JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-LACKLAND, Texas –
Chief Master Sgt. of the Air Force James Cody hosted an international senior enlisted leader summit May 13-16 here.
Command chiefs and senior enlisted leaders from around the Air Force participated in the summit. They were joined by senior enlisted leaders from the air forces of 24 countries, many the equivalent of the chief master sergeant of the Air Force.
"Our Air Force, and the entire Department of Defense, has always recognized the value of our international partnerships," Cody said. "Over time those relationships have become increasingly more important and we've seen the impact in operations around the globe. We want to build on those partnerships. We want to develop them and use them to strengthen our team."
Gen. Robin Rand, Air Education and Training Command commander, opened the summit by sharing his thoughts on the importance of the exchange. "It's how we support each other, whether it is humanitarian assistance or combat operations," Rand said. "It is how we preserve our freedom and take care of those in need. I think that one of the best things about (this summit) is the opportunity to exchange ideas and to learn from each other."
Both the senior leaders from the U.S. and allied countries echoed Rand's thoughts in regards to exchanging knowledge and experience.
"The more we get together to share ideas and learn from each other, the stronger the partnerships become and the greater we are as a combined force accomplishing common goals around the world," Cody said.
"I think we have a lot to learn from each other," said Warrant Officer of the Royal Australian Air Force Mark Pentreath. "I don't think any service or any country has it perfect. This summit is quite unique; bringing together people from Europe, Asia, and other parts of the world. We have very different cultures and training, but we all have the same goal and are very proud to be in (our respective) air force. We have the same love for our air force and country, the same pride."
Over the three-day summit, the group had the opportunity to observe practices and discuss in-depth and share their thoughts on a wide range of topics. During the opening comments, Rand shared his top priorities as the AETC commander: "the mission, the Airmen who do the mission, the families who support the Airmen, our core values which are fundamental to us, and our heritage which can inspire and enforce our core values."
Some of the other topics covered include how to care for military families as defense budgets are minimized, the U.S. Air Force core values and Airmen's Creed, recruiting, professional development, how basic military training instructors are adapting to changes in BMT and developing character in Airmen.
"The majority of the discussions focused on the professional development of our enlisted force," Cody said. "We talked about strategic international enlisted development, training and education and how you shape those core concepts to strengthen the force. We also talked about sexual assault prevention and resiliency, and we shared some of the challenges we face in our air forces and how we are working to eliminate those from the ranks.
"Every time you have these discussions there is information from other nations that you can pull out and consider adopting in our own approaches," Cody continued. "So, it all contributes to the growth of the enlisted force, both here and around the world."
The United Kingdom Royal Air Force, Royal Canadian Air Force, Royal New Zealand Air Force and U.S. Air Force each presented how they train, educate and develop their enlisted airmen. The presentations were followed by a question-and-answer session and discussions.
As part of the summit, the group toured both the old basic military training dormitories and the new Airman Training Complexes, the Basic Expeditionary Airman Skills Training site at the JBSA-Lackland Medina Annex, and the security forces technical school.
United Kingdom Master Aircrew Duncan Hide, North Atlantic Treaty Organization Air Command, said he enjoyed seeing how the U.S. does their training and seeing the difference from the old dormitories and the new ATCs. He noted that there were a lot of similarities between the U.S.'s eight-week BMT program and the U.K.'s 10-week training program; however, the biggest difference was the large scale on which the U.S. Air Force trains recruits.
During the tour of BMT facilities, the senior leaders had the opportunity to speak to trainees and observe a BMT graduation.
Pentreath said that one of his favorite parts of the summit was learning what recruits thought about the training. He could see that the trainees held great respect for their MTIs and how much they loved their air force, a feeling he shared for his own air force.
In addition to viewing how the U.S. Air Force recruits and trains Airmen, the summit also included visiting the Inter-American Air Forces Academy and the Defense Language Institute English Language Center, both of which trains foreign military members. IAAFA provides 34 courses taught in Spanish covering professional military development, aircraft maintenance, logistics and other similar training to members of the armed forces of the Americas and annually graduates 800 partner-nation students. The curriculum at DLIELC acculturates and trains international military personnel to communicate in English so they can instruct English language programs in their country. DLIELC annually graduates 2,800 students.
"JBSA is an ideal location for international exchanges," Cody said. "We have phenomenal organizations here in the IAAFA and the DLIELC, which provide a venue for different nations to come together and learn from and with each other in a common environment. There is also the benefit of what we do here in regards to our enlisted development. When you look at recruiting, training and education ... it all begins here. So, this is a great location and venue to see firsthand the way we develop our enlisted force, and use that a starting point as we discuss enlisted development on a global scale."