Diálogo interviewed U.S. Army Command Sergeant Major José S. Lopez, Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation (WHINSEC), during his visit to U.S. Southern Command’s headquarters in Doral, Florida.
Diálogo: Why is it important for the military forces of the Western Hemisphere to create the command sergeant major (CSM) role?
U.S. Army Command Sergeant Major José S. Lopez, WHINSEC: The CSM is the principal enlisted advisor to the commander. I advise the commander on all enlisted issues that are happening in the unit. It would be great for the militaries of the Western Hemisphere to have a CSM role because it would allow the commander to focus on his/her job — the commander does not need to worry about what is going on in his unit with enlisted affairs because that’s what a CSM does. We believe noncommissioned officers (NCOs) are the backbone of the Army.
Diálogo: How have NCOs progressed in the military forces of the region?
Command Sgt. Maj. Lopez: Some countries have strong NCO programs, for example Colombia. However, we have a lot of work to do in the region. We continue teaching the military forces the role and responsibilities of an NCO and what we provide for the commanders.
Diálogo: What is the next step in the process of NCO professionalization?
Command Sgt. Maj. Lopez: Our mission is to enhance the culture of NCO professionalism to foster mutual knowledge, transparency, confidence, and cooperation with partner nation security forces, promoting democratic values and respect for human rights. In order to accomplish our mission, we need to continue educating our partner nations about WHINSEC’s mission and the capabilities we offer in terms of NCO professional development. The importance of the NCOs is unlimited and we want to share our experience with the region and help them to advance in their military forces.
Diálogo: What courses does WHINSEC’s MSG Roy P. Benavidez Noncommissioned Officer Academy (NCOA) offer?
Command Sgt. Maj. Lopez: We have three courses: Small Unit Leader (SULC), Noncommission Officer Professional Development (NCOPD), and Senior Enlisted Advisor (SEA). SULC teaches leadership skills at the team and squad leader level. The NCOPD develops leadership skills at the squad and platoon sergeant level. Finally, the SEA course teaches military leadership and education to master sergeants and sergeants major and their equivalents in all services.
Diálogo: How does NCOA promote gender integration?
Command Sgt. Maj. Lopez: Our NCOA’s Deputy Commandant First Sergeant is a prime example of promoting gender integration. First Sergeant Rocio Kremer, a female soldier, was selected for the position because she is the most qualified due to her leadership, dedication to mission accomplishment, and motivation. She is doing an outstanding job. We want to show our partner nations that we are committed in promoting gender integration by leading the example and we hope they send more females to our courses.
Diálogo: What is the importance of subject matter expert exchanges (SMEEs)?
Command Sgt. Maj. Lopez: We go to the region and teach about NCO professionalism — by sharing our knowledge and demonstrate what we provide to the commanders. We do not tell them that they have to be exactly like us. Besides, the SMEEs are very important because it shows our partner nations that we collaborate and work together — as NCOs in the Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marines.
Diálogo: What is a successful example of SMEEs in the region?
Command Sgt. Maj. Lopez: The Army of the Dominican Republic started to build their NCOPD based on SMEEs that we — as Army, Navy, Air Force — have done with them. For example, their senior instructor came through the SULC and now she’s one of the senior instructors developing her subordinates. Ecuador is now interested in developing their NCO Academy, so we’re going to begin to work with them.