STUTTGART, Germany - The top enlisted leaders from U.S. Africa Command and U.S. Army Africa visited Ghana April 14-17, 2019 to engage with Ghanaian military leaders on the importance of non-commissioned officer (NCO) development.
The visit by U.S. Air Force Command Chief Master Sgt. Ramon Colon-Lopez, AFRICOM command senior enlisted leader, and Command Sgt. Maj. Jeremiah Inman, U.S. Army Africa, was to help identify ways to assist Ghana in furthering professional military development of their enlisted forces.
During the trip, they conducted a thorough assessment of the Ghana Armed Forces capabilities for NCO development and will now look for ways to fill gaps in their administrative processes, instructor development, curriculum refinement, and utilization of a new training facility in Tamale, Ghana.
“It was good to see the number of enlisted courses conducted in Ghana and the support their NCOs receive from their officers,” Inman said. “With continued officer support, their enlisted education program has the potential to be one of the strongest in Africa.”
Africa Enlisted Development Strategy helps Africans train Africans
Ghana is one of four priority countries in the first tranche of AFRICOM’s Africa Enlisted Development Strategy. The strategy was designed to create targeted low, to no cost initiatives for inter-African professional military education training.
“We want Africans to be able to own their schools and to be able to own their curriculum so that it minimizes the need to travel abroad for training,” Colon-Lopez said. “Our goal is to help our African partners create regional centers of excellence for NCO development. The desired end-state is to have Africans training Africans.”
The other three priority countries in the first tranche are Botswana, Liberia, and Malawi. In Malawi, the Malawi Defence Force Sergeants Major Academy was introduced in 2014, making it the first sergeants major academy on the continent. Since then, they have trained SNCOs from 12 other African nations.
“U.S. AFRICOM would like to replicate that model in countries that are willing to do so,” Colon-Lopez added.
In March 2019, the four senior enlisted leaders from the priority countries visited professional military institutions in the U.S. After the engagement, each prepared an after action report and recommendations to be presented to their chiefs of defense on ways to develop enlisted forces in their nations. Those reports, along with engagements like the one in Ghana, help AFRICOM identify areas to assist, Colon-Lopez said.
Ghana’s empowerment of NCOs serves as model for other nations
According to Colon-Lopez, the four priority countries in the first tranche of the Africa Enlisted Development Strategy are already pioneers in NCO development in Africa.
“Ghana’s willingness to empower, educate, and care for their NCOs is exemplary,” he said. “Their most senior officers are very open-minded to innovation in their NCO development systems which create opportunities to collaborate and help them achieve their goals.”
Empowerment by military leaders isn’t automatic just because you are an NCO, said Chief Warrant Officer Ramous Barker, forces sergeant major of the Ghana Armed Forces.
“You have to portray yourself to be a leader so that your leadership can have that confidence in you,” he said. “It takes a lot of training and learning. Training is one of our hallmarks in Ghana and that will produce quality NCOs and not quantity NCOs.”
Future Tamale Senior NCO Academy flagship for enlisted development
The visit included a tour of the Ghanaian Air Force Tamale Senior NCO Academy which is currently under construction.
According to Colon-Lopez, the facility could serve as a model for future regional professional military education institutions in Africa.
“The facility in Tamale is the flagship of what an NCO development institution should look like,” he said. “The GAF has made a conscious investment in the development of their forces by designating this facility exclusively for NCO development.”
Ghana already has NCO development courses in existence and places a priority on ensuring military personnel are trained.
“We have a lot of career progression institutions in Ghana and we make sure that every soldier goes through most of the courses,” Barker said.
Africa Enlisted Development Strategy begins implementation phase
AFRICOM plans to make immediate investments by sending mobile training teams to work with course instructors to develop and build upon their existing curriculum.
“These engagements will stay ahead of the opening of the academy in Tamale by helping our partners to solidify their curriculum and increase the quality of their instructors,” Colon-Lopez said.
While the U.S. wants to help refine course curriculums, the goal is to have African military personnel training other Africans.
“We do not want to make any African partners look like the U.S. military,” Inman said.
“The next step is to identify specifically what is required at each rank, because what they call a staff sergeant will have different duties than a U.S. staff sergeant,” he said. “Once identified we can look at the current courses of instruction and see if they are meeting the desired outcomes.”
From there, the U.S. can assist with course curriculum modification and instructor development, he said.
In order to execute the enlisted development strategy, AFRICOM now has a full-time Africa enlisted development planner.
“We’re now looking at the implementation phase of the strategy,” said U.S. Air Force Chief Master Sgt. Scott Peters, who is filling this role.
He will track, resource, and execute engagements related to each annual tranche of priority countries, Colon-Lopez said.
Requests for AFRICOM funding support will come from the host countries. They will reach out to the Office of Security Cooperation (OSC) at the U.S. Embassy in their country and then the OSC reaches out to AFRICOM to fulfill the request.
Upcoming Africa Senior Enlisted Leader Conference to be African-led
One of the keystone programs within the Africa Enlisted Development Strategy is the Africa Senior Enlisted Leader Conference (ASELC), which brings together senior enlisted leaders from Africa and the U.S.
During the first ASELC held in 2017, African senior enlisted leaders identified professional military development as one of the key issues they face. The second conference, held in October 2018, allowed a forum to unveil the Africa Enlisted Development Strategy and to discuss solutions to NCO development and the third conference, scheduled for later this year, will allow the tranche one countries to take the lead and present their best practices and lessons learned.
“The intent for the next ASELC is for the four countries in tranche one to take the lead and inform other Africans on their execution and progress of the Africa Enlisted Development Strategy,” Colon-Lopez said. “Additionally, the chiefs of defense from those countries will be invited to address the African partners on the reasons they chose to empower, educate and train their NCOs.”
For countries like Ghana, developing a strong NCO Corps is key to the success of their military.
“The NCO Corps is the hallmark of every military because the NCO is the backbone of every military institution," Barker said. “If you develop NCOs then you can be sure of having a quality military in your country.”