Command Sergeant Major Blog: July/August 2010

Command Sergeant Major Mark Ripka wrote

July and August have flown by.

When I last wrote I described my time aboard the USS JOHN L. HALL FFG 32. I have since been on terra firma. So, let’s catch everyone up to now.

In July, I joined CMC Bob Audiss at Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa (CJTF-HOA) in Djibouti for several days and then we proceeded on to Kenya. Aside from various meetings with the CJTF-HOA staff I took the opportunity to re-engage with the 2-137 Combined Arms Battalion from the Kansas National Guard. CMC Audiss and I first met the Soldiers and leaders of the 2-137 CAB at Ft. Lewis, Washington when they were conducting pre-deployment training. The battalion received high marks throughout training. The 2-137 CAB continues to be a professional, disciplined outfit. We are proud to have them on the USAFRICOM and CJTF-HOA Team.

CMC Audiss and I departed Djibouti for Kenya to visit the International Peace Support Training Center (IPSTC) in Caron; visit the Stony Range complex and review the plans and ranges for an upcoming Armed Forces Rifle Championship (AFRC); and finally to convene a meeting with the Defense Sergeant Major (DSM) of the Kenya Armed Forces (KAF). While visiting the IPSTC we spoke with the US Liaison Officers (LNOs) and conducted a fruitful discussion with the Commandant, Humanitarian Peace Support School (HPSS) outlining several ways that we could further assist IPSTC and HPSS. We completed our visit to IPSTC and proceeded to Stony Range. The US was invited by the Kenya Armed Forces to participate in the next AFRC along with several other East African countries. The Stony Range complex outside of Nairobi will be a challenging venue, to be sure, for the Armed Forces Rifle Championships. We then proceeded to meet with the DSM, KAF. An aside lots of acronyms huh? Maybe, but I don’t give you an acronym that I haven’t previously spelled out completely. Nonetheless, I do apologize.

As I’ve stated in every blog, “Personal relationships are crucial. Everything is personal and this means being on the ground in Africa among Africans.” And so, CMC Audiss and I listened and learned from the DSM. The DSM provided us a history and lineage lesson of the KAF, especially the Kenyan Army and oh, if you didn’t know, the DSM is from the Kenyan Air Force. It made no difference; his tutorial was detailed and thorough just like if he had spent his 30+ years in the Kenyan Army. Amazing!!

Let’s move on

The real highlight of this blog is what I’m about to describe. The African Center for Strategic Studies located in Washington D.C. hosted the inaugural African Defense and Joint Warrant Officers Symposium from 2-5 August in Washington DC. Just less than twenty African Warrant Officers from different countries participated in this symposium; the symposium was designed to advance US goals and objectives by helping African countries build their capacity to address their security challenges and needs for the long-term by investing in Warrant Officers (WOs)/ Sergeants Major who have critical roles in their Armed Forces or Defense Forces. The first two days of the symposium were plenary presentations followed by open dialogue and discussion. The topics included: US Strategy in Africa, Security Challenges in Africa, Peace Support Operations, Counternarcotics and US Assistance Efforts, Transnational Crimes and Terrorism, Health Challenges and Building Health Capacity in Africa’s Security Sector, and finally Civil-Military Relations. The presentations were wonderful, but it was the dialogue and discourse among the WOs that were most informative and enriching. On day 3 the group proceeded to MCB Quantico to participate in discussions with United States Marine Corps Enlisted Professional Military Education representatives, visit and tour the Staff NCO Academy at Quantico, and to better understand how the US military takes care of families. The final cultural day consisted of a hosted Pentagon Tour and various sites in the Washington DC area. The African Defense and Joint Warrant Officers Symposium was a memorable event; an event all participants hope will continue. Thank you ACSS for your continuing superb support to our African partners.


August continued to be quite busy. After the ACSS Symposium I proceeded to Mozambique to participate in Exercise SHARED ACCORD and to deliver the Advancing WO-NCO Capability and Capacity presentation to the Armed Forces of Mozambique’s SGTs School in Boane. The SHARED ACCORD Exercise was the largest bilateral exercise the Armed Forces of Mozambique (FADM) has ever conducted. Please read the Exercise SHARED ACCORD blogs on our website for all the details. The Armed Forces SGTs School in Boane was established three years ago with assistance from the Portuguese military to professionally develop the FADM SGTs. The FADM Armed Forces SGTs School consists of a three-year curriculum. The first class of graduates will graduate in December 2010. In my many travels a two or three year NCO Academy/ SGT School is not unusual, especially for countries whose colonial affiliations were French, Belgian, or Portuguese. The graduates of these schools often acquire National Certifications as well as military training and professional military education. As I said, it may seem somewhat strange to us with our 4-12 week NCO Academies but if you listen and understand their perspective it makes great sense for them.

Finally, I just returned from my second visit to Nigeria this year. I was invited back after the April 2010 visit to participate in an Army WO Professional Development discussion at the Nigerian Army WO Academy in Jaji. Timing as it was, propitious I might add, on the same day I was asked to participate the Chief of Army Staff (COAS) was dedicating a Study Center at the WO Academy. So, as I stated, timing as it was, he also officially opened the Army WO Professional Development discussion. The Professional Development discussion focused on “A” Way to develop leaders to be successful in tomorrow’s operational environment. It was indeed another enriching event

Wow July and August gone. Until next time and remember:

In Africa:

1. Personal relationships are crucial. Everything is personal and this means being on the ground in Africa among Africans.

2. Listen, listen, listen talk is cheap. Listening is golden.

3. It’s for the long-term, not short-term rotations or arbitrary timelines. Nothing happens quickly in Africa. Much will go wrong. Commitments and perseverance are essential.

4. Understand that actions speak louder than words. The image of America in much of Africa is that of a 20-year-old Peace Corps volunteer who lives among the Africans, learns their language, earns little, and is eager to learn.

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1 Response to “Command Sergeant Major Blog: July/August 2010”

  1. 1 Norbert Essing January 3, 2011 at 1:08 pm

    Hey author, i think that what you say is absolutely forcefull.

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