QUITO, Ecuador –
Members of the Kentucky National Guard (KYNG) participated in a Senior Enlisted Leader Seminar with 21 members of the Armed Forces of Ecuador from March 20 – 24, 2023 in Quito, Ecuador.
This seminar was conducted as an engagement through the State Partnership Program. The first of its kind in the KYNG and Ecuadorian partnership's nearly 30-year trajectory, focused solely on sharing non-commissioned officer competencies, capabilities, and leadership responsibilities.
The KYNG delegation included the two senior enlisted leaders for Kentucky, State Command Sergeant Major Jesse Withers, and Command Chief Master Sergeant James Tongate. Some of the topics covered by the KYNG members were Army and Air Force Enlisted Structure, NCO core competencies and attributes, Air Force enlisted blueprint, enlisted evaluation system and promotions and the role of a first sergeant.
“Listening to the delegation share how they advise, share ideas, look out for the welfare of personnel and develop leaders has been much appreciated,” said Sgt. Maj. David Roberto Villon, assistant to the Commanding General of the Ecuadorian Army.
The Ecuadorian participants, which consisted of 21 servicemembers (seven from each branch: Army, Navy, and Air Force) gave presentations on their respective enlisted structure, NCO roles and responsibilities, and institutional training. These presentations provided the KYNG members insight into the stringent process and prerequisites for promotion and continued service in the Ecuadorian military.
“The Ecuadorian NCOs are professionals of the highest degree,” said Withers, Kentucky State senior enlisted advisor. “Your commanders should be proud to have you, your knowledge, your experience, your professionalism, desire to accomplish the mission and take care of your Soldiers.”
In addition to joint classroom briefs, attendees received several tours of Ecuadorian Army units centrally located in Quito and its outskirts. The attendees visited la Brigada de Aviacion del Ejercito Nro. 15 ‘Paquisha’, Batallon de Ingenieria Nro 69 ‘Chimborazo’, Batallon de Ingenieria Nro. 68 ‘Cotopaxi’ and Brigada de Infanteria Nro 13 ‘Pichincha’. These tours included displays of equipment and capability briefs of each respective entity.
During the visit to the Brigada de Infanteria Nro 13 ‘Pichincha’, the KYNG delegation was able to speak to a group of Ecuadorian Army Soldiers attending their NCO training to ascend to the senior NCO ranks.
“We started to go in a direction with this seminar that we haven’t been before, which was to explain why senior enlisted leaders are essential to build a command team with their officers,” said 1st Sgt. Naarah Stallard, the senior enlisted for the 223rd Military Police Company based in Louisville, Ky. “In conducting this engagement, we were able to get to know the individuals on a personal level, from stories about their families to what was their motivation and passion that led them to serve and continue serving their country.”
These tours, and the seminar, were mutually beneficial for the members of the KYNG and their Ecuadorian counterparts. In addition to the exchange of information between countries, this engagement provided a unique setting for senior NCOs from the Ecuadorian Armed Forces branches to gather and share experiences on an interpersonal level.
“I am grateful to you all, and to our comrades of the Ecuadorian Armed Forces who did everything in their power to attend,” said Sgt. Maj. Jhon Chamorro Samaniego, administrative assistant to the Chief Joint Armed Forces Command. “They came from other regions and cities, and it isn’t every day that I get to meet my fellow senior NCOs from the Air Force and Navy.”
On the final day of the seminar, the Ecuadorian Armed Forces conducted a closing ceremony. This included the traditional exchange of patches, tokens of appreciation, and shared interest in continuing these collaborations in the future.
“This is not the end, we have much more work to do as Senior NCOs,” said Tongate. “We will continue to work together through this partnership, whether in person or virtually, to reach our common goal.”
A frequent theme amongst closing remarks from both sides was to share with superiors, peers, and subordinates the lessons learned from the seminar.
“More than just exchanging information, I’m taking great awareness on matters of leadership back to have a multiplying effect on our subordinates,” said Sgt. Maj. Holen Alvarado Montalvo, senior crew advisor for the Navy. “The best we can do as experienced military members is to execute the famed transfer of knowledge which is part of the legacy that senior NCOs leave to the new generations.”
This seminar set the standard for future senior enlisted engagements, and the KYNG delegation left with a deep understanding of their Ecuadorian partners enlisted culture, passion for country and service, and optimism for the future of not only the partnership program, but the future of the NCO corps for both partners.
“For us, our future is here,” said Withers. “These are our seeds, they are the future of a strong tree, with a good root system and foundation, that will withstand any storm. Culture is strategic, and it starts with those seeds. We put our vision into these seeds, we plant them, water them and nurture them to grow until they continue to stand on their own and become part of the mighty NCO force.”
“This has been an experience to learn and grow from you. It has been an honor to be here in the presence of those who also answered the call to serve their country with dignity and honor.”