Open communication is key to the success of any working relationship; however, due to COVID-19, the ability to travel and meet face-to-face has become limited, making leaders rely on communication through video teleconference capabilities.
Ensuring the U.S. Air Force keeps the lines of communication open with its allies and African partners, Chief Master Sgt. Brion Blais, U.S. Air Forces in Europe-Air Forces Africa command chief, held four VTCs, May 26 and June 2, to discuss leadership, enlisted development and upcoming air symposiums with senior enlisted leaders (SEL) from their respective countries.
“Our partners are vital to the overall success of the U.S. Air Forces in Europe-Air Forces Africa mission and bring an outside perspective and expertise to enhance our capabilities,” said Blais. “Having senior enlisted leader discussions with these nations strengthens our support of each other and further develops our nation’s existing partnerships.”
Multiple SELs participated in the teleconferences, to include participants from the Rwandan and Botswana defence forces and the Lithuanian and Senegalese air forces.
According to U.S. Air Force Senior Master Sgt. Donald Lackey Jr., USAFE-AFAFRICA international enlisted engagement manager, these nations were chosen for an engagement because each one has expressed interest in U.S. Air Force professional military education (PME).
“The air forces in Rwanda, Botswana, and Senegal are interested in developing their [non-commissioned officer] corps,” he said. “Each air force is at different stages of NCO development. The Lithuanian Air Force command SEL has attended the Air Force Senior NCO Academy and is a staunch supporter of USAF PME.”
He also stated that these engagements are useful to discuss obstacles each country faces with COVID-19 and force development.
“Each nation’s air force has a different set of challenges that we can possibly help them overcome and best practices that we can learn from to enhance our capabilities,” Lackey said. “COVID-19 has reduced our ability to have in-person engagements, but it has introduced a virtual option that we can exploit until we return to our pre-COVID 19 method of executing bilateral and multilateral engagements.”
He went on to explain that he hopes these engagements will build a framework with SELs from each country that will ultimately build a solid rapport.
“The command has had a longstanding relationship with the Lithuanian Air Force and using a virtual platform is an excellent means to keep the lines of communication warm,” Lackey said. “Botswana, Senegal, and Rwanda air force’s relationships are still developing and although we have engaged with them before through in-person events it is vital in building partnerships to continue to stay connected.”
The overall goal, he said, is to establish an open dialogue between our allies and partners.
“I hope the SELs gain a rapport that allows them to speak comfortably,” he said. “Once the rapport is established the dialogue truly opens up and we can start to learn more about the successes or challenges their air forces face.”