VICENZA, Italy -- Soldiers assigned to the Southern European Task Force, Africa, attended the inaugural SETAF-AF Squad Leaders Summit on Caserma Ederle, Vicenza, Nov. 16-19, 2021.
The four-day event hosted non-commissioned officers and junior leaders in the Army. It focused on overarching topics, such as support systems and resources for Soldiers and their families.
SETAF-AF commander, Maj. Gen. Andrew Rohling, stressed the importance of the attendees’ role in the organization during opening remarks.
“You are not just anything -- you are absolutely 'the' squad leader,” Rohling said. “That’s the most important position, I think, that we can get because really good squads make good platoons which can make good organizations.”
The summit was an opportunity for Soldiers to focus on Sgt. Maj. of the Army Michael A. Grinston’s initiative, “This Is My Squad.” The initiative calls for the empowerment of first-line leaders, ownership, accountability, morale and unit cohesion. It highlights the positive actions of Soldiers while combating problem areas throughout the ranks.
“You are really where the rubber meets the road on unit discipline, sexual assault, sexual harassment, suicidal [ideations], behavior health problems, and command supply discipline programs,” Rohling said.
Sgt. Maj. Sean M. Horvel, the sitting G3/5/7 Sergeant Major for SETAF-AF, commended Soldiers who attended, noting that events, such as the summit, offer the opportunity to engage with senior leadership and gain insight on leading troops as they advance through their military careers.
“At the end of the day, leadership is hard,” Horvel said. “All the different concepts and constructs of leadership that we talked about, each in of themselves, are not difficult to understand. However, the application of those things is extremely difficult.”
Participants in the summit found the event helpful. Sgt. Miguel A. Riley, a SETAF-AF technical advisor in the G6, has been a squad leader for almost two years.
“[The summit] allows personnel who know what they’re doing to tell the people who are now in their position, 'Hey, this is what worked before and this is what didn’t work before'," Riley said. "You can’t improve if you don’t know what the mistakes are and this summit allows us to learn from their mistakes."
“I can now better organize my leadership skills and really break down exactly how I’m going to guide my Soldiers in the future,” he added.
Horvel said that the event was a success, and he looks forward to the next SETAF-AF summit scheduled for April.
“I was very impressed with the amount of senior leaders [the participants] were surrounded by and afforded the opportunity to talk to and ask questions to," he said. "They totally took advantage of those opportunities, and they asked awesome questions, so kudos to them. This was an awesome event, and I can’t wait for the next one."