ZVOLEN, Slovakia — In the early morning hours of May 18, an awkward silence filled a room in a plain white building in downtown Zvolen, Slovakia, where host nation and U.S. military members waited for one man to break the silence.
A young command sergeant major in his mid 30s stood up and did just that by introducing himself to his two American guests.
He was Slovak army Command Sgt. Maj. Richard Fabricius, the command sergeant major of the Slovak armed forces, who then introduced Slovak air force Command Sgt. Maj. Vladimir Belus, the senior non-commissioned officer of the Slovak air force, and other host nation senior noncommissioned officers.
The NCOs met at the headquarters of the Slovak air force to focus on leadership and noncommissioned officer development. The purpose of this visit was to provide command sergeants major with information pertaining to the NCO support channel, counseling, and tools such as mentoring and sponsorship.
A team of two U.S. senior enlisted leaders, Army Command Sgt. Maj. Elwood J. Graham and Army 1st Sgt. Todd Heimer from the 7th Warrior Training Brigade, 7th Civil Support Command, based out of Grafenwoehr, Germany, shared their knowledge on completing NCO evaluation reports, operating in a hostile environment and conducting convoy operations safety measures into operational planning with their counterparts.
After the fall of socialism and joining NATO in 2004, Slovakia went through a major reconstruction of its armed forces to include the NCO corps.
In 2003, the Slovak military began implementing more NCOs into their ranks as never before, said Fabricius.
The Slovak army is trying to model its NCO development and management to something similar to what of the U.S. Army uses, said Fabricius. Therefore, there are things that need improvement.
"Our soldiers are first and foremost," Fabricius said. "And every one of our soldiers should be aware of our commitment to be able to evaluate every one of them as objectively as possible."
Graham said it was motivating to witness the Slovak senior NCOs' professionalism, pride, strong interest to improve their evaluation system and desire to learn new training techniques. The U.S. Army is not alone as it supports Overseas Contingency Operations around the world, he added.
"I could see the motivation of the Slovak senior NCOs on the fight in Afghanistan - who are getting ready to deploy next year," said Graham. "That was very touching, and we let them know that. We appreciate their help in Afghanistan."
The outcome of the bilateral training was that the command sergeant major of the Slovak armed forces tasked his senior NCOs to provide him input on the improvement of the current Slovak NCOER based on the discussions at the event. He said he would be speaking with the chief of staff of the Slovak armed forces on the NCOER implementation.
"Evaluations of our soldiers are very important to us," Fabricius said. "We are striving for excellence and hoping that the NCOER will bring us farther as a NCO corps."