DURRES, Albania — Enlisted members of the Albanian Armed Forces Non Commissioned Officers (NCO) Academy visited USS Taylor (FFG 50) June 17 as part of their professional development curriculum and cross cultural exposure to NATO allies.
The Albania Armed Forces created their Senior Non Commissioned Officer Academy in 1993 and just recently became a part of NATO in 2009.
The eight week course is designed to improve the NCOs professional development as well as give the members a chance to see how enlisted members are treated and interact within other NATO partner militaries.
“The joining of NATO is the first step,” said Albanian army Master Sgt. Mary Eiteuner, Operation Coordinator for Defense Attaché Office, Albania. “As Albania develops a modern military force, they are going to have to develop their NCO program.”
After World War II, the Albanian government and armed forces were isolated from the rest of Western Europe and thus a predominantly conscripted force under communist rule. After the fall of the Berlin wall in 1989, Albania elected a democratic government and began to move toward a more westernized armed forces model based on the all-volunteer professional force of the United States.
“[Albanian] forces are working with NATO allies,” said Eiteuner. “They are coming into contact everyday with NCOs from western military forces, so it’s important that they understand how to interact with our NCOs.”
As Albania’s Armed Forces become more involved with assisting NATO allies in countries such as Afghanistan, the exposure of Albanian NCOs to American and Western European NCOs becomes more important. Currently only a select few that are deployed receive that exposure.
“This visit today was very special for our students,” said Albanian Command Sgt. Maj. Proletar Panxha, Senior Enlisted Advisor Chief of Defense Force. “The first thing they noticed was how all the NCOs were taking care of the ship, and they could see the [American NCOs] leadership at work here.”
Establishing the Albanian Armed Forces NCO Academy is part of a series of steps Albania is taking to enter into the European Union.
Taylor, an Oliver Hazard Perry-class frigate, is homeported in Mayport, Fla., and is on a scheduled deployment in the U.S. 6th Fleet area of responsibility.