More than 50 senior enlisted leaders from 37 countries including Afghan Sergeant Major of the Army Roshan Safi and Command Sgt. Major Thomas Capel, the International Security Assistance Force and U.S. Forces -- Afghanistan senior enlisted leader, receive a brief prior to watching a joint immediate response exercise at Croatian Army training grounds outside of Zagreb.
ZAGREB, Croatia — Like Camelot's Knights of the Round Table, more than 50 of the most senior non-commissioned officers from 37 countries gathered to discuss issues, talk training, and build on relationships at the 6th Annual Conference of European Armies for non-commissioned officers on June 4-7.
Afghan National Army's senior enlisted leader, Sergeant Major of the Army Roshan Safi, and Command Sgt. Maj. Thomas Capel, the International Security Assistance Force and U.S. Forces – Afghanistan senior enlisted leader, represented the ANA and ISAF.
"As Afghans begin to take the lead in the defense of their country and have long been working in partnership with many of the nations represented here, SMA Safi was invited to speak about the issues he and the growing ANA face,” Capel said.
Calling the NCO corps the backbone of any army, Safi said it is the commander's responsibility to accomplish the missions, but the enlisted leaders make it happen.
Charged with the responsibility of training and equipping the Afghan forces, Safi highlighted his goal to eliminate nepotism and increase education in his ranks.
"Nepotism is like an expired prescription. It's not wise to take,” said Safi about the age old Afghan practice of keeping family close.
He said the ANA has moved past this practice and is instituting a centralized promotion system similar to that used by the U.S. and other modern armies, focused on getting the right man or woman into the right job based on performance. NCOs are now attending professional development courses where skills such as reading and writing are taught alongside leadership, warrior tasks and battle drills.
Safi compared the value of education to that of a Paratrooper's parachute. "Your mind must be open like the parachute and willing to learn or else it is useless to you,” said Safi who graduated as a member of Class 56 from the U.S. Army's Sergeants Major Academy in Fort Bliss, Texas, in May 2006.
Ensuring his own canopy was open – Safi took full advantage of the collective experience at the conference, soliciting other senior leaders about their best practices and hazards to avoid.
"We are all here for the same reasons,” said Command Sgt. Maj. Laszlo Toth, the Hungarian Defense Forces – Joint Force command sergeant major. "We each want to help our commanders fulfill their missions while taking care of our soldiers.”
By Sgt. Christopher Harper
ISAF HQ Public Affairs