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NEWS | May 14, 2012

NCO Coalition Symposium: Junior leaders hungry for leadership

By Spc. Chelsea Russell , Regional Command Southwest

HELMAND PROVINCE, Afghanistan (April 24, 2012) — Coalition force members stationed here gathered, April 24, to begin a two-day Noncommissioned Officer Coalition Symposium held at I Marine Expeditionary Force Headquarters Group (Forward).

Throughout the next two days, the NCOs from various parts of the world shared their experiences and cultures with each other through guided discussions and team building exercises. Major Gen. Charles Gurganus, the commanding general for Regional Command Southwest, greeted the NCOs and told them they were about to participate in an extremely valuable learning opportunity.

The NCO Coalition Symposium was a general leadership class for members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization who are stationed here. Master Sgt. Eugene Holiday, the assistant operations chief for I MHG (Fwd) from Jasper, Ala., said this course was extremely useful because it taught junior NCOs about the different cultures of their coalition partners.

“When we go to war, there’s a 99 percent chance that you are going to be fighting along a coalition partner. So, it’s useful in the sense that it builds camaraderie amongst the junior NCOs because one day they could be fighting alongside each other again.”

Lance Cpl. Nabeel Albalushi, a member of Bahrain’s Special Security Force, said he attended the symposium because he wanted to be a better leader.

“I want to be ready psychologically, mentally and have enough information to know how to handle any situation that might arise,” he said. “I want to make an example of myself for all my subordinates.”

Albalushi said to be a good leader he must have courage and take initiative, as well as be fair with his junior enlisted servicemembers. He gained a lot of knowledge from his fellow classmates and is looking forward to applying what he learned when he returns home.

His favorite part about the course was when he gave a presentation explaining what it means to be a Bahraini NCO.

“No one was aware of where Bahrain is or what we do,” he explained. “It was really a pleasure when they realized there’s a country called Bahrain and its army is a part of the coalition and the efforts that have been put into Afghanistan.”

As part of the class, students took part in an MV-22 Osprey ride and participated in a weapons familiarization course.

More than a hundred NCOs applied to take the course, but there was only room for 23. Therefore, it was quite a shock when the first day rolled around and 57 coalition servicemembers showed up.

“Even though I told people, don’t show up, they still showed up,” said Holiday. “It just shows me that junior leaders are hungry for leadership.”

Despite the initial surprise of having over double the planned amount of NCOs show up, Holiday allowed them to stay and finish out the course.

Corporal Adam Day, a mechanic with 4 (Close Support) Battalion Royal Electrical & Mechanical Engineers from Oxford, England, said the symposium was a great chance for him to meet new people. He also thought it was extremely helpful for NCOs from various countries to learn from each other’s experiences.

“It’s nice to get a different point of view, from different armies, that do different jobs on a daily basis,” said Day. “There are certain things that other forces have done that we’ve never done.

“It’s good to see what experiences they’ve had and how they’ve coped with that and then bring that into our organization.”

He laughed as he explained that as an NCO he fills the role of a father for his troops.

“I’m that man who leads them through difficult situations that they wouldn’t normally get through and I’m that man who has to drag them and make them better through that as well,” he said.

Day learned quite a bit from the Afghan NCOs who attended the course. He said they’ve been at war for most of their lives and, as a consequence, have personally experienced situations he might never encounter.

“Some of the things they’ve had to deal with, I might never deal with,” said Day. “However, you take their experience and then pass it down. If I hadn’t come here I would never have learned from their experiences, but now I can take from that and pass it down to others.”

Staff Sgt. Sarajuddin Shaiwari, an Afghan instructor at Joint Sustainment Academy Southwest and member of 1st Brigade 3rd Battalion, 1st Co., said the NCO Coalition Symposium helped him learn more about the responsibilities of an NCO.

“This was my first time to be with different people from different countries and militaries,” said Shaiwari. “I really enjoy being in the military and especially working with foreign forces.

The symposium held by I MHG (Fwd) is a quarterly event. Every three months there will be a leadership class for those NCOs interested in learning more about their coalition partners.

Shaiwari is eager to share what it means to be an NCO with his fellow Afghan military members and hopes to help them become more professional.

“I want to work with our NCOs and help them become better at their jobs and learn professionalism,” he said. “I want them to have more experience being NCOs.”