Command Sgt. Maj. Ronnie Kelley, the command sergeant major for U.S. Army Central, arrived in Kazakhstan at the official invitation of the Defense Ministry of the country. On the 12th of June 2015 hel traveled to Schuchinsk to participate in the NCO conference at the Kazakhstani Cadet Corps. The U.S. Diplomatic Mission to Kazakhstan organized a press conference with Command Sgt. Maj. Ronnie Kelley where he highlighted the cooperation between the armed forces of the U.S. and Kazakhstan, participation in the Steppe Eagle 2015 exercise and development of the NCO in Kazakhstan. Chief of the Office of Military Cooperation of the U.S. Embassy Justin Colbert was in attendance as well.
"My area of responsibility is from Kazakhstan in the north all way down to Yemen in the south and then we go from Pakistan all the way to Egypt in the west. This is the area the U.S. Army Central is responsible for, and just specifically army units. My task is to help build partner capacity within those countries, but specifically to help develop the sergeants, what we call NCOs in each of those countries," Sgt. Maj. Ronnie Kelley said.
He went on to add that in Kazakhstan he does ‘a lot of engagements with the main NCO Cmd. Sgt. Maj. Temirbek Khalykov'. "This is my fourth time here in Kazakhstan. Our primary discussion with Khalykov is development of the sergeants in Kazakhstan. And not only just the development of the sergeants within the Kazakhstani army, he is also interested in our volunteer service. Because in America you're not made to join the military, you volunteer. They are very interested in this type of professionalism and what it could mean for Kazakhstan," he added.
When asked about what his advice would be on introducing volunteer service here in Kazakhstan, Sgt. Maj. Ronnie Kelley said that ‘his advice is just what they are doing'. "They are continuously developing their sergeants now. They are showing the capability these sergeants can have. My advice is going away from the mandatory to a volunteer service. It's an investment. You're investing in people, in the military. What that does for you: instead of every couple of years you have to train somebody new and teach them the same thing, is you have somebody who it's their profession just like yours. The longer you are in that profession, the more capable you are. And that investment will pay off. It's an investment in your people," he stressed.
In his words, there are many ways that the U.S. Army Central collaborates with Kazakhstan. First of all, the Steppe Eagle exercise. Sgt. Maj. Ronnie Kelley said the U.S. Army Central would send soldiers to participate as advisors and trainers this year. It will be held next week and there will be approximately 70 American participants along with the other multinational partners that will be also participating in the exercise. He also commented on the level of Kazakhstani soldiers that participate in the Steppe Eagle exercise. "They are probably some of the best soldiers within the areas that I work in my experience with them. They are constantly trying to get better. I guess that's what motivates me no matter how many years we've been here we are consciously trying to evolve and get better".
"Some of the things I have been personally involved with - is here in July we will start a sergeants drill course. We'll bring those drill sergeants over, the most professional instructors that will teach that course to develop Kazakh drill sergeants and teach those trainees. The results we'll have to see. What I really hope for is once we do this, they will be able to train their own drill instructors," he added.
During the press conference, participants also touched upon the International Military Education and Training (IMET) program. Within this program officers, sergeants and soldiers are sent back to be guest students at the U.S. military training institutions. Moreover, the IMET program was used to support the training and education of the new NCOs, new sergeants in Kazakhstani military.
Sgt. Maj. Ronnie Kelley also mentioned the military conference in El Paso, Texas with the participation of Kazakhstan, Lebanon, Jordan, Egypt, Pakistan and other countries. "We had all these other countries, they were learning from each other at the conference. There is a lot of capability and goodness in countries coming together and learning from each other".
Sgt. Maj. Ronnie Kelley said that he thinks positively about the military cooperation between Kazakhstan and the United States. "I think it is a great opportunity to building that partner capacity. I would tell you that the U.S., specifically the U.S. Army Central is committed to it."
In conclusion, Command Sgt. Maj. Ronnie Kelley had some words of praise for Cmd. Sgt. Maj. Temirbek Khalykov, the sergeant major of Kazakhstan's armed forces. "He works directly with the Ministry of Defense of Kazakhstan. He is a pioneer in his country. He is first of everything. He is very motivated and determined to make his military more professional. His passion motivates me. If fact, he was included into the Hall of Fame of the U.S. Sergeant Major Academy as a distinguished graduate. It is a very big honor to get there", Sgt. Maj. Ronnie Kelley.