US, coalition enlisted officials gather, construct conference for young service members

23 Jan 2012 | Cpl. Meredith Brown

Top enlisted leaders with Task Force Belleau Wood and its coalition forces gathered for dinner and a meeting at in the headquarters building aboard Camp Leatherneck, Helmand province, Jan. 8.

The purpose of the meeting was to organize a Coalition Non-commissioned Officer Symposium course, presented over two days, that would give U.S. and coalition forces the opportunity to get to know and understand each other. In attendance were senior representatives from U.S., British, Bahraini and Tongan forces.

The meeting was lead by Sgt. Maj. Craig D. Cressman, sergeant major Task Force Belleau Wood. He said the idea is something he has been thinking about organizing since he started meeting regularly with top leaders from U.S. and coalition forces.

“The camaraderie that we shared over coffee - that’s what made me think this would be something great for NCOs to experience,” said Cressman, a native of Gladwin, Mich.

During the meeting, different ideas were bounced around about how to run the two-day course and what topics should be covered and discussed. The morning following the course, a ceremony is planned to honor the participants.

The group agreed that on day one, participants will introduce themselves and explain their job. Following the introductions, a staff non-commissioned officer from each country will talk about rank structure and the history of their organization.

Day two consists of guided discussions about various topics that appeal to all services.

“It’s going to benefit (the participants) by exposing them to the cultural aspects of the service of the different nations,” said Cressman. “Everyone will learn from everyone else.”

Within Task Force Belleau Wood alone, more than five countries work together to perform tasks on Camp Leatherneck and throughout the surrounding battle space.

“We’re all here together under one roof, fighting for one cause but we’ve never sat in the same room together,” explained Cressman. “We all have shared denominators and common bonds across the spectrum. I’m putting them in a room so they can see who is to their left and who is to their right.”

The conference, which is the first of its kind in Helmand province, is scheduled from Jan. 23-25 in the NATO conference room at the task force’s headquarters building.

The conference offers a unique opportunity to break the language barrier between the nations. If the class is being taught in English then students that speak another language can wear a wireless earpiece, which enables an interpreter to translate as the class is going on.

Additionally, any media that is projected on the big projector screen can be translated and displayed on individual monitors at each participant’s seat.

One of the senior leaders, Sgt. Maj. Ahmed Al Badoni, the sergeant major for Company Five, Bahrain Special Security Forces, is excited about the possibilities the symposium brings for growth between the forces.

“I think it’s a good idea and many of our Rangers can learn many things from this kind of training and we can put an idea in our soldier’s minds about why we are here,” said Al Badoni.