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News | June 3, 2024

Leadership, collaboration key to Resolute Sentinel 2024 success

By Tech. Sgt. Jessica Smith McMahan 12th Air Force (Air Forces Southern)

As Resolute Sentinel 2024 begins its second week, the participating nations continue to underscore the importance of international military cooperation, enabling unified execution of complex operations with an emphasis on Agile Combat Employment while demonstrating what it means to lead from the front.

The impact of the exercise extends beyond immediate tactical benefits – laying the groundwork for deeper, more resilient partnerships in the Americas. The shared experiences and challenges encountered during RS24 have fostered a sense of camaraderie and mutual trust at every level – starting with the top two leaders of the Combined Joint Task Force – RS24.

Although the nations exercise the same concepts differently and at different times throughout the year, operating together in the same theatre with a cohesive mindset provides a new level of experience.

“This is priceless,” said Peruvian Air Force Col. Fidel Castro, CJTF-RS24 deputy commander. “We have been doing these exercises totally independent, and now we are prepared to face common threats, which is one of the objectives of the exercise. We are able to work shoulder-to-shoulder in order to solve any situation.

“We are going to excel,” he continued. “We are going to gain a lot of experience.”

In order to excel, there’s been an emphasis on partnership and innovation alike, since day one of the exercise.

“The operational environment is changing faster and faster, day-by-day, so with that in mind, we have to be innovative in order to gain advantage ... in order to retain advantage,” Castro said. “Innovation is going to be the leading aspect in every area to overcome any adversary. ACE is innovation – we're changing the character of war.”

Like mindedly, U.S. Air Force Col. Barton Kenerson, CJTF-RS24 commander, sees innovation as a pillar to future successes.

“Innovation is also empowering the most precious resources – the people,” Kenerson said. “They have the solutions, and we – as leadership – need to listen to them, and RS24 is unleashing a lot of that talent and capability across our services, our nations. That is one of the greatest things we're getting out of the innovation techniques ... the teams are seeing the potential of their capability and being allowed to flourish in this environment.”

Just as implementing the concept of ACE requires adaptability, so does partner integration. For Kenerson and Castro, the co-led exercise has demonstrated the powerful dynamic of leadership that thrives on collaboration and shared goals.

“That shared understanding that has been formed is very critical to show what right looks like to the rest of the members of the task force,” Kenerson said. “It has built that trust so that when we execute operations, we have a common understanding of each other and we have each other's backs as we move forward through the exercise.”

Kenerson further emphasized the importance of transparency and trust – his focus on creating a shared operational framework allowing both forces to operate seamlessly with one another.

“If you don't have trust, you have nothing, but we have trust so we can work through anything,” he said. “People have broken down barriers and misunderstandings that are out there that have allowed this team to be highly effective in what they're doing. Different-minded people with like-minded focuses is making the team even stronger.”

A crucial element of the success of the exercise will be the emphasis on cultural understanding and shared values, Castro said. Both commanders recognize building a strong partnership requires more than just operational compatibility. It necessitates a deep appreciation of each other’s cultural backgrounds, traditions and values.

“I think on the global scale of operations, we realize we can't do it alone, you have to be aligned with like-minded shared values and shared interests,” Kenerson said. “If you want to go fast, go alone ... if you want to win, go together. We've realized that by these partnerships and the things that we're doing, we'll build a strong, free and prosperous Western Hemisphere.”

Strategizing is pivotal in ensuring the smooth execution of this complex training operation, with the collaborative nature of their leadership setting the precedent for their troops, demonstrating the importance of unity and cooperation in achieving common goals.

“The strategy is transparency,” Kenerson said. “It's transparency across the whole staff and being very open and creating that climate where we also show the greatest sense of collaboration and transparency across the services and the partner nations. The strategy is openness, building trust – not through words, but through actions and it has been pretty evident across the staff because they're doing exactly that.”

Their leadership philosophy and camaraderie has allowed them to not only efficiently work through challenges but to recognize said challenges as something more.

“Those foundations that we have built allowed us to build that trust to where those obstacles and barriers may be challenges, but as Colonel Castro and I like to say, they now become opportunities,” Kenerson said.

In addition to opportunities, the exercise has provided valuable lessons in collaborative leadership. Both leaders brought unique perspectives and strengths to the table, providing their counterparts with new qualities to incorporate into their lives on a personal and professional level.

“I hold him in high regard because of his character and his ability to build strong and lasting trusting relationships,” Kenerson said regarding Castro. “Leading by example, not just through words but through actions ... I will tell you that he's the kind of leader that I'd go to war with any time because I know he's a man of his word – I truly mean that.”

Castro shares a similar sentiment.

“I see Colonel Kenerson as one of the most brilliant people that I have ever worked with,” he said. “I'm sure that we are going to succeed with this exercise and be friends for life ... family, yes ... family is everything. Because of that, because of his leadership, I'm so proud and so blessed to work with him.”

Both Kenerson and Castro demonstrate that effective leadership in joint operations requires flexibility, openness to different perspectives and a steadfast commitment to common goals. As the U.S. and Peruvian forces continue to build on this foundation, their partnership will undoubtedly contribute to greater stability and security across the region.