South American sergeant majors gathered at the Senior Enlisted Leaders Seminar 2019 in Natal, Brazil, on August 20-22. The event was part of the South American Defense Conference (SOUTHDEC) 2019, sponsored by U.S. Southern Command (SOUTHCOM) and the Brazilian Ministry of Defense. Canada, Spain, and the United Kingdom also took part as observers.
Sergeant majors of Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Paraguay, Peru, Suriname, the United States, and Uruguay shared information and lessons learned about professionalization and opportunities for regional training based on the theme, “Regional defense cooperation in response to challenges in the hemisphere.” They also discussed contributions to humanitarian assistance planning operations.
“The seminar seeks to promote a cultural shift toward increased responsibilities for the senior enlisted leaders in the region,” U.S. Army Master Sergeant Danny Gomes, Noncommissioned Officers (NCO) Development Partnership Program Manager for SOUTHCOM, told Diálogo. “The knowledge, experience, and leadership that come from seasoned NCOs play an integral part in the success of our forces in response to the common threats in the Western hemisphere.”
Since 2017, the seminar runs parallel to the meeting of armed forces’ commanders. The objective is for command and NCO sergeant majors to have a common space to analyze their own issues and challenges.
“This seminar is our forum to share experiences. It’s essential for us to know exactly what other sergeant majors are doing in their countries, especially in the United States, and to delve into aspects such as NCOs’ development and training,” said Brazilian Marine Corps Sergeant Major Francisco Gleison Ferreira Dos Santos. “Sergeant majors connect senior leadership with the troops and guide enlisted personnel in areas such as morale and well-being of their subordinates and their families.”
For the first time, the first senior enlisted leader of the Ecuadorean Armed Forces Joint Command participated in the event.
“We are here to connect ideas and experiences that will help us to find the joint mechanisms leading to greater professionalization and leadership of NCOs in the region,” said Ecuadorean Army Sergeant Major Mario Sandoval Ramírez. “We should be prepared in all planning, strategic, and training aspects to advise commanders about the needs and requirements of our troops during their service, with caution, respect, and a sense of duty.”
“As an observer from the United Kingdom, it’s fascinating to see all the South American countries come together and discuss commonalities and current themes, in particular their focus on the humanitarian aid and the way they deal with the situation in recent years,” said Warrant Officer Class 1 Glenn Haughton, senior enlisted advisor to the Chiefs of Staff Committee, Ministry of Defense, in the United Kingdom. “The military can’t function without the NCOs. We play a vital role in complementing the chain of command.”
At the end of the seminar, sergeant majors committed to work on their personnel's professional development, strengthening the relationship between commanders and NCOs, and to provide more training to optimize missions, incorporate talent management, and create a merit system for promotion.