Joint-nation non-commissioned officer symposium empowers Bulgarian, US enlisted leaders
The first Bulgarian and U.S. joint-nation non-commissioned officer symposium takes place at the Bulgarian Land Forces headquarters here, April 10-11.

SOFIA, Bulgaria - The first Bulgarian and U.S. joint-nation non-commissioned officer symposium takes place at the Bulgarian Land Forces headquarters here, April 10-11.

The symposium’s goal is to allow American and Bulgarian senior enlisted leaders to share doctrine, strengths and leadership philosophies, which are designed to empower and inspire non-commissioned officers in both nations’ corps.

“It’s very important to share opinions and experience, and make friends and partners,” said Bulgarian air force Chief Master Sgt. Hristo Nolev Hristozov of Graf Ignatievo Air Force Base, Bulgaria. “The symposium is a new way to give NCOs a chance to get some education, build skills and enhance their capabilities.”

Some of the topics at the event include discussing the relationship between a commander and senior enlisted leader; evaluating the roles and values of the enlisted force; and motivating and leading subordinates. Military enlisted leaders from across the world will combine and share their experiences gained throughout their many years of military service.

U.S. Army Europe Command Sgt. Maj. David Davenport Sr. said both nations’ militaries have some of the same ideas in regards to goals, vision and mission; however, the challenge lies in creating and maintaining a culture within the non-commissioned officer ranks that imbues resiliency and accountability at all levels.

“Responsibility,” Hristozov said of what it means to be an non-commissioned officer in the Bulgarian military. “It’s about integrity, honor and dignity. I have to follow my words — and keep my words — especially in front of my people. I must lead them without hesitation.

“It’s been very helpful and useful to have such great examples in our American partners,” he continued. “We’re learning from each other to work, grow, reform and change our mentality. The world is a better place with your best friends around you.”

U.S. Air Forces in Europe led the charge for expanding interoperability between the Bulgarian and U.S. non-commissioned officers in 2009 by researching ways the NATO partners could share education resources. The Kisling Non-commissioned Officer Academy staff in Kapaun Air Station, Germany, began inviting Bulgarian service members to attend the 223-hour course, and one of the more recent graduates of the course was Bulgaria’s Chief Master Sgt. of the Air Force Ivo Bakardzhiev.

“It’s events like [the symposium] where people talk through their plans and goals to work together and come up with ways to solve problems together,” said Susan M. Sutton, Deputy Chief of Mission for the U.S. Embassy Sofia, Bulgaria.

Sutton went on to say the relationship between Bulgaria and America is one founded on the continued ability for the NATO partners to rely on one another during situations ranging from training sessions to times of conflict.

“Even thought Bulgaria is a small country, when we call, they answer,” she said. “They are a tremendous people, and they believe in the power of working together.”

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