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Commentary | Jan. 12, 2017

Boosting partner-of-choice focus in CENTAM

By Command Sgt. Maj. Shawn F. Carns Joint Task Force-Bravo

In recent years, Joint Task Force-Bravo has bolstered our relationship with Department of Defense, Department of State, Interagency and Central American militaries through the Community of Interest and NCO-Leader Development programs. These programs build and maintain invaluable relationships, develop the capacity of our partner nations and strengthen the Partner-of-Choice focus in Central America.

The COI program is an inclusive enclave of trusted DOD, DOS, and interagency partners who share, collaborate and raise intelligence and informational awareness in support of partner nations. The COI has allowed the collaboration of information, which assists the successful execution of countering trans-regional organized crime and countering narcotics.

The NCO-Leader Development program is a joint venture with our partner nations to evolve their officer and non-commissioned officer corps. The CENTAM military is officer-centric; the NCO Corps is not typically given the respect, responsibilities, and decision making abilities like we do in the U.S military. We want to change the vision of their officer corps on how the NCO can be effective in their formation with proper development and relinquishment of authorities from their officer corps.

Hockey Stick Curve

Like the shape of a hockey stick curve, these two initiatives started slowly and then rapidly accelerated. The COI started in early 2016 with approximately 15 attendees from DOD, DOS and interagency partners. Today, there are about 30 different attendees who participate in the weekly video teleconference.

The NCO-Leader Development program started about six months ago, beginning with the Honduran Army. Today, there are engagements with four of the seven Central American militaries. The growth is a result of information-sharing and how a professional NCO corps can contribute positively to the effects of a military organization.

Community of Interest program

The COI is modern-thinking, network-based collaboration, flat information sharing to enable future coalition operations. The COI improves awareness of DOD activities and the operational environment in Central America. The COI is a forum that U.S. Southern Command believes can also have value for other U.S. Government stakeholders by offering insight into DOD operations, activities, and support to U.S. and partner nation law enforcement agency activities aimed at countering Transnational, Transregional Threat Networks (T3N). The goal is to encourage these agencies to more effectively accomplish its own assigned objectives in support of the CENTAM strategy.

NCO-Leader Development program

NCO/Leader Development program’s purpose is to grow leaders who have knowledge, information, leadership and life skills. The NCO-Leader Development program has increased significantly in the last six months in CENTAM. This growth is the result of invaluable relationships with four of the seven CENTAM militaries and their desire to have a professional NCO corps.

The challenge is to transform their vision as an officer-centric organization into empowering NCOs with more responsibility and decision-making skills. We will accomplish this by continued workshops to understand their challenges and how together we could develop a professional NCO corps within their militaries.

In Honduras, for example, Gen. René Orlando Ponce, Honduran Army Chief of Staff and Command Sergeant Major of the Honduran Army Carlos Valle, 

have the desire to build a professional military of the future. The goal is for us to work together on their challenges from the workshops into agreed upon actions which will create the joint venture as a three to five-year plan.

 JTF-Bravo and the U.S. Southern command strive to be the region’s preferred security partner and the innovation platform for our partners in Latin America and the Caribbean. Through our capacity building efforts, we help create empowered, equal partners who are willing and able to confront shared challenges to our hemisphere’s security.

Our commitment has 32 years of history in Central America. The U.S military was the first over the wall and will be the last to leave. The COI and NCO-Leader Development reinforces our commitment as a Partner of Choice in CENTAM.