By Army Staff Sgt. Flor Gonzalez
U.S. Africa Command
U.S. Navy Command Master Chief Ryan P. Burton, U.S. Africa Command acting command senior enlisted leader, met with the Senegal Chief of Defense Lt. Gen. Birame Diop, his staff, and Senegalese command senior enlisted leaders Jan. 22-23, in Dakar City, Senegal.
During the visit, Burton discussed the empowerment of non-commissioned officers (NCO) and the professional development of enlisted forces.
"Due to the unique global security situations in Senegal's region, a professional enlisted force is imperative to the accomplishment of any mission," Burton said. "Senegal has displayed a desire to professionalize their enlisted forces further. The Senegalese have actioned an effective professionalization campaign in which other African partners are modeling their programs after."
According to Senegal's Chief of Defense Staff, Lt. Gen. Birame Diop, one of the most critical areas is for U.S.-Senegalese defense cooperation moving forward is to focus on the Senegalese Armed Forces NCO Corps.
Senegal has been identified as one of AFRICOM's Africa Enlisted Development Strategy (AEDS) focus countries for this year. The strategy is designed to create targeted low to no-cost initiatives for inter-African professional military education training. This approach seeks to standardize existing African professional military education institutions that can train, not only their own nation's forces but also those of neighboring countries, to create regional centers of excellence.
One of the focuses of AEDS is to use the "train-the-trainer" approach, which looks to develop sustainable training programs that can teach African enlisted forces in large numbers. As part of the strategy, AFRICOM will utilize several programs, such as mobile training teams, and the Department of Defense State Partnership Program, to help enhance African professional military institutions, ultimately creating regional centers of excellence.
In its first iteration last year, AEDS focus countries included Botswana, Ghana, Liberia, and Malawi. Along with Senegal, Kenya, Morocco, and Mozambique are focus countries for the strategy this year.
The U.S. has already been working with Senegalese Armed Forces to help refine their NCO development instructor cadre. In July, the Senegalese Air Force sent five NCOs to McGhee-Tyson Air Force Base, Tenn., to observe a U.S. NCO professional development course and identify best practices that can be implemented in their programs. The Vermont National Guard, which is partnered with Senegal as part of the Department of Defense's State Partnership Program, has also been working to enhance the Senegalese enlisted professional development program.
As part of the visit, Burton and his team also participated in Senegal's 45th Navy Day anniversary parade, an Africa Maritime Security Conference, and an exhibition tour. More than 15 Chiefs of Navy from across the African continent and senior naval leaders from Europe and South America also gathered to discuss and address collaborative approaches to today's maritime challenges.
The events provided a significant opportunity for the U.S. to showcase regional engagement, generate more substantial exposure to companies, and strengthen U.S. partnerships with Senegal and other regional navies.
General Diop concluded the meetings by reaffirming Senegal's commitment to the bilateral defense and security cooperation, and his country's willingness to continue working hard to take that long-standing partnership to the next level.