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Kenyan Defence Sergeants Major Focus on Enlisted Development during AFRICOM Visit
A delegation of sergeants major from Kenya's defense service components visited U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) headquarters as part of a senior leadership engagement that offered an in-depth look at the command's mission and activities,
A delegation of sergeants major from Kenya's defense service components visited U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) headquarters as part of a senior leadership engagement that offered an in-depth look at the command's mission and activities, September 16-17, 2010.

The group of four senior leaders included the Kenya Defence Force defense sergeant major, as well as the Kenya Army, Air Force and Navy sergeants major and were accompanied by AFRICOM Command Sergeant Major Mark Ripka and Legal Engagements Sergeant Major Roderick Celestaine.

During the two-day visit to the command, the group met with the deputy to the commander for military operations, Vice Admiral Charles J. "Joe" Leidig, and other senior staff members to discuss the command and learn about quality of life initiatives and warrant officer (WO) and non-commissioned officer (NCO) development - a main focus of the Kenyan military.

"The organization of Africa Command right from the day we landed here up to this minute - one thing that has impressed me much is the empowerment of knowledge of leadership techniques to your service personnel right from the lowest rank of enlisted personnel up to the level of command sergeant majors," said Kenyan Defense Sergeant Major Joseph Muindi Kithome.

"Since we've arrived here, the briefings we have been given, the tours we have gone [on], we have seen non-commissioned officers leading us all the way. That means to us these corps of non-commissioned officers in the entire U.S. forces - you prepare them in such a way that they can stand on their own in the absence of commissioned officers. And that comes because of the confidence you have instilled in them."

U.S. Africa Command got more involved in working with the enlisted forces of Kenya after Ripka was asked to assist in further developing Kenya's WO/NCO program during a visit in June 2009.

Since then, Kenyan Army Sergeant Major John Muthoka said their NCOs training is closer to the level officers receive. They are increasing their professionalism and NCOs can now perform a wider variety of duties, due in part to the partnership that focuses on enlisted development.

In addition to holding senior leadership engagements with African partners like Kenya, Ripka also offers a Web page specifically created to assist warrant officers and NCOs. The WO/NCO site provides professional reading, development curricula, doctrinal training publications, and various tactical aide memoires, as well as relevant news articles and stories from the Armed Forces/Defense Forces of African Partner Nations and the United States.

Prior to visiting U.S. Africa Command Headquarters, the sergeants major also learned about force development at Ramstein Air Base, Germany, where they toured the 17th Air Force Airman Leadership School/Non-Commissioned Officer (NCO) Academy. They also visited the Joint Multinational Training Command's Grafenwoehr Training Area to learn about the medical and maneuver training provided at the center.

Defense sergeants major remarked how impressed they were with the knowledge and professionalism of junior service members serving as instructors at the academies.

"What you're teaching them not what to think, but you're teaching them how to think. That one impressed us very much. You prepare them to make decisions, to think," said Kithome.

Kenyan delegation members included:
Joseph Muindi Kithome - Kenyan Defense Sergeant Major
John Muthoka - Kenyan Army Sergeant Major
Khalif Khanso - Kenyan Air Force Sergeant Major
Gibiti Chacha Mango - Kenyan Navy Sergeant Major
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