U.S. Army South (ARSOUTH) hosted Colombian Army senior enlisted leaders for the 15th iteration of the semi-annual military-to-military engagement Senior Noncommissioned Officer Integral Program (PISAJ, in Spanish), from June 14-19 at Fort Benning, Georgia, and June 20-25 at MacDill Air Force Base, Florida.
“We are here to enhance essential leadership skills of the Colombian senior noncommissioned officers [NCOs],” said Command Sergeant Major Trevor Walker, ARSOUTH command sergeant major. “We are fully committed to assisting our partners in the areas that reinforces Colombia’s commitment and goal to professionalize their NCO Corps.”
PISAJ is an ARSOUTH-hosted engagement between the Colombian and U.S. armies. This year, senior enlisted service members from the Colombian Navy, Peru, and Mexico were invited to participate.
“The United States NCO Corps is an integral part of what has made the U.S. Army so successful throughout 246 years of service to our nation,” said Command Sgt. Maj. Walker. “NCOs conduct the daily operations of the Army; they are the vanguard for leading, developing, and training soldiers. Because we [U.S. Army] have been successful in this aspect, our partner nations, such as Colombia, want to bring their NCO Corps to that same level. This program helps them to see how we operate and gives us a venue to share ideas and lessons learned so one, they don’t make the same mistakes we did, and [this] helps on areas so that they can further develop their NCO Corps. It also helps us strengthen our partnership in the process.”
During the two weeks of PISAJ, the senior enlisted leaders focused on human resource reform, human rights, NCO development, gender integration, and operations. The Colombian Army determined NCO development as one of the pillars of their current transformation necessary to develop into a strategic combined armed force capable of deploying alongside the U.S. Army worldwide.
“PISAJ is very important for our NCOs and, as the leader for the 32,000 NCOs in our military, I can tell you this is very important for strengthening and developing the professionalism of our NCO corps,” said Colombian Army Sergeant Major William Cuellar Duarte. “To come here and experience this training is very gratifying for our NCOs and it contributes to developing and strengthening their capabilities as the next sergeant majors and to serve as future senior enlisted advisors.”
Command Sergeant Major Benjamin Jones, command sergeant major of U.S. Southern Command, discussed traveling with his enlisted leader team in May 2021 to observe the Colombian Army, Navy, Marines, and Air Force NCOs and petty officer academies and identify their current capabilities and areas in which they may need assistance. He said he hopes that the Colombian military will continue to work through the PISAJ program and with the State Partnership Program to further attend training and have additional mobile training teams to provide additional education.
“These types of bilateral senior enlisted leader engagements strengthen the bilateral defense relationship and establish a way forward between senior enlisted leaders in support of Colombia’s ongoing effort to further professionalize its force,” said Command Sgt. Maj. Jones. “Thus becoming the gold standard for professional military forces across Latin America, especially at the senior enlisted leader level.”
Command Sgt. Maj. Walker revealed his vision of what the future of the PISAJ program can hold for other partner nations’ militaries.
“I see the PISAJ program growing because a lot of our other partner nations are seeing the progress of the Colombian military and more want a similar program for their country,” said Command Sgt. Maj. Walker. “Hopefully we can help develop a program for the whole Western Hemisphere, but it will take time to see how we can work it to meet the needs of each country. They are all at different stages in their NCO development and need different level of courses. The ultimate goal is to work myself out of a job and maybe ARSOUTH can reach that.”
Command Sgt. Maj. Walker said that one of the objectives for the next iteration of PISAJ will be to discuss the progress of the Colombian Sergeant Major Academy and its transformation based on courses from previous PISAJ iterations.
“Like our Sergeant Major Academy, we did not get there in just a few weeks,” Command Sgt. Maj. Walker said. “It took us years to get us to where we are today. ARSOUTH, in conjunction with the NCO Leadership of Excellence/USASMA [U.S. Army Sergeant Major Academy], gave them some tools and the Colombian military made some progress with their objectives and course map, but they still have some work to do before they can show us their progress.”
Command Sgt. Maj. Walker and Sgt. Maj. Cuellar concluded by announcing that the next iteration of PISAJ will focus on the U.S. Army’s Operations Sergeant Major and will be held in the spring of 2022.