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New course prepares NCOs for joint ops in Southwest Asia

SOUTHWEST ASIA (AFPN) -- A new training course for senior enlisted leaders is giving them skills that are proving invaluable for those deployed here, officials said.

The Command Senior Enlisted Leader Capstone Joint Operations Module course is giving warfighters the tools they need to operate in an environment in which they work closely both with their sister services and with coalition members, said Chief Master Sgt. Curtis Brownhill, command chief master sergeant for U.S. Central Command.

“We realized early into Operation Enduring Freedom that our senior leaders were operating in a different environment than we’d prepared them for,” Chief Brownhill said.

“We spend a lot of time over the course of an officer’s career preparing (him or her) for joint-service duty,” he said.

But no comparable training existed for their senior enlisted counterparts, he said.

Now, the senior enlisted capstone course, introduced last year, mirrors the capstone course general and flag officers receive. Topics cover the life cycle of a joint task force: forming a joint task force, developing joint manning documents, joint command and control, joint basing and integrating special operations forces.

Most top-level noncommissioned officers in the command have attended the one-week training program, including Army Command Sgt. Maj. Cynthia A. Pritchett, the top enlisted servicemember in Combined Forces Command-Afghanistan.

Sergeant Pritchett, who took the first course just before assuming her current post, said she had already felt up to speed on joint operations, but said the course helped her shortcut the learning curve when she arrived in Afghanistan.

For example, it educated her about the specifics of putting together a joint manning document, which determines staffing within an organization.

“If I hadn’t gone to the course, it would have taken me weeks instead of days to do it,” she said.

Sergeant Pritchett said the course “also prepared me for the bigger picture” she confronted in Afghanistan.

“I knew what my sister services bring to the fight,” she said.

However, she said the capstone course gave her a deeper appreciation of the increased capabilities provided when the services work as a team.

When U.S. Joint Forces Command began offering the course at the Joint Warfighting Center in Norfolk, Va., last spring, officials lauded it as a step toward providing command senior enlisted Airmen, Soldiers, Marines, Sailors and Coast Guardsmen the tools they need in a world where no service goes to war by itself.

“Up until this point, we hadn’t done anything to provide them with any joint education," said Army Command Sgt. Maj. Mark Ripka of U.S. Joint Forces Command. “Today’s command senior enlisted leaders are more operationally focused leaders. They must understand joint command and control and joint planning to be more effective at the joint-force-headquarters level.

“Our command senior enlisted leaders typically have more boots-on-the-ground, deck-plate and flight-line experience than most of our officers,” he said. “When that experience is coupled with a joint educational experience, the combination results in (greater) command senior enlisted leadership.”

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