Paraguay Participates in NCO Expert Exchange Program with the United States

Paraguay Participates in NCO Expert Exchange Program with the United States

By Marcos Ommati/Diálogo
July 22, 2016

On a typically cold and clear winter day in the Southern Hemisphere, our group began a day filled with visits to Paraguayan Military institutions as part of a week-long period of events, workshops, conferences, and presentations comprising an exchange program between Non-Commissioned Officers (NCOs) from the United States and Paraguay. The first stop was a visit to the Peacekeeping Joint Operations Training Center, in Asuncion, where General Oscar Luis González, commander of the Paraguayan Army led the opening ceremony together with U.S. Army Colonel Barbara Fick, Liaison Officer with the Office of Security Cooperation at the U.S. Embassy-Paraguay. The U.S. NCOs also visited other institutions throughout the week, among which were the Logistics Command, the Military Academic Institute Command (CIME, for its Spanish acronym), the Engineering and Communications Command, and the NCO Training School of the Paraguayan Navy.
Together with other partner nations in
Latin America, Paraguay is taking part in a program focused on professionalizing
and empowering the work of NCOs in the national armies. The program is
sponsored by U.S. Southern Command (SOUTHCOM) and has been in development since
the beginning of 2016, under the direction of U.S. Army Sergeant Major Karim
Mella.

Changing the Way of Thinking As in the case of partner nations such as
El Salvador and the Dominican Republic, where the NCO professionalization
program is already underway, Paraguay is on its way to adapt the current mindset
about NCOs and the relationship between officers, sergeants, and future NCOs. "We must change the mindset amongst
officers, mainly, and among them, commanders in particular. From there, we must
continue to work to engrain the concept I am trying to instill in the officers’
minds. An officer’s first responsibility
is taking care of the personnel under his command. Having said that, it is
worth noting Paraguay has no differences other than financial resources. Social
and cultural conditions are very homogeneous among the population, and that is
reflected in the Armed Forces. Paraguayan officers do not discriminate against
NCOs for any other reason than the different ranks. This is due to discipline
and the vertical nature of the hierarchies in every army and which must be
maintained. In that regard, and to begin with, we have that advantage, because
I understand that in other countries this is not so," said General González
to Diálogo. SM Mella considered it would be appropriate to conduct an exchange program where NCOs from the three services in the U.S. Military could meet their counterparts from Paraguay to better explain the change in mindset that took place in the United States over 200 years ago. “It's not only important, it's vital. More and more joint and combined operations and training are taking place throughout the Western Hemisphere. Also, consider a natural disaster, for example, the devastating earthquake in Haiti or the most recent event in Ecuador where multiple countries came together. When two or more nations come together to provide support, enlisted members naturally gravitate toward each other. By having the same attributes of professionalism, this group can align themselves more quickly, organize effectively, develop plans, and execute their mission,” said U.S. Air Force Sergeant Major Heriberto G. Diaz Jr., Superintendent at the Inter-American Air Forces Academy, located within Lackland Air Force Base in Joint Base San Antonio. For the U.S. NCOs that participated in
the exchange program, it was clear that in addition to contributing, they also
grew personally with the experience. "I learned the importance of the NCO
Corps within the Paraguayan Armed Forces and the high-level of professionalism
in which they operate. The capability of their respective NCO Corps was truly
impressive. I also learned that Paraguayans are truly gracious hosts and that
they truly value friendships and partnerships,” commented U.S. Army Command
Sergeant Major Anthony S. Torres, from the 470th Military Intelligence Brigade. But maybe the most appropriate person to
talk about the topic of similarities and differences among NCOs from different
countries is U.S. Marine Corps Sergeant Cesar Infante. His perspective in the
exchange was illuminating because, with a Peruvian-American background, he
served in the Peruvian Armed Forces before moving to the United States, where
he is now serving as chief of supplies at U.S. Marine Corps Forces, South.
"I believe the level of professionalism of the NCOs from Latin American
countries still has a way to go, because in many places, the NCO position is
relatively new. Currently, the armed forces of many countries are on their way
to becoming professionals, and I would say they are on the right path to
achieving that goal." Joint Work Just like their U.S. counterparts, the
Paraguayan NCOs that participated in the exchange program are members of all
the services. "Any relationship with servicemen from other countries is
beneficial, especially when it has to do with education," said NCO Antonio
Duarte from the 1st Air Force Brigade of Paraguay." We have this
vision of improving the quality of education, from the beginning, with NCOs and
sergeants, to the end of the curriculum. As soon as they
can have a training course for command NCOs, it will be a very valuable
achievement," said Command NCO Victor Alcaldes, from the Paraguayan Navy. It is also important to conduct expert exchanges
in the United States so the program can be more comprehensive. For that reason,
there are currently Paraguayan NCOs attending courses in the United States. "I
am a guest NCO at the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation (WHINSEC),
in Fort Benning, Georgia. I know enough about the relationship between officers
and NCOs in the United States. With this experience, I believe NCOs in Paraguay
have to have the opportunity to lead a platoon or a group to carry out their
duties, and have officers trust that they have what's necessary and are ready
to perform as such. They need that space so they can develop based on
education. Education is vital for an individual's development, and therefore
for institutions," said Cavalry NCO of the Paraguayan Army Digno Galeano. Next Steps Continuity is very important for the
success of the partner nation NCO professionalization program. Specifically
regarding Paraguay, “the very next step is maintaining the information flow
with the Paraguayan Armed Forces and tracking their process,” said U.S. Army
Master Sergeant Luis O. Perez, Sergeant Major of Operations at WHINSEC. “We must maintain these open lines of
communication, and conduct a follow-up with our counterparts as soon as
possible in order to help them in the future.” All participants agree that the world has
changed, and the military service members from every country must adapt to face
new threats in the best possible way, therefore having a better prepared NCO
corps is a must. "Our enemies are not in front of us or behind us, but in
a line. We now have missions in which small armed or unarmed groups cause
damages everywhere. Having a dynamic NCO force that is prepared and is
professional would help us reach further and carry out our missions in a more
precise manner," concluded Sgt. Major Mella.
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