TOPEKA, Kan. – The command team from 2nd Combined Arms Battalion, 137th Infantry Regiment, participated in a virtual State Partnership Program exchange Sept. 8-10 with students attending the Senior Leaders Course in the Republic of Armenia.
The course was conducted at the Armenian Ministry of Defense's National Defense Research University, the Armenian equivalent of the U.S. Army War College. The exchange included presentations, lectures, question and answer sessions, and panel discussions to familiarize senior officers of the Armenian Armed Forces with the U.S. Army's noncommissioned officer model.
The SPP is a Department of Defense security cooperation program that pairs the National Guard of a U.S. state or territory with a partner nation's military, security forces, and/or government agencies responsible for emergency and disaster response.
"Having a professional noncommissioned officer corps is what sets the U.S. military apart: Our NCOs are empowered," said Maj. Marci Solander, Kansas National Guard State Partnership Program director. "Our NCOs understand their roles and responsibilities. The strength of our NCO corps is a large part of what collectively defines us as an organization and is a foundational aspect of our identity as part of a profession of arms."
During the exchange, the 2-137th CAB command team, comprised of Lt. Col. Rodney Seaba, battalion commander, and Command Sgt. Maj. Paul Purdham, battalion command sergeant major, delivered several presentations explaining the NCO's role in the U.S. military and how the U.S. model enables U.S. military commanders to conduct mission command effectively.
"If you go around the world and talk to other militaries, the majority are officer-centric," Seaba said. "But in the U.S., we are reliant on our NCOs to train, to educate, to hold up the standard. It takes that whole role out of our hands, and we can actually get after the planning and the resourcing. It's hard for commanders to manage everything, and you can't have effective mission command if you don't trust your NCOs."
Purdham also emphasized the importance of the NCO to the U.S. military mission command model.
"We're the continuity in the organization," Purdham said. "Every three to five years, an officer learns at that level and advances and moves to the next level. The NCOs are the ones who hold the unit together and get the next officer ready to move forward."
Armenia has identified efforts to modernize the command and control philosophy and management culture of the Armenian Armed Forces as one of its primary objectives.
"Defining the duties and authorities of NCOs, how NCOs are organized and how they are utilized, is vital to their success and provides others guidance on how to assign duties and responsibilities," Purdham said.
Seaba said that when NCOs feel valued and can envision having a career, there are many positive organizational impacts, such as improved retention rates.
"Organizations who truly value NCOs will establish those parameters to define the partnership between officers and NCOs," Seaba said. "When Soldiers can see that the duties of an NCO are not just this nebulous concept, see that there's guidance, they will want to stay on that track."
The NCO corps presentations were just one of many engagements conducted through the SPP, which is intended to build understanding and cooperation between the U.S. and Armenian militaries.
"Having the opportunity to engage with our partners is invaluable," Solander said. "This week, we've increased our knowledge and we've gained some diversity in perspective. Most importantly, they are necessary to remain competitive in our sphere. In these engagements, we get to exchange ideas, best practices, tactics, techniques and procedures, and it makes both partners and both organizations stronger."
Seaba said another benefit of the SPP exchanges is increased readiness to conduct future operations together.
"These partnerships remind us that Armenia's army is different," Seaba said. "So maybe when we're working in Afghanistan or anywhere throughout the world together, we might better understand there are some organizational and cultural differences. It makes us better prepared for future interactions."
That's why Solander encourages Kansas Guardsmen to participate in SPP exchanges when they have the opportunity.
"If Soldiers get the opportunity to participate in a SPP exchange, they are going to be more confident when they deploy with their unit and work with our allies and partners," said Solander. "The SPP experience provides an opportunity for Soldiers to interact with international partner forces, learn about another military's tactics, techniques, and procedures, and experience a culture other than their own."