U.S. Marine Sgt. Maj. Bonnie Skinner, Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa, senior enlisted leader, recently completed a trip to Burundi where she engaged with more than 100 students from Camp Bururi NCO Academy to share best practices, speak with them one on one and answer questions.
Traveling with Skinner were three other Non commissioned officers. One of them was U.S. Army Sgt Komi Afetse, who went as the French interpreter for the engagement and also to speak with the academy students on his experience as an NCO.
Upon arrival at Camp Bururi, Skinner and CJTF-HOA NCOs were met by the commander and his staff for a presentation of the student’s training curriculum which focused on obedience, discipline, efficiency, love of country and selflessly representing the profession of arms.
“Having this opportunity to greet and speak with each student in person was very rewarding,” said Skinner. “They are extremely proud soldiers and NCOs, who are very dedicated and display the same high standard of professionalism that we look for in our non-commissioned officers.”
Throughout the brief, SGT Afetse translated the French/English interaction between Skinner and the camp commander and commented on how his military background was very beneficial.
“Being in the U.S. Army, helped me translate military concepts between the Sergeant Major and the academy’s commander and students because I am an NCO and understand what that means,” Afetse explained. “As Non-Commissioned Officers, we are role models 24/7. We must lead by example, be able to think strategically and provide sound advice from our experiences. I feel very fortunate to be part of this engagement with the Bururi commander and NCO students.”
Concluding the presentation, the attendees headed outside where the Camp Bururi NCOs were standing in formation. Skinner greeted each one individually, shook their hand and thanked them for their dedication to the profession of arms.
"NCOs play a very significant role in representing the profession of arms which includes moral courage and to always do what is right, regardless of the cost," said Skinner. "It is an honor to serve ones country and to place others' needs above our own and our profession is defined by our values, ethics and our character."
On day two of the visit, Skinner met with students in their classroom environment to learn more about their aspirations and military culture. She said it was an excellent opportunity for additional engagement and it showcased where and how they trained.
“I was very impressed with their training which focused on keeping a noble tradition and cohesion for the country of Burundi,” said Skinner.
The floor was then open to the students who shared with Skinner that they see themselves as the backbone of their military. Skinner then answered questions about her job as the CJTF-HOA senior enlisted leader, and as a Marine NCO, mentorship and standards and discipline.
“I believe we had as significant an impact on them as they did on us and the visit was a success,” said Skinner. “Engagements like this continue to strengthen our relationship between the forces and countries and are an essential part of what we do.”
When it was time to end the visit, the students thanked her, expressed their appreciation and asked for more engagements with U.S. Military NCO’s in the future.
“I am glad I was able to share my past NCO experiences, to reiterate the importance of being a leader and to expand on all of the responsibilities that come with it,” said Skinner. “Although the NCO Corps may be different in some ways in various countries, we all still have the same goals and aspirations as NCOs, and that is why we are the backbone of the military.”