kazakhstan's armed forces.

Khalykov graduated from the academy in 2008 and said he has used the training on a daily basis, attributing many of the improvements within Kazakhstan's NCO corps to the lessons he learned in the U.S. He also praised the opportunity the symposium gave to learn new ideas from other countries.

“The NCO corps in Kazakhstan was developed about 20 years ago so we have done good work to develop them so far in accordance with what we've learned from the U.S.,” said Khalykov. “We can take what we've learned here from what's worked for other countries back home with us and energize our own forces.”

Kazakhstan’s NCOs will have the opportunity to showcase their skills later this month in their country during Exercise Steppe Eagle, orchestrated by ARCENT and focusing on multinational peacekeeping and peace support operations.

ARCENT’s relationship with Kazakhstan continues on another front too later this year, when Kelley, the ARCENT command sergeant major, speaks at Kazakhstan’s inaugural NCO symposium in the summer.