QUITO, Ecuador - Kentucky National Guard members participated in a senior enlisted leader seminar with 21 members of the Armed Forces of Ecuador March 20–24.
The engagement, the first of its kind in the almost 30-year partnership between the KYNG and Ecuadorian military under the State Partnership Program, focused on sharing noncommissioned officer competencies, capabilities and leadership responsibilities.
The KYNG delegation included the two senior enlisted leaders for Kentucky, State Command Sgt. Maj. Jesse Withers and Command Chief Master Sgt. James Tongate. They reviewed 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 included seven from each branch — Army, Navy and Air Force. They gave presentations on their respective enlisted structure, NCO roles and responsibilities, and institutional training. The presentations gave 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 toured Ecuadorian Army units in the Quito area.
During the visit to the Brigada de Infanteria Nro 13 ‘Pichincha,’ the KYNG delegation spoke to Ecuadorian Army Soldiers attending 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 in Louisville, Kentucky. “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 exchanging information between countries, this engagement provided a unique setting for senior NCOs from the Ecuadorian Armed Forces to 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 seminar’s final day, the Ecuadorian Armed Forces conducted a closing ceremony that included the traditional exchange of patches, tokens of appreciation, and shared interest in continuing these collaborations.
“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.”
Kentucky and Ecuadorian participants said they planned to share what they learned during the seminar with superiors, peers and subordinates.
“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 adviser 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.”
The KYNG delegation left with a deep understanding of their Ecuadorian partners’ enlisted culture and passion for country and service, and optimism for the partnership program and the future of the NCO corps.
“This has been an experience to learn and grow from you,“ said Withers. “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.”