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News | May 4, 2021

Senior enlisted leaders collaborate in Colombia

By Richard Bumgardner U.S. Army Security Assistance Command

During a recent key leader engagement visit to Colombia, Command Sgt. Maj. Sean Rice, the senior enlisted adviser at Security Assistance Command, saw firsthand how the foreign military sales process promoted greater interoperability between the Colombian military and the U.S. Army.

“I have trained with them before in past assignments and it’s always refreshing to see their passion to serve, their commitment to excellence and their dedication to the Colombian Army and their government,” Rice said. 

He spent several days in key leader engagements, briefings, meetings and sidebars with senior Colombian enlisted leaders, discussing ways to move forward to further develop the Colombian noncommissioned officer corps.

“I have had the opportunity to spend a lot of quality time with their senior enlisted leaders, especially Operations Command Sgt. Maj. Jose Fuentes, Command Sgt. Maj. Marcelo Trujillo, and many others, to talk about the types of initiatives they are thinking about implementing, and what they potentially needed our help on … to build upon an already strong foundation they have developed within their NCO Academies,” Rice said. 

Rice plans to take that information back to Army Materiel Command’s senior leaders and let them know, “Here is an opportunity to either bring their enlisted leaders to courses in the U.S., like master gunner, sustainment master gunner, support operations, master leaders course, and battle staff to name a few, and inform them of ways NCOs can integrate better into the plans and operations process, or better yet assist them in building the capacity in Colombia,” he said.

One of the most powerful moments of the week came on day two, when there was an opportunity to visit a former Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia guerrilla camp with demonstrations of what guerilla camp was like, for both the militants and their hostages.

“That was extremely impressive! When I saw the fact that each of their special operators learned the history associated with ‘the why’ they are doing what they are doing,’” Rice said. “It was inspiring, because you are seeing that it’s not just training, they are being educated. That’s really important for them to know the reason it’s culturally important, and why they need to have an emotional investment in the job they are being asked to perform.”

Rice was equally impressed with what he saw during an unscheduled visit to the Colombian fixed-wing aviation maintenance facility. One that could easily be a modern aviation hangar on any Army post, according to Rice.

“The Colombian noncommissioned officers I saw were performing every task associated with maintaining and sustaining these airframes, from routine preventative maintenance checks, to fabrications, and then testing and evaluating to certify before flight operations,” he said. “It’s truly an amazing level of trust, empowerment, and confidence on display from each Soldier and NCO, regardless of gender. They are all in!”

As USASAC’s senior enlisted leader, Rice also recognized an opportunity to check on the working conditions, welfare and overall well-being of five Soldiers from USASAC’s training unit, the Security Assistance Training Management Organization, who are deployed to a Colombian airbase at Tolemaida.

“SATMO has such a mobile and dynamic mission, with Soldiers deployed at over 30 locations around the world supporting our FMS training requirements, that I take every chance I can to see the great work they are doing,” Rice said. 

Rice saw the important work the SATMO Soldiers are accomplishing as part of a technical assistance field team that is assisting with building the Colombian’s advanced rotary-wing aviation program.

“Our warrant officers are here working side by side with the Colombians sharing good ‘OIL’ or observations, insights and lessons learned. These senior-level warrant officers and their team lead, an Army major, represent the best-of-the-best SATMO has to offer.”

The presence of U.S. forces, living and working everyday with their partners at a Colombian airbase, speaks volumes to the relationship between the two countries as they work side-by-side to enhance Colombian military capabilities and promote regional stability.

“It’s been phenomenal and an invaluable opportunity for both our armies,” Rice said. “True to our USASAC motto, strength in cooperation, we are here to strengthen alliances with our partner. There’s a long and rich history here, and together, we’re writing yet another chapter of how we’re enhancing readiness and maintaining a competitive advantage against adversaries. Giddy Up!”