U.S. Africa Command leadership wrapped-up a four-day trip to Kenya and Djibouti Dec. 18, during which both Gen. Stephen Townsend, commander, and Sgt. Maj. Richard Thresher, command senior enlisted leader, conducted strategic engagements with counterparts and nation leadership to demonstrate continued commitment to working with African partners.
As part of Townsend’s African Enlisted Development Strategy (AEDS), Thresher focused his trip on the top Kenyan non-commissioned officers (NCO) responsible for developing NCOs within the Kenya Defense Forces, including Warrant Officer Class One (WO1) Elijah Koranga, Kenya Defense Forces Sergeant Major, and WO1 Hamud Said, Kenya Army Sergeant Major.
"We will continue to work alongside our partners to develop NCOs in order to build a more capable force,” Thresher said. “A stronger NCO corps has a direct impact on the ability of our partners to increase pressure on violent extremist organizations, which threaten security and stability in the region."
Koranga invited Thresher to observe the culminating event of the newly-developed Kenyan Command Course for NCOs – a course implemented by Koranga following an AEDS key leader engagement in the U.S. in March, when he visited NCO academies from each branch of the U.S. Armed Forces.
“What we’re doing is try and share those practices with our African partners to help them develop a better NCO corps…to its fullest potential,” Thresher said. “Sergeant Major [Koranga] has since returned and developed a Command Course for NCOs…so that they can take on more responsibility and become of more use to their unit and their chain of command.”
The command course teaches skills such as weapons familiarization and target engagement, combat lifesaving, conduct of drill to increase troop leading skills and squad tactics.
“They are teaching young NCOs to be leaders,” Thresher said. “Very proud of the progress Kenya has made with NCO development.”
Thresher, Koranga and Said also discussed next steps, which include providing curriculum experts that will assist in further developing the course and allow instructors to better understand the tactical and strategic objectives of what they are teaching.
“This is Africa solutions to African issues. We show them, we train them, we assist them,” Thresher said of the AEDS program. “But we expect them to come up with their own programs and their own curriculum based off what they’ve seen, and then we aid them in any way we can and kind of help and rudder-steer so they can effectively get their NCO academies better, if they’re existing, or create them if they’re not existing.”
Prepping for another element of the AEDS, Thresher invited Gen. Robert Kibochi, Kenya's Chief of Defense, to attend the African Senior Enlisted Leader Conference (ASELC) in July 2021.
“The [Chief of Defense] is very interested in how to best develop the force and asked for ways he could immediately change the culture so that enlisted were more trusted with increased roles and responsibilities,” Thresher said.
The ASELC will next take place in July 2021 and be hosted in Senegal – the first time the conference will take place in Africa. The conference provides a forum for African and U.S. senior enlisted leaders to share experiences and find ways to collaborate for non-commissioned officer empowerment and development.
“They want their NCOs to be empowered. They want to relieve some of the pressure that their officers have to take on, so their officers don’t have to make every decision, they can actually delegate those things to trusted leaders,” Thresher said. “They’ve got some great examples of senior leaders down there as well that can help develop.
“Our relationship with our partners is our most valuable thing to us here in AFRICOM. It facilitates everything that we need to do on the continent.”
WATCH: Thresher explains AEDS