The 17th iteration of the International Command Senior Enlisted Leader Conference concluded in SHAPE, Mons, September 10th 2021.
Preparing NATO service members for military operations encompasses education, training, experience and self-development; the Conference aimed to broaden the professional skills of Non-Commissioned Officers, enhancing their ability to serve at the highest levels of NATO and national military command structures.
The professional Non-Commissioned Officer Corps is the unwavering force in the execution of NATO’s mission across the Alliance and beyond: Non-Commissioned Officers make up 75-80% of NATO’s military force and are the backbone of the Armed Forces; they operate and transform effectively to meet today and tomorrow’s challenges, in order to ensure NATO remains both a ready and responsive interoperable force.
In the NATO context, Command Senior Enlisted Leaders are responsible for the professional development of all soldiers and Non-Commissioned Officers within the Alliance. They liaise with NATO and Non-NATO educational organizations in order to ensure that the training received by the Non-Commissioned Officers is of the highest military quality and is consistent with NATO's evolving standards, ensuring the Alliance's training stays relevant & effective now and in the future.
The strategic landscape has changed drastically over the past few years and the focus on systematically advancing human capital has never been more crucial; the tradition of teaching the Non-Commissioned Officers what to think, versus how to think, limits their full intellectual capability within the Alliance, as it adapts to an ever-increasing complex strategic environment. Due to these complexities, the need to continuously identify and optimize opportunities for critical, creative and forward-thinking Non-Commissioned Officers is paramount. This will provide greater inclusion and expertise into the operational and transformational needs of today/tomorrow’s military, necessary to confront the unprecedented rate of advances in technology and support high-tech solutions at every level.
"Fostering cross-cultural awareness, valuing teamwork, and continuous support to professional development are key factors to the increasing success of multinational commands. One of the greatest benefits a Command Senior Enlisted Leader brings to the Command is his relationship with, and understanding of, the enlisted workforce," said Italian Navy Master Chief Petty Officer Andrea Mannavola, the Command Senior Enlisted Leader of Naval Striking and Support Forces NATO (STRIKFORNATO) located in Oeiras, Portugal.
This year's five-day seminar relayed the picture of NATO's Strategic, Operational and Tactical level tasks, updating NATO Command Senior Enlisted Leaders with current Geo Strategic information around NATO, the newly-released NATO Warfighting Capstone Concept, NATO missions and national level Non-Commissioned Officers development strategies. Command Senior Enlisted Leaders from Allied Command Transformation, Allied Command Operations and United States Europe Command provided the latest update on Commanders' intents and the way ahead, while speakers from the NATO Command Structure and the NATO Force Structure highlighted salient points on exercises, partnership developments, strategic communications and the renewed role of Command Senior Enlisted Leaders in the international environment.
Senior Enlisted Leaders were addressed by General Tod D. Wolters, Supreme Allied Commander Europe, as well as General Paolo Ruggiero, Deputy Supreme Allied Commander Transformation, who discussed the importance of NATO in the current international security scenario and the need for the Alliance to constantly transform and adapt in order to maintain its advantage, readiness, and resilience over any future potential threat.
General Ruggiero also highlighted the role of Allied Command Transformation in leading the constant adaptation of the Alliance Military Instrument of Power by transforming the operational requirements, identified by Allied Command Operations, into effective military capabilities, in order to ensure effectiveness, interoperability and standardization among NATO and Partner forces. This constant adaptation relies heavily on NATO's most valuable capability, its service members, therefore the role of Non-Commissioned Officers and especially the Command Senior Enlisted Leaders are fundamental in achieving tangible results.
Overall, the conference promoted collective awareness and open discussions on the topics impacting the capacity of the Non-Commissioned Officers Corps, as well as strengthening NATO's collective readiness and supporting transformational programs which drive ongoing and future operations. After many months of remote gatherings, Senior Enlisted Leaders also had the opportunity to assemble, partner, brainstorm and discuss face-to-face existing and future topics affecting exercises, training, education and operations of the enlisted force.
NATO is an Alliance based on the shared values of freedom, democracy and the rule of law, and unites efforts for collective defence and for the preservation of peace and security. Today the Alliance must confront an array of more diffuse challenges, ranging from climate change, migration, terrorism and nuclear proliferation to spreading disinformation, cyberattacks, bio-security threats and the disruption of energy. Interoperability, partnership, resilience and the development of of the future warfighter are key to success and require a thorough understanding of present and future challenges, as well as the implications on current and future NATO missions. Addressing the anticipated increased demand on Non-Commissioned Officers in multinational operations, prepare the multinational Non-Commissioned Officers with a common understanding of NATO guidelines for greater interoperability, and address their increasingly essential role in executing the professional development of their forces is paramount to ensure the Non-Commissioned Officers' advancement remains congruent with the Strategic Commander’s intent: a professional, competent, resilient and capably responsible Non-Commissioned Officer Corps that is adaptive to face new challenges, social dynamics and technological advances.