LIMA, Peru – Senior enlisted leaders and Soldiers of the West Virginia Army National Guard (WVARNG) participated in a weeklong State Partnership Program (SPP) engagement Feb. 3-7, working alongside the Peruvian Armed Forces to build professional military competencies within their enlisted ranks as part of a noncommissioned officer professional development program (NCOPD).
The NCOPD session built on previous SPP engagements focused on enhancing the capabilities and training within the Peruvian military's non-commissioned officer (NCO) corps. WVARNG personnel worked with more than 250 junior and senior enlisted soldiers and airmen at the historic joint-force NCO Professional Development School in Lima, hosted by Técnico Supervisor General del Ejercito (EP) Juan Soria Velasquez, the sergeant major of the Peruvian Army (PERAR).
It was the first time Peru held a joint NCOPD for its Air Force and Navy, a significant milestone for the West Virginia-Peru partnership. Previous engagements focused solely on PERARs NCO corps.
Peru's armed forces have taken on institutional change to enhance and professionalize its NCO corps.
"It's such an honor to go back to Peru to talk with and engage our fellow enlisted about the role of the NCO corps," said Command Sgt. Maj. Phillip Cantrell, WVNG senior enlisted leader. "Non-commissioned officers are the backbone of the military, and we have seen significant strides made by Peru's leadership to build up their NCO corps into a professional and well-respected body within the Peruvian armed forces.
"Getting to work side-by-side with Peru's senior enlisted leaders and seeing the growth take place in such a short amount of time is truly a testament to their dedication and underscores the importance of the SPP program," he said.
The Peruvian Armed Forces include the Peruvian Army (EP), the Peruvian Air Force (FAP), and the Peruvian Navy, as well as a Joint Command of the Armed Forces of Peru, all housed under the Ministry of Defense of Peru. About 140,000 personnel serve in the Peruvian Armed Forces.
"The Peruvian military wants to create an environment where soldiers, airmen and sailors want to come into work every day and are given the tools to strengthen their skills and leadership potential," said Tecnico Supervisor Mayor FAP Orlando Saavedra Vasquez, chief master sergeant of the FAP. "Each day we want them to learn their career job as well as understand where they fit in the military and why they are essential."
WVARNG Command Sgt. Maj. James "Dusty" Jones helped lead the professional development seminars that often broke into conversations about the roles, responsibilities and relationship parallels of NCOs in both U.S. and Peruvian militaries. Of particular emphasis was developing interpersonal leadership skills such as leader development, Be-Know-Do, listening and understanding (mentorship), and treating fellow NCOs and younger personnel as professionals and human beings.
"It is an honor and a privilege to be part of the education and growth of such a professional Army corps," said Command Sgt. Maj. Jason C. Smith. "The Peruvian Army is performing organizational change and moving into modernization and equality for all of its soldiers."
The team of NCOs from West Virginia presented various topics focused on their roles and experiences in the U.S. Army and how to bridge the gap in the development of leadership skills at the junior enlisted ranks.
"As part of the partnership to build and strengthen the PERAR NCO corps, the WVNG NCOs are sharing best practices, as well as their own stories and experiences," said U.S. Army Sgt. 1st Class Hector Guillén, WVNG SPP-Peru coordinator. "Our goal is for these young NCOs to be able to use this [information] and work together as a team to change the culture of the NCO corps in the Peruvian Armed Forces. Every soldier has a sergeant and every individual soldier deserves a leader who is a capable mentor, is trustworthy, genuinely concerned for their welfare and health, and molds them to be the leaders of tomorrow. We want to show that to have a strong NCO corps, leaders need to be encouraging, uplifting and professional."
Maj. Gen. Orestes M. Vargas Ortiz, Peruvian education & doctrine command commander, opened the seminar and Maj. Gen. Javier Cam Albujar, Peruvian TRADOC commander closed the training on behalf of their commanding general, Gen. Jorge Celiz Kuong.
West Virginia and Peru will continue to build on the success of the NCOPD, which was established in 2016.
West Virginia and the Republic of Peru have been partners through the State Partnership Program since 1996. The two have participated in more than 130 engagements focusing on regional challenges facing the Andean region, especially in the areas of counterinsurgency, terrorism, emergency preparedness, and disaster response and recovery.