Partner Nations Share NCO Skills, Mirrors New AFRICOM Commander’s Vision
Four Kenyan Defense Force sergeant majors, representing their Army, Navy and Air Force, visited the Combined Joint Task Force – Horn of Africa, March 14 through March 16, 2011, to gain a better understanding of American noncommissioned officer leadership style.
The visit came after comments made at the United States Africa Command change of command ceremony, March 9, in Stuttgart, Germany, where new U.S. AFRICOM Commander, U.S. Army General Carter F. Ham remarked on the importance of having a strong NCO corps.
"I believe our efforts to build warrant officer and noncommissioned officer capability are among our very highest priorities,” said Ham. “I believe that we reflect the very best of America when we truly respect the diversity in our own ranks and the diversity that exists among the many peoples of Africa."
The U.S. and Kenyans discussed topics including NCO training, future partnership opportunities and learning about each other’s enlisted structure.
"It was evident since day one that the Kenyans are very excited to be partners with us," said U.S. Marine Command Sergeant Major Scott Mykoo, CJTF – HOA. "We have seen throughout this whole thing that we are brothers-in-arms. We want to learn from each other."
Kenyan Defense Force Army Sergeant Major Joseph Kithome explained that the Kenyan military has a very positive and strong relationship with the U.S. and that the Kenyan military wants to mirror the American model.
“NCO’s are the backbone of the military,” said Kithome. “They have the confidence to perform duties in the absence of officers and yours are the best.”
He said this is crucial for effective leadership of junior enlisted and the reason for his visit. In the Kenyan military there are no NCO academies or leadership schools. The same responsibilities and expectations that are placed on American NCOs do not take place in Kenya.
“We want to learn how to narrow the gap between officers and the NCOs,” said Kenyan Defense Force Sergeant Major John Muthoka. “We are a young [military], but we want to take the American’s knowledge back to our services.”
Kenya gained their independence from the United Kingdom in 1963, so their military is relatively new, said Mykoo.
“We have been doing this for 230 plus years,” said Mykoo. “They have us alongside them now to try to expedite their process of learning. It took us years to get to that point and now we are partnering and sharing capacities with them, it helps them grow even faster to develop their people in their country.”
At the heart, the NCO philosophy centers on professional development and personnel management, said Mykoo. The NCO must be able to take charge on any specific mission and operate one rank above their actual rank.
“Your NCO’s are confident and can stand on their own without the help of commissioned officers and that is what we are looking for - your training one level up,” said Kithome.
Based on their experiences at CJTF – HOA, the Kenyan delegation plans on establishing NCO and sergeant major academies that will teach the lessons learned from their American partners, said Kithome. He said he wants to train the Army, Navy and Air Force together to create cohesion within the entire military. “We want a tri-service NCO academy to train the NCO’s together,” said Kithome. “We intend to emphasize three things - leadership skills, personnel management skills and one-level-up training.”
Kithome said he wants to return to CJTF – HOA to discuss progress, both within the Kenyan military, but also with his friends.
“If I get a chance, I am longing to come back to Djibouti to see the progress of the diplomacy that [CJTF – HOA] extends to the people [of Africa],” said Kithome. “The relationships that we formed here were excellent,” he said. “I want to keep the interaction between the United States and Kenya because we are working towards one goal. That is stability, not only in Kenya or America, but for the whole world.”