Updated: 10-Jan-2005
SHAPE > News

Top enlisted member blazing a trail
for future NATO NCOs

29 November 2004

By U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Mellissa M. Novakovich

Sergeant Major Alford L. McMichael
SHAPE, Belgium
-- After a year at the helm U.S. Marine Corps Sgt. Maj. Alford L. McMichael, Allied Command Operations senior non-commissioned officer, discusses the progress of NATO’s NCO corps.

Since becoming the top enlisted member of the alliance McMichael’s goal has been to strengthen the NATO enlisted force.

McMichael and his staff have come up with a training program to create a more cohesive NCO corps among the NATO ranks.

“We’ve established three levels of training: a preliminary leadership course, an intermediate leadership course and an advanced leadership course,” McMichael said. “We hope to take these programs to the Joint Education Center in Oberammergau, Germany.”

To further enhance the ACO NCO corps McMichael with personnel from the George C. Marshall European Center are developing an international senior non-commissioned officer seminar (ISNS) to be held at the Marshall Center located near Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany.

“The ISNS seminar is for sergeants major and senior enlisted members from all NATO countries to learn how to further enhance the enlisted corps,” McMichael said.

Although both of these innovative ideas are still in the planning stages, a joint mobile training team (JMTT), established by the Joint Force Command-Naples senior NCO, is delivering the course in the meantime. The team’s mission is to travel to allied nations that wish to enhance their NCO corps and provide them with training.

Once the team arrives in a requesting nation, they hit the ground running to assess, evaluate requirements and further professionalize their NCOs.

“The appetite for this type of training is greater than we had anticipated,” McMichael said. “The speed at which we are moving has caused even greater interest in the program.”

Since its implementation the JMTT has successfully trained enlisted corps of three NATO countries: Hungary, Romania and Slovenia. Approximately 40 Bulgarian NCOs are soon to be trained by the JMTT, with a scheduled graduation date of Dec. 10.

The progress of this new program has been remarkable. However, blazing a new NCO trail hasn’t been easy. “ The challenges you face are almost always the same, there are generational challenges, you have to keep the current generation informed while trying to build future generations,” he said.

“Also, there are always cultural differences, you have to build your program to the culture of the nation, but we are more alike than we are different, we have to focus on those similarities to get the best out of the men and women of NATO,” McMichael said.

Another challenge of this new enlisted education system is finding new ways to make the program better, “identifying where the lanes of improvement can take off and show improvement within 5-10 years so we can become a more global, agile, streamlined expeditionary force,” he said.

Before arriving at the Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe, McMichael was set for retirement. Upon his arrival here he found himself with a new found energy to do something that would affect more than one service or country.

“It’s my goal to see the gray line blurred between the officer and NCO training process, building confidence so leaders have the courage to delegate. That means great leadership,” he said.

Everyday McMichael feels he is one step closer to the goals of the alliance. Everyday we complete another piece of the puzzle,” he said. “We are finding ways to come together for the good of the alliance, faster than people ever could have imagined.”