“I am what I am because of who we all are.”
This traditional African philosophy, known as Ubuntu, illustrates Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa’s mission of unity through diversity. A person with Ubuntu is open and available to others, supportive, and does not feel threatened by others’ talent or virtue. It comes from a proper self-assurance that he or she belongs in a greater whole.
U.S. Marine Sgt. Maj. Bonnie Skinner, CJTF-HOA, command senior enlisted leader, applied the African proverb to the joint task force mission during her two years as the CSEL.
"’I am, because we are," is a way of saying an individual doesn't exist without the community, and the community cannot exist without the individual,” said Skinner, who is set to relinquish command on May 16, 2015. “The way we use it at CJTF-HOA is, ‘It is not thee, it is we’. It’s about teamwork: ‘I am part of the team, as much as I am a leader.’ We strive to achieve common goals together within CJTF-HOA and Camp Lemonnier.”
As senior enlisted liaison between CJTF-HOA and enlisted personnel from 24 tenant units, she said teamwork has been key carrying out the mission successfully.
While here, Skinner led 24 African contingency operations training and assistance and military-to-military mission confirmation briefings, ensuring personnel were prepared to train partner nations in support of African missions in Somalia.
Skinner’s job involved providing assessments and recommendations to the commander, deputy commander, chief of staff and staff directors on key leader engagements, traveling contact teams, and proposed projects affecting African partners.
With more than 2,000 joint service personnel operating in 13 countries and 100 forward-deployed missions under her supervision, Skinner’s leadership capabilities were imperative to achieving the common goal of completing the mission.
“It is important to have strong partnerships,” Skinner said, “because it leads to a strong and trustworthy team that enables our partner nations to build and improve capabilities, combat adversaries and ensure stability in the region.”
She collaborated with operations, plans, and training directorate for the establishment of Regional Noncommissioned Officer Development Training in Africa, eliminating repeated traveling-contact-team engagements; saving thousands of taxpayer’s dollars and strengthening defense capabilities.
Skinner’s devotion to duty, professionalism and visionary leadership significantly impacted CJTF-HOA and its success said U.S. Army Maj. Gen. Wayne W. Grigsby, Jr., former CJTF-HOA commander.
“If I could go back in time and pick a Sergeant Major of my command,” Grigsby said, during his April 2015 change of command, “I would pick Sgt. Maj. Skinner in a heartbeat. She represents everything we expect in our NCO corps. She has not only inspired our next generation of leaders, but she has inspired me.”
Skinner’s charismatic energy and personable approach, has paved a way for a new generation of leaders said U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Jessica Wolter, former CJTF-HOA Public Affairs broadcaster.
“Sgt. Maj. Skinner was one of the best senior enlisted leaders I’ve ever worked for,” Wolter said. “She has an ability to make you see that what you do every day matters to the mission at hand, no matter how small a task you think it may be. Also, when she says she has an open door policy, she really means it; it really hits home to have seen that she cares about everyone in the command.”
The 30-year U.S. Marine leaves behind a legacy of professionalism and diversity through unity.
In addition to CJTF-HOA embracing the Ubuntu philosophy, Skinner’s leadership style also embraces the African proverb by being open to communication and available to others while supporting and leading a team to a common goal.
“Ubuntu means unity, and unity means strength,” Skinner said. “Strength breeds success. My time here has been incredible; I learned a lot every day from the high caliber soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines, multinational partners and Department of State teammates. I am extremely proud to be a part of this organization and look forward to watching its enduring presence as it strengthens regional capabilities, security, partnerships and shaping the development and stability with the future of East Africa. Semper Fidelis and Ubuntu.”