Colombia and the United States consistently seek to bolster their military relationship by increasing the capabilities of their senior noncommissioned officers (NCOs) and strengthening their professional development program. In that vein, Colombian and U.S. Army NCOs met for the 17th iteration of U.S. Army South-led Senior NCOs Integral Program (PISAJ), November 6-19, 2022, for training, briefings, and other functions carried out in Washington D.C. and Miami.
“PISAJ has strengthened the capabilities of sergeant majors of the Colombian Army, Navy, and Air Force. PISAJ has strengthened their skills, knowledge, and has allowed them to see the capabilities of our ally, the U.S. Army,” Joint Command Sergeant Major Consuelo Díaz Álvarez, sergeant major of the Colombian Military forces, the first female Colombian soldier to be promoted to that rank, said.
“In PISAJ, we shared doctrine, strengthened our capabilities, and learned lessons that will make us better advisors to the commanders. Today our NCOs are professional, educated military men and women, who respond to the needs currently facing our country in terms of training and doctrine, and make our Army stronger.”
PISAJ is a military-to-military engagement with the Colombian Army and other partner nations that are invited as observers. Created in 2014, PISAJ has trained more than 300 service members of the Colombian Military Forces.
“PISAJ is of great importance for the Colombian Army and the Colombian Military Forces. The program allows NCOs to receive education and achieve professional development and is a reference for Latin American nations,” Command Sergeant Major Mauricio Páez Acosta, sergeant Major of the Colombian Army, said.
The experiences and lessons learned during the 17 iterations of PISAJ shaped and influenced the Colombian NCO corps, Sgt. Maj. Páez added. Of these, 15 took place in the United States under a joint work agenda between Colombia, U.S. Southern Command (SOUTHCOM), and U.S. Army South. The program also has had attendees from Brazil, Mexico, and Peru.
“The integration in PISAJ between the two nations, is an extension of the other exercises we do throughout the year, such as Southern Vanguard and PANAMAX, where we participate with each other to make each other’s army better, understand each other, and share information so that if we have a crisis, a humanitarian disaster, or need each other in the act of war, we could depend on each other based on those friendships and relationships that we built,” U.S. Command Sergeant Major Ronald J. Graves, U.S. Army South senior enlisted advisor, said.
During PISAJ 17, 28 Colombian NCOs worked alongside their U.S. counterparts for their personal and professional military development. This year, two members of the Mexican Army participated as observers.
“PISAJ allows us to strengthen our relationship with Colombia through senior enlisted leader development,” said U.S. Army Command Sergeant Major Benjamin Jones, SOUTHCOM command sergeant major. “To watch the Colombian sergeant majors working together with the U.S. sergeant majors from different U.S. military institutions was extremely phenomenal, as we help them to shape their next generation of Colombian NCO Corps.”
The class met with U.S. Sergeant Major of the Army Michael A. Grinston and toured the Pentagon installations in Washington D.C. They received briefings from senior enlisted advisors from the National Defense University (NDU), William J. Perry Center for Hemispheric Defense Studies, and the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation. Their agenda included the Inter-American Defense College (IADC), the U.S. Army Aberdeen Proving Ground, and other military organizations.
In Miami, they participated in briefings with senior enlisted leaders (SELs) from SOUTHCOM components and took part in training on leadership and gender integration, among other topics.
“This was the first time that PISAJ students travelled to Washington, D.C. Our intent was to give them a better understanding of All Things Jointness and interoperability. We lined up some amazing guest speakers from the Pentagon Joint Staff, the NDU, the IADC, and the Perry Center, etc. After a successful week in D.C., they picked up and traveled to SOUTHCOM for their second week of PISAJ where they had an opportunity to receive additional briefings from the command SELs of each service components, to include a very successful SEL Women, Peace, and Security discussion we called Fireside Chat, and breakout sessions. We were grateful to our Senior Enlisted Advisor to the Chairman of the Joint Staff Ramón ‘CZ’ Colón-López who also came out to speak with all the Colombian sergeants majors during their visit to SOUTHCOM. While in South Florida, the PISAJ students seized the opportunity to visit some of the organizations that are in the local area. This was truly an awesome and valuable event as we continue to move forward together to strengthen partnership, keep growing, and to further professionalize the NCO corps,” added Command Sgt. Maj. Jones.
For Colombian Army Sergeant Major Deyanira Collazos, PISAJ is an invaluable experience as it focuses on collaborative efforts toward teamwork and regional peace.
“This program has allowed the Colombian Military Forces to scope out teamwork, but above all, to create an interoperational synergy that allows us to be more effective in fulfilling the institutional mission of each of our forces,” said Sgt. Maj. Collazos. “The most fundamental thing about PISAJ is to strengthen the bonds of fraternity, an objective that unites all of the militaries in our hemisphere to work together for the security, peace, and stability of each of our countries.”
For his part Colombian Army Sergeant Major Álvaro Alfonso Salcedo González said he was taking with him new concepts. “By cross-referencing information and the experience of how sergeants majors in the U.S. Army lead, we can strengthen all the knowledge and concepts on how we lead our troops and advise our commanders for decision-making. PISAJ is allowing us to strengthen our knowledge, functions, roles, performances, and philosophy of command sergeant majors, which is the rank to which we will be promoted.”
For other participants, PISAJ 17 brought experience, knowledge, and specially motivation.
“I am in PISAJ to gain experience based on the model of other armies, in this case, Colombia and the United States in order to continue advancing in our project to develop the concept of NCOs in my Army, since we lack the concept of sergeant major,” said Mexican Army First Sergeant Marcial Ramírez Santiago.
“We hope that our NCOs can continue to grow with PISAJ as it gives us an opportunity to share military doctrine, good practices, and experiences with our ally, the United States,” Command Sgt. Maj. Díaz said at the conclusion of the event.