Command Sgt. Maj. Michael Bartelle is the senior enlisted adviser for the U.S. European Command.

Command Sgt. Maj. Michael Bartelle is the senior enlisted adviser for the U.S. European Command. (Charlie Coon / S&S)

STUTTGART, Germany — A military with only well-paid officers and forced-to-serve troops has a lot of holes in it compared to the way the U.S. military operates.

As the United States tries to build alliances around the world with whom to fight wars if necessary, the U.S. military wants its allies to have those holes filled by sharp sergeants major who have the ear of both the generals who make crucial decisions and the troops who have to execute them.

If all the allies are on the same page militarily, they can better fight enemies such as terrorism and oppression, according to Marine Sgt. Maj. Alford McMichael, senior enlisted adviser for Allied Command Operations, which is co-sponsoring this week’s International Senior NCO Seminar in Garmisch, Germany.

The goal, McMichael said, is to help generals from allied nations make better decisions by getting input from sergeants major who are up to speed on weapons of mass destruction, cultural differences and other subjects.

“It’s no different than with international trade or international business,” McMichael said. “If you don’t have a common base of knowledge, you probably couldn’t do that work. And if it can be done economically and diplomatically, it can definitely be done militarily.”

Twenty-six top noncommissioned officers from 14 nations will be attending, along with McMichael; Command Sgt. Maj. Michael Bartelle, senior enlisted adviser for the U.S. European Command, which is co-sponsoring the seminar; guest speakers from the George C. Marshall European Center for Security Studies; and unannounced “distinguished visitors.”

“We invited them, and their nations are sending them, and the nations are paying for them,” McMichael said. “They’re not forced to come. That shows [the nations] really want them to be there because they’re taking on the cost.

“Any time you put your money where your mouth is, that’s an indication to me that you’re serious about getting better.”

The NCOs are coming from long-standing U.S. allies such as Italy, Canada, the Netherlands, Germany and Spain, as well as newer allies such as Bosnia and Croatia, where military service used to be mandatory.

In some nations, that caused information gaps between the generals and the rank-and-file soldiers, Bartelle said.

Since the top NCOs from these nations will be advising their respective defense chiefs and top commanders, they need up-to- date information on world topics, he said. The seminar will include lectures, break-out groups and time for questions and answers, he said.

“Everybody should be focused on the global war on terrorism,” Bartelle said. “If we can give them the skills and knowledge to battle terrorism in their own quarters, then U.S. participation can be minimal.”

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