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U.S. Service Members Converge in Costa Rica for a Trilateral Leadership Exchange

By Ms. Adela Duncan (TRADOC)

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GUAPILES, COSTA RICA -United States Noncommissioned officers (NCO) from the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation (WHINSEC), two U.S. Marines from U.S. Marine Corps Forces, South (MARFORSOUTH), and one U.S. soldier from the New Mexico National Guard State Partnership Program, converged in Costa Rica for a five day trilateral workshop to enhance NCO Core competencies and best practices for NCO corps and leadership development. 

This USSOUTHCOM's Theater Commander Activity (TCA) event, titled "Non-commissioned (NCO) Assessment and Professional Development" seminar at the Costa Rican National Police Academy in Guapiles, Costa Rica, consisted a total of a group of 37 Mid-level officers and Senior NCOs, from Costa Rica and Panamanian security forces personnel. 

The seminar was an exchange of experiences among military and law enforcement leaders and is a U.S. Southern Command initiative to continue strengthening relations with Partner Nations in the region. WHINSEC, a Fort Benning, Georgia-based unit, facilitates these exchanges by traveling to Partner Nations in the region and delivering lectures meant to spark conversation and help the host nations solidify their military leadership practices. To include assessment of their curriculum, implementation of their NCO Corps professional development, and education at all levels from junior to senior NCOs. 

CSM Karim Mella, Command Sergeant Major of WHINSEC, stated "This engagement will support, enhance the modernization and standardization of an NCO education curriculum, showcase NCO effective leader attributes, and leader core competencies with our partner nations. WHINSEC is Siempre Listos, (Always Ready) to collaborate with SOUTHCOM' S mission."

Gunnery Sgt. Luis Castro, the personnel administration chief for MARFORSOUTH, said meeting face-to-face with the security forces personnel is one of the best ways to strengthen partnerships. 

"In talking with their NCOs I realized they're just like us," said Castro. "They value the same leadership qualities and they have the same challenges when it comes to development."

"We were also able to join two neighboring countries and strengthen their ties, and I think that's an outcome that wasn't necessarily intended, but the two countries joined each other in activities like they were brothers and sisters already," continued Castro.

Sgt. 1st Class Raul Molina, a civil affairs instructor with WHINSEC, said the institute's mission during these exchanges is to provide a professional forum conducive to an exchange of experiences through discussion, which in turn fosters a mutual sense of confidence in U.S. and Partner Nation countries. 

"It's important to share the experiences from the American NCO with our counterparts in Latin America to demonstrate that we value their leadership qualities and their initiative to grow their NCO corps," said Molina. "We're simply presenting our perspective from a doctrinal point of view. This will help them understand the importance of the NCO corps in their organizations."

Along with a rich and fruitful friendship with their neighbors in Panama, Costa Rica also shares a strong relationship with the New Mexico National Guard through the State Partnership Program. Sgt. 1st Class Cesar Urrutia, the chief of training for the 1st Battalion Noncommissioned Officer Academy in Santa Fe, New Mexico, said these exchanges are not only good for the partnership program, but for the development of tomorrow's leaders.

"Our partnership program with Costa Rica continues to grow through huge efforts from units like WHINSEC, MARFORSOUTH, the New Mexico National Guard and SOUTHCOM," said Urrutia. "The future is bright with Costa Rica, and the two of us will continue to develop exchanges to keep the faith."


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