Multi-National Division – Baghdad Public Affairs Office
BAGHDAD – In what is perhaps a sign of the growing importance of the Noncommissioned Officer Corps in the Iraqi Army, the 6th Iraqi Army Division conducted its inaugural Division Command Sergeants Major conference – the first of its kind – at the Muthana Airfield May 7.
The conference served as an opportunity for the brigade and the battalion command sergeants major to bring the issues their units are facing to the table; it also provided the senior enlisted leaders the opportunity to share their experiences and challenges with their brothers in arms.
“It was a huge step,” said Command Sgt. Maj. John Gioia, the senior enlisted leader for Multi-National Division – Baghdad and the 4th Infantry Division, who had the opportunity to witness to the meeting. “It marks a leap forward toward building a strong Noncommissioned Officer Corps in the Iraqi army.”
The United States military has learned through its storied history that it is important to have a strong NCO Corps to support its Officer Corps because military commanders cannot be everywhere at the same time. As such, it is the duty of the NCOs to be the commander’s eyes and ears across the battlefield.
“In the U.S. Army, it’s very important, as a sergeant major, to gather feedback from your senior enlisted advisors because your commander can only see so much of the battlefield,” said Gioia, a native of Buffalo, N.Y. “He relies on senior NCOs to be his eyes and ears to bring back the information he is missing.”
The Iraqi army is beginning to understand the importance of the NCO Corps through its experiences with the Soldiers of Multi-National Division – Baghdad. To help make this transition a reality, one of the main efforts the Military Transition Teams are working toward with their Iraqi counterparts is supporting their efforts to form and train a strong NCO Corps.
“Right now, the Iraqi Army is building its noncommissioned officer corps,” Gioia said. “It’s a long and difficult process that will require a different thought process for both the officers and the NCOs.
“Ultimately, it will be up to the commissioned officers to empower their NCOs to be able to provide them the support they need to grow their army. As it stands now, the IA enlisted leaders do not have the leadership responsibility we have in the U.S. Army – yet. However, we are working with the Iraqi army leaders to assist them in developing the NCO Corps – as the leaders envision that Corps.”
Some of the issues the sergeants major addressed at the meeting included the need for more training ammunition for their soldiers to practice firing, the addition of more vehicles for the troops to conduct more missions and pay issues.
“There is a lot of frustration tied up in the Iraqi army, but it is evident of a new army that is starting to form,” said Gioia.
He added it was interesting to watch a new military organization in the making.
Sgt. Maj. Christopher DuBose, a native of Cleveland, said he saw progress just by the fact they were having the meeting in the first place.
“Just having the meeting was a big step forward because it showed how IA leaders are realizing they are having some problems and are willing to work toward fixing those issues,” he said.
“This new idea of having an NCO Corps, with senior enlisted leaders who are active in the leadership process, is a new concept in this Army. In the old system, the officers did everything; so, it’s taking the officers a little while to empower their NCOs to help them take care of some of the issues the IA is having on the battlefield and on base.”
DuBose serves as the force protection sergeant major with MND-B and the 4th Inf. Div.
“A lot of ground has been broken over the course of the past five months, explained Sgt. Maj. Terry Grezlik, who serves with the 6th Iraqi Army MiTT and is assigned to the 4th Inf. Div. First, we were able to get the division command sergeant major out on battlefield circulation with the division commander. This positive move showed the Soldiers that the senior NCO of the division was counted on by their commander.
“Having explained our own process of division/brigade/battalion command sergeant major meetings and the value to the Soldiers and the command team, the 6th IA command sergeant major approached the commander with the idea. Maj. Gen. Abdul Ameer (the commanding general for the 6th IA Div.) agreed that it would be a benefit – we had two firsts in two months.”
Grezlik said the conference served as just the latest example of the growing importance of senior noncommissioned officers in the Iraqi Army.
“Brigade and battalion commanders wholeheartedly supported the conference,” he said. “Already, two of the brigades have their command sergeants major out on battlefield circulation, checking on Soldiers, check point readiness and conditions. These are signs of empowerment and trust in their senior NCOs.”
Before leaving the meeting, Gioia made it a point to encourage the IA senior enlisted leaders to continue having the meetings. He told them not to be discouraged because one meeting cannot resolve all of the issues they face. It is something they need to continue to work on together.
“As frustrated as everyone is in this room, you all still came together to address your concerns for your units,” he said. “You can see your brothers, the other brigade sergeants major, are having the same problems. This allows for Command Sgt. Maj. Ayad to be better informed when he briefs Gen Amir about the needs of the division.”