WARSAW, Poland — Enlisted force development is a key part of USAFE's partnership building endeavors, and no one is more committed to pursuing those efforts than the command's top enlisted member.
Chief Master Sgt. Pamela Derrow, USAFE command chief, visited Warsaw Jan. 10-13 to meet with Polish Air Force leaders to exchange ideas and discuss partnership building opportunities.
"I'm thrilled to see the progress Poland has made in developing its enlisted force," said Derrow. ""This was a great opportunity to exchange ideas with our fellow NATO airmen, and I'm continually impressed with the enthusiasm and professionalism we encounter in our NATO partners."
Chief Derrow brought her "A Team" of enlisted development leaders, including Kisling NCO Academy Commandant Chief Master Sgt. David Lawrence, Master Sgt. Tarmeka Lopes, a Kisling NCOA instructor, and Master Sgt. Cheree Lewis, a former Airman Leadership School commandant currently assigned to the USAFE Director of Staff directorate.
"The Polish Air Force is engaged and supported by senior leadership at the highest levels to push Enlisted Professional Development," Lawrence said.
"I was surprised to learn that until 2009, the Polish Air Force's enlisted force was solely a conscription force," he continued. "In this first year as an all-volunteer force, the Polish Air Force Senior leadership is learning quickly how the economy and other external forces influence retention.
"Our Air Force experienced those very same issues right after the Vietnam War and over three and half decades later we have learned that investing in our enlisted corps through Professional Military Education is the key to developing efficient and effective NCOs that lead, manage and supervise Airman to execute our Air Force mission.
"We look forward to Polish Air Force NCOs attending the Kisling NCOA in the Spring as we continue to learn from each other and build our partnership capacity," said Lawrence.
March, 2010 will mark 11 years of NATO membership for Poland, and its military leaders continue to cultivate relationships with the United States and other NATO neighbors.
"Poland is the second to last country in EUCOM to get rid of conscription," said Col. Timothy Burke, Chief of the U.S. Office of Defense Cooperation, Poland. "The NCO corps did not exist in the former Warsaw Pact, so officers did most of the active engagement and the conscripts did most of the work. That's why it's incredibly important now that Poland has transitioned from a conscription force to a professional force to develop those middle ranks between the junior enlisted members and the officer corps."
Master Sgt. Cheree Lewis had the opportunity to interact with fellow airmen from the Polish Air Force, and thinks these partnership opportunities will provide long-term benefits for both nations.
"Meeting and interacting with my Polish air force peers was a great experience for me personally and professionally," said Lewis. "As we continue to foster relationships with our partner nations we gain interoperability and enhance our collective ability to contribute to the NATO mission and overseas contingency operations."
Poland's commitment to its NATO allies has resulted in enhanced interoperability and increased support for NATO and overseas contingency operations.
"The U.S. is extremely grateful for Poland's contributions to NATO and especially to ISAF operations," continued Burke. "The fact that they have just added 600 troops to support ISAF operations shows their dedication to the global coalition."
Burke believes that the time and effort we spend in helping Poland develop its enlisted force will pay dividends in the future.
"The more we do now to help Poland develop their NCO Corps, the more they'll be able to do on their own, and we'll both benefit from that growth," he concluded.
Derrow is very encouraged by what she saw during her visit.
"It's wonderful to see a Polish enlisted corps embracing ideas and concepts with enthusiasm and gratitude...an enlisted force that's motivated to learn and work hard to improve itself," Derrow said.
"Polish military leadership was very supportive of our efforts here. Working through our Office of Defense Cooperation, we have enabled Polish NCOs to attend our professional military education courses, and I know those airmen will take the professional development lessons back to their units and help take their enlisted corps to the next level. They are also interested in exchanging professional military education instructors, and would like for us to send mobile training teams to assist them in their development efforts. This collaboration and sharing of best practices is mutually beneficial for Polish and USAFE Airmen," said Derrow.
Chief Derrow is confident that as we continue to work with our NATO allies to develop their enlisted force, it will enhance USAFE efforts to build partnership capacity in the region.