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Joint Senior NCO/Warrant Officer Symposium Strengthens Bonds Among Africans, U.S.
Nearly 30 representatives from more than 20 African partner nations gathered at an academic research center in southern Germany to share insights and learn from U.S. subject-matter experts during a Joint Warrant Officer and Senior Non-commissioned
GARMISCH, Germany - Pamela Bellamy, U.S. Africa Command J-9 (Strategic Communication), interprets while African enlisted women introduce themselves during the Africa Enlisted Working Groups as part of the 2012 Joint Warrant Officer and Senior Noncommissioned Officer Symposium held in Garmisch, Germny, May 21-25. During the session, nine enlisted women from Africa shared their stories, gender-related issues and experiences with Major General Barbara Faulkenberry, U.S. Africa Command logistics director. (U.S. AFRICOM photo by Staff Sergeant Femi Owolabi)
3 photos: U.S. AFRICOM Photo
Photo 1 of 3: GARMISCH, Germany - Pamela Bellamy, U.S. Africa Command J-9 (Strategic Communication), interprets while African enlisted women introduce themselves during the Africa Enlisted Working Groups as part of the 2012 Joint Warrant Officer and Senior Noncommissioned Officer Symposium held in Garmisch, Germny, May 21-25. During the session, nine enlisted women from Africa shared their stories, gender-related issues and experiences with Major General Barbara Faulkenberry, U.S. Africa Command logistics director. (U.S. AFRICOM photo by Staff Sergeant Femi Owolabi) Download full-resolution version
Warrant Officer Mahugnon Mathilde Kpota, Republic of Benin Army, takes notes during a briefing focused on confronting health challenges and building health capacity as part of the plenary session of the Joint Warrant Officer and Senior Non-commissioned Officers Symposium held in Garmisch, Germany, May 23, 2012.  The briefing was delivered by Michael Hryshchyshyn and Bruce Zanin, both of the U.S. Africa Command's J5's Strategy, Plans and Program.  More than 20 African nations were represented at the symposium, which was hosted and facilitated by U.S. AFRICOM and Africa Center for Strategic Studies. (U.S. Africa Command photo by Adam Gramarossa)
3 photos: U.S. AFRICOM Photo
Photo 2 of 3: Warrant Officer Mahugnon Mathilde Kpota, Republic of Benin Army, takes notes during a briefing focused on confronting health challenges and building health capacity as part of the plenary session of the Joint Warrant Officer and Senior Non-commissioned Officers Symposium held in Garmisch, Germany, May 23, 2012. The briefing was delivered by Michael Hryshchyshyn and Bruce Zanin, both of the U.S. Africa Command's J5's Strategy, Plans and Program. More than 20 African nations were represented at the symposium, which was hosted and facilitated by U.S. AFRICOM and Africa Center for Strategic Studies. (U.S. Africa Command photo by Adam Gramarossa) Download full-resolution version
GARMISCH, Germany - Command Chief Master Sergeant Jack Johnson, U.S. Africa Command's senior enlisted leader, answers questions from members of the audience during a plenary session of the Joint Warrant Officer and Senior Noncommissioned Officers Symposium in Garmisch, Germany, May 23, 2012, while Dr. Daryl Balia, Institute for Security Studies, looks on.  More than 20 African nations were represented at the symposium, which was co-hosted and facilitated by U.S. AFRICOM and Africa Center for Strategic Studies. (U.S. AFRICOM photo by Staff Sergeant Olufemi A. Owolabi)
3 photos: U.S. AFRICOM Photo
Photo 3 of 3: GARMISCH, Germany - Command Chief Master Sergeant Jack Johnson, U.S. Africa Command's senior enlisted leader, answers questions from members of the audience during a plenary session of the Joint Warrant Officer and Senior Noncommissioned Officers Symposium in Garmisch, Germany, May 23, 2012, while Dr. Daryl Balia, Institute for Security Studies, looks on. More than 20 African nations were represented at the symposium, which was co-hosted and facilitated by U.S. AFRICOM and Africa Center for Strategic Studies. (U.S. AFRICOM photo by Staff Sergeant Olufemi A. Owolabi) Download full-resolution version
GARMISCH, Germany - Pamela Bellamy, U.S. Africa Command J-9 (Strategic Communication), interprets while African enlisted women introduce themselves during the Africa Enlisted Working Groups as part of the 2012 Joint Warrant Officer and Senior Noncommissioned Officer Symposium held in Garmisch, Germny, May 21-25. During the session, nine enlisted women from Africa shared their stories, gender-related issues and experiences with Major General Barbara Faulkenberry, U.S. Africa Command logistics director. (U.S. AFRICOM photo by Staff Sergeant Femi Owolabi)
Warrant Officer Mahugnon Mathilde Kpota, Republic of Benin Army, takes notes during a briefing focused on confronting health challenges and building health capacity as part of the plenary session of the Joint Warrant Officer and Senior Non-commissioned Officers Symposium held in Garmisch, Germany, May 23, 2012.  The briefing was delivered by Michael Hryshchyshyn and Bruce Zanin, both of the U.S. Africa Command's J5's Strategy, Plans and Program.  More than 20 African nations were represented at the symposium, which was hosted and facilitated by U.S. AFRICOM and Africa Center for Strategic Studies. (U.S. Africa Command photo by Adam Gramarossa)
GARMISCH, Germany - Command Chief Master Sergeant Jack Johnson, U.S. Africa Command's senior enlisted leader, answers questions from members of the audience during a plenary session of the Joint Warrant Officer and Senior Noncommissioned Officers Symposium in Garmisch, Germany, May 23, 2012, while Dr. Daryl Balia, Institute for Security Studies, looks on.  More than 20 African nations were represented at the symposium, which was co-hosted and facilitated by U.S. AFRICOM and Africa Center for Strategic Studies. (U.S. AFRICOM photo by Staff Sergeant Olufemi A. Owolabi)
Nearly 30 representatives from more than 20 African partner nations gathered at an academic research center in southern Germany to share insights and learn from U.S. subject-matter experts during a Joint Warrant Officer and Senior Non-commissioned Officers Symposium (JWOS) May 21-25, 2012.



Topics included the role of women in the armed forces, a growing trend in many African militaries. Other issues discussed included U.S. foreign policy in Africa; the role of senior NCOs; warrant officers (WOs), NCO and leadership support to economic development and in the context of humanitarian efforts; health care; and the future of Africa through 2020.



The JWOS was organized and facilitated by U.S. Africa Command and the Africa Center for Strategic Studies (ACSS), based in Washington, D.C. The event took place at the facilities of the George C. Marshall European Center for Security Studies in Garmisch.



One of the participants said the symposium sparked an idea to organize similar events in Africa.



"We will go back home and network and communicate with one another more," said Master Sergeant Donald Makita, Gabon Armed Forces. "I believe we all have the determination, and we will all go back and build a better NCO corps and a greater Africa."



This is the third symposium held since the inception of AFRICOM and the largest ever. For the first time, the participants from Africa included nine women.



The event was moderated by Command Chief Master Sergeant Jack Johnson Jr., U.S. Africa Command's senior enlisted leader; Professor Tom Dempsey, ACSS; and Dr. John F. Kelly, Associate Dean of ACSS.



"The overall goal is for us to come together as colleagues and senior NCOs to talk about those things that affect our forces, whether it's health, welfare, morale, good order, discipline, or economic and medical conditions, based on making security even stronger among all our nations," said Johnson.



"In any military, country, government and societies, it is about diversity," said Johnson. "Women bring something that men, quite honestly, can't bring."



He added that bringing this diversity together, we have a stronger capability. Together, "we grow in strength and move forward."



He described the symposium as successful from the beginning, with a natural rapport among the African participants. "Normally, in most forums, it takes time for people to come together before they start warming up to each other, but from the very beginning during the ice-breaker they were together chatting, talking, and they were sharing their experiences."



In addition, Dempsey described the symposium as unique and a strategic communication tool for the U.S. and African NCOs and warrant officers. "I think this is an extraordinarily important event because senior NCOs and warrant officers play such a critical role in African militaries, and there are few venues for communicating with that critical audience on our part. That makes this event rather unique in my experience," said Dempsey.



Throughout the symposium and during each break, the bond between the Africans strengthened as the level of engagement and discussions grew. At every opportunity, they posed and took pictures together.



"That is what we do as senior NCOs. We recognize that we all have a bond. It doesn't matter wherever in the world we are," said Johnson. "We, as senior non-commissioned officers, NCOs, and the warrant officers, have a bond that I find as very unbreakable, so this has been a success. And it's going to keep getting better and better and growing."



While focusing on fostering partnership with African nations and their NCOs, the event was organized to facilitate knowledge sharing among participants and subject matter experts through open discussions. Sharing first-hand experiences was one of the steps in helping develop African solutions to African problems.



"We are learning just as much from our African partners," Johnson said.



Michael Hryshchyshyn, of U.S. Africa Command's J5's Strategy, Plans and Programs Directorate, echoed Johnson. "We all have a lot to learn from one another because nobody has all the answers, but each of us brings a unique set of experience and education as we work together as a team, which, hopefully, will lead us to best solutions possible," Hryshchyshyn said.



Through the information-sharing session, participants who thought they were the only ones facing a certain challenge discovered that other countries are facing the same challenge. Other participants also offered recommendations for solutions.



"One of the great things we are learning here today is that someone from the east is talking about a challenge they are having, and they are amazed to find someone from the west, central or south have had the same problems, and they have found ways of conquering those particular problems," Johnson said. "Today is not about solving those particular issues, but about understanding them."



While talking about the U.S. Pandemic Response Program during the health-care plenary discussion session, Hryshchyshyn noted that it is important to collaborate with other governmental agencies when developing a response program. It is also vital that the plan be tailored to the needs of each African nation.



"The plan that we have for the United States will be different from the plan for Senegal, or Cameroon," he said. "We need to work together in a more extensive manner. Pandemic influenza, such as avian influenza, doesn't know national boundaries. So not only do we need to work with governmental agencies in our own countries, we need to reach out and we need to work with other nations."



Despite sharing their concerns about lack of development and education in some parts of the African continent, which could hinder collaboration, and whether their decision makers would be willing to execute some of the topics discussed, they were all optimistic about the future of Africa.



Some first-time participants of the symposium described it as an eye-opening event.



"I have learned a lot from this symposium - that I have a great role to play for my commander to achieve his goal and the mission of the military as a whole," said Warrant Officer Beatrice Maseray Bah, Republic of Sierra Leone Armed Forces. "We are the bridge between the commander and the men - down there [in the enlisted ranks]. We need to know the welfare of the men, and we need to know their needs and address them."



According to Bah, "one of the briefings shed more light" on disaster response.



"The briefing showed us some slides about what to do when there is a disaster," Bah said. "It even talked about how we can help civilians or soldiers when they are in trouble. So, before coming here, I never knew anything like that. I am now going back to educate my colleagues, who have not got the opportunity to come here, so that they too can start practicing some of these things. And I will also be by their sides helping so that we can be practicing some of these things together, just for our country to go forward."



The class discussions culminated with a site visit. On May 24, the JWOS participants took a 15-mile trip to the village of Oberammergau, where the NATO School is located. At the NATO School, they learned about cultural diversity and NCO development in a diverse and multicultural environment.



U.S. Army Colonel Mark Baines, Commandant, NATO School, welcomed them with opening remarks. Luxembourg Army Command Sergeant Major Claude Schmitz, NATO School command senior enlisted leader, gave them the command brief.



Netherlands Command Sergeant Major Paul van Oosterhout, director of NCO program department at the NATO School, conducted the cultural diversity training with humor-filled video slides. He said the training's goal was to help participants to comprehend cultural diversity while working in an international setting. He emphasized three important factors that could help when working in a multinational environment such as NATO: "In order to get solutions and results in an international setting, you need to build on awareness, communication and patience," he said.



Even though participants said various cultures, religion, languages and multifaceted issues separate them, this symposium has shown that they can work together despite their differences. And it has also created a bond and lasting friendships among them.



Sergeant Major Ashalley Neequaye, Ghana Army, who was attending a U.S.-organized symposium for the first time, said he came to find out "why the United States is so interested in Africa."



After the event, he said he now has a fuller understanding of the U.S. government's interests in Africa and much more. "Number one, I now understand that the U.S. interest is about partnership," Neequaye said. "It is about helping the Africans to find an African solution to the challenges and the difficulties that we are going through. Also, with the knowledge that I have acquired here about the protection of human security and disaster responses techniques, this is enough for me to carry home."



After their trip to the NATO School, certificates were presented to the participants. On May 25, the enlisted female members broke for a separate meeting. The Africa Enlisted Women's Working Group was led by Major General Barbara Faulkenberry and moderated by Pamela Bellamy, of U.S. AFRICOM J-9 Strategic Communications. General Stayce Harris, AFRICOM, was also part of the Women's Working Group.

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