ALFS17 features inaugural Senior Enlisted Program

For the first time in ALFS history, noncommissioned officers had an opportunity to take the stage and learn from one another through a dedicated Senior Enlisted Program.


“Having the NCOs here is the right thing to do because it allows them to partner with their peers and be a part of this leader development,” said Command Sgt. Maj. Christopher Gilpin, senior enlisted leader for U.S. Army Africa.
By Sgt. Paige Behringer 49th May 20, 2017
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Growing cooperation between U.S. and African military leaders has reached a new level during the fifth African Land Forces Summit.

The annual, weeklong seminar brings together military leaders from across Africa for candid dialog to discuss and develop cooperative solutions to regional and transregional challenges and threats. 

For the first time in ALFS history, noncommissioned officers have an opportunity to take the stage and learn from one another through a dedicated Senior Enlisted Program. 

Command Sgt. Maj. Christopher Gilpin, a senior enlisted leader in U.S. Army Africa, said the new Senior Enlisted Program was a direct result of ALFS continued development over time.

“[The Senior Enlisted Program] was an after action review comment from last year’s ALFS,” Gilpin added. “[It] was my first time as an NCO in USARAF and as I looked across the formation it was just joint officers. The discussions were rich and the experience was good … but we were lacking a very important part of the audience, and that was NCOs. So I asked the question: ‘why haven’t we invited NCOs to this summit?’”

No time was wasted implementing Gilpin’s request from ALFS 2016. 

The first part of the Senior Enlisted Program kicked off May 9, at the Malawi Armed Forces College, providing a forum for NCOs across the African continent to engage in professional development and open discussion alongside U.S. counterparts. 

Some leaders introduced themselves using call and response chanting, or shared personal leadership philosophy, driving home the ALFS 2017 theme “Enhancing Capacity Through Partnership in Africa.” 

“Having the NCOs here is the right thing to do because it allows them to partner with their peers and be a part of this leader development,” Gilpin said.

Throughout the morning, NCOs learned about the development of Malawi Defence Force’s Sergeants Major Course at MAFCO, the U.S. Army’s Select Train Educate Promote program and U.S. training opportunities available to foreign partners. 

Additional breakout discussion sessions provided senior NCOs a chance to speak candidly about officer and enlisted teamwork and leadership challenges.

“If we are inviting officers and land forces commanders, the right thing as an NCO is to invite NCOs because the discussions, overall partnership, lessons and experience is shared across the spectrum of officer and NCO responsibilities,” Gilpin continued. “These NCOs coming to this ALFS will better understand each other, establish relationships and in the end it makes their officers better.”

While this is the first ALFS sponsored NCO professional development session, it’s not the first time senior enlisted leaders have had a chance to grow at MAFCO.

The MDF began its own Sergeants Major Course in 2014 with assistance from U.S. counterparts committed to strengthening relationships with regional and national African partners.

The course was modeled after its equivalent program at the United States Army Sergeants Major Academy, providing education opportunities to enlisted leaders from other African nations.

Lt. Linda Chikondi, MAFCO course coordinator, was one of the first students to attend the course. 

“As for me I’m just not a mere officer,” Chikondi said. “I’m coming from [the NCO Corps]. I was enrolled as a private soldier in 1999 when the first females were allowed in MDF. So I was through all the ranks.”

Chikondi said the number of MDF and international students has steadily increased with every class, and graduates are reaping the benefits. 

“The current MDF sergeant major is a graduate of this course, so when he is encountering challenges he uses the knowledge from this course,” Chikondi added. “Even me as an officer, I use a lot of skills that I get from this course. I use them up to now. So there is much, much progress.”

The ALFS Senior Enlisted Program aims for successful leadership development results like those achieved through the MDF Sergeants Major course at MAFCO by continuing to invite senior enlisted leaders from across Africa for the annual event. 

Through combined efforts during ALFS and at MAFCO, increased cooperation between African partners and U.S. forces has paved a road to capacity and partnership.

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