ABIDJAN, Côte d’Ivoire - Senior enlisted leaders from the United States, including the State Partnership Program, and 20 African nations attended the African Senior Enlisted Leader Summit Nov. 7-9.
The meeting was a first-of-its-kind gathering of African Air Force senior enlisted leaders.
U.S. Air Force Chief Master Sgt. Randy Kwiatkowski, U.S. Air Forces in Europe - Air Forces Africa command chief, co-hosted the summit alongside Côte d’Ivoire air force Chief Warrant Officer Okoue Denis, Côte d’Ivoire air force senior enlisted leader.
In opening remarks, Kwiatkowski said the foundations of a great partnership are respect, friendship and trust.
“We have an opportunity this week to cultivate and nourish the friendships that we have among one another,” said Kwiatkowski. “I look forward to growing and sharing this experience with each and every one of you.”
During the three-day event, senior enlisted leaders from each country shared their insights on noncommissioned officer development and problem-solving and answered questions from their counterparts.
“It’s important to gather and share ideas at a summit like this because it helps us to know each other better, understand our different cultures and develop oneself so we can all raise each other up,” said Denis.
One summit section focused on advancing the Women, Peace and Security initiative, which recognizes women as critical to achieving sustainable international peace and security. Additional topics included enlisted force development, the U.S. Space Force, the Department of Defense National Guard Bureau State Partnership Program and professional military education.
“A topic we discussed that greatly interests me is the Women, Peace and Security initiative,” said Denis. “We need to improve the life of women in the military and how to help female NCOs manage their careers and find that work-life balance that many struggle with.”
Denis also spoke about the importance of NCOs and how they need to be a transition point between officers and the lower enlisted. He emphasized the need to empower them through delegation, allowing them proper authority to accomplish tasks, which frees officers to focus on the bigger picture.
Throughout the summit, many senior enlisted leaders discovered they faced similar challenges in caring for their Airmen.
“We really want to establish a network where we are leaning into each other’s challenges and successes,” said Kwiatkowski. “This event allows us to communicate across that network to help each other grow and to enhance those partnerships, friendships and the trust that we have in each other.”
The African countries that participated in ASELS 2023 were Benin, Botswana, Côte d’Ivoire, Eswatini, Gabon, Ghana, Kenya, Lesotho, Madagascar, Malawi, Morocco, Mozambique, Nigeria, Republic of the Congo, Rwanda, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Tanzania, Tunisia and Zambia.
Other U.S. representatives attending were senior enlisted leaders from the Inter-European Air Forces Academy, the 406th Air Expeditionary Wing, the USAFE Directorate of Space Forces and the U.S. Africa Command.
“The Airmen we are developing now are going to lead us through the challenges we face 20 years from now,” said Kwiatkowski in closing remarks. “We cannot take their development lightly.”