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Chief Roy strengthens ties with Colombian partners

BOGOTA, Colombia -- Chief Master Sgt. of the Air Force James Roy (right) asks questions about the Colombian Sergeants Major Academy during a tour of the facility by Master Sgt. Rivera (left) of the Colombian Army. Chief Roy's visit focused on strengthening relationships between U.S. and Columbian Airmen. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Eric Petosky)

BOGOTA, Colombia -- Chief Master Sgt. of the Air Force James Roy (right) asks questions about the Colombian Sergeants Major Academy during a tour of the facility by Master Sgt. Rivera (left) of the Colombian Army. Chief Roy's visit focused on strengthening relationships between U.S. and Columbian Airmen. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Eric Petosky)

BOGOTA, Colombia -- Chief Master Sgt. of the Air Force James Roy discusses the duties of noncommissioned officers with students of the International NCO Academy Feb. 2. The INCOA is a combined professional military education course. Chief Roy's visit focused on strengthening relationships between U.S. and Columbian Airmen. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Eric Petosky)

BOGOTA, Colombia -- Chief Master Sgt. of the Air Force James Roy discusses the duties of noncommissioned officers with students of the International NCO Academy Feb. 2. The INCOA is a combined professional military education course. Chief Roy's visit focused on strengthening relationships between U.S. and Columbian Airmen. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Eric Petosky)

BOGOTA, Colombia -- Chief Master Sgt. of the Air Force James Roy greets Colombian Air Force staff at the Escuela de Suboficiales Feb. 1. The Escuela de Suboficiales is a three-year NCO academy which grants undergraduate degrees in military specialties to more than 100 students a year. Chief Roy's visit focused on strengthening relationships between U.S. and Columbian Airmen. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Eric Petosky)

BOGOTA, Colombia -- Chief Master Sgt. of the Air Force James Roy greets Colombian Air Force staff at the Escuela de Suboficiales Feb. 1. The Escuela de Suboficiales is a three-year NCO academy which grants undergraduate degrees in military specialties to more than 100 students a year. Chief Roy's visit focused on strengthening relationships between U.S. and Columbian Airmen. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Eric Petosky)

BOGOTA, Colombia -- Sgt. Maj. Arnulfo J. Reyes Torres (left), senior
instructor and command sergeant major of the Colombian Sergeants Major
Academy, delivers an orientation briefing at the school to Chief Master Sgt.
of the Air Force James Roy (middle) and Chief Master Sgt. Andres Alvarez
(right), Inter-American Air Force Academy command chief Feb. 3. Chief Roy's visit focused on strengthening relationships between U.S. and Columbian Airmen. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Eric Petosky)

BOGOTA, Colombia -- Sgt. Maj. Arnulfo J. Reyes Torres (left), senior instructor and command sergeant major of the Colombian Sergeants Major Academy, delivers an orientation briefing at the school to Chief Master Sgt. of the Air Force James Roy (middle) and Chief Master Sgt. Andres Alvarez (right), Inter-American Air Force Academy command chief Feb. 3. Chief Roy's visit focused on strengthening relationships between U.S. and Columbian Airmen. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Eric Petosky)

BOGOTA, Colombia -- Chief Master Sgt. Andres Alvarez (left), Inter-American
Air Force Academy command chief, translates for Chief Master Sgt. of the Air
Force James Roy (right) during a discussion with Col. Cano, commander of the
Colombian Air Force Escuela de Suboficiales Feb. 1. The Escuela de
Suboficiales is a three-year NCO academy which grants undergraduate degrees
in military specialties to more than 100 students a year. Chief Roy's visit focused on strengthening relationships between U.S. and Columbian Airmen. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Eric Petosky)

BOGOTA, Colombia -- Chief Master Sgt. Andres Alvarez (left), Inter-American Air Force Academy command chief, translates for Chief Master Sgt. of the Air Force James Roy (right) during a discussion with Col. Cano, commander of the Colombian Air Force Escuela de Suboficiales Feb. 1. The Escuela de Suboficiales is a three-year NCO academy which grants undergraduate degrees in military specialties to more than 100 students a year. Chief Roy's visit focused on strengthening relationships between U.S. and Columbian Airmen. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Eric Petosky)

BOGOTA, Colombia -- Chief Master Sgt. of the Air Force James Roy competes in a game of "Tejo" Feb. 2 during a trip to the International NCO Academy. The friendly challenge was issued by students of the INCOA as a cultural experience.  Chief Roy's visit focused on strengthening relationships between U.S. and Columbian Airmen. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Eric Petosky)

BOGOTA, Colombia -- Chief Master Sgt. of the Air Force James Roy competes in a game of "Tejo" Feb. 2 during a trip to the International NCO Academy. The friendly challenge was issued by students of the INCOA as a cultural experience. Chief Roy's visit focused on strengthening relationships between U.S. and Columbian Airmen. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Eric Petosky)

BOGOTA, Colombia -- Chief Master Sgt. of the Air Force James Roy made history Feb. 1 to 4 as he visited Colombian military sites in the first official visit here by the top-ranking enlisted Airman of the United States.

The purpose of the visit was two-fold - to reaffirm U.S. Southern Command's commitment to a strong nation-to-nation partnership and to explore professional military education exchange opportunities between the United States and Colombian air forces.

"Our two nations already have a partnership in combating narcotics trafficking, responding to natural disasters, and providing humanitarian assistance to those in need," Chief Roy said while addressing 160 students at the Fuerza Aerea de Colombia Escuela de Suboficiales (ESUFA). "I see Colombia as a leader in promoting regional stability, and the U.S. Air Force wants to continue to be a part of that effort."

Besides the ESUFA visit, Chief Roy also spoke with students and faculty at the International NCO Academy and the Sergeants Major Academy. He reinforced that strategic thinking at the NCO level was critical in promoting interoperability between partner nations. Chief Roy also shared his vision of deliberately developing enlisted leaders through a combined approach of experience, education and training.

Gen. Julio Gonzalez Ruiz, Colombian Air Force Chief of Staff, said that NCOs need a larger leadership role for the U.S.-Colombian partnership to prosper.

"For the last 15 years, we've been trying to empower our NCOs to have more responsibility," General Ruiz said during a meeting with Chief Roy. "The culture in the Air Force here is changing, and I've seen improvements in the NCO corps. The relationship between our NCOs and officers is very similar to the United States. We need NCOs to guide the Air Force."

The U.S. Air Force already sends mobile training teams from the Inter American Air Force Academy to countries in Latin America. Spanish-speaking U.S. Airmen have begun attending the international NCO academy equivalent. Chief Roy spoke with top-ranking enlisted leaders in the Colombian Air Force, Army and Navy to gauge the effectiveness of the training and explore additional education exchanges for senior NCOs as well as NCOs.

"The reason we are here today is to observe your program and perhaps send U.S. senior NCOs here to become your teammates in an educational environment," Chief Roy said while addressing students at the Colombian Sergeants Major Academy. "I am excited about the opportunity to send students here in the future. I find a great deal of value in the cross-cultural exchange and certainly in the curriculum.

"Our focus should be 15 to 20 years in the future, specifically targeting the deliberate development of our enlisted forces into capable leaders with a mutual understanding of each other's culture and operational doctrine. We're all Americans, and our countries have a responsibility to keep the Americas safe by partnering together," he said.

The Sergeants Major Academy is a joint endeavor between the Colombian armed forces and SOUTHCOM. Initially, SOUTHCOM funded the course and worked with Colombia on a curriculum that would most benefit their senior NCOs. Colombian officials embraced the concept and will begin independently conducting senior NCO training starting in 2012.

"We have a good program here, thanks to (SOUTHCOM)," said Lt. Col. Diego Luis Villegas Munoz, director of Escuela de Misones Internacionales Y Accion Integral. "Not only are (U.S. liaisons) supervising the training, but they have made recommendations and are tracking our progress. This program has succeeded thanks to your support. We understand (U.S. Air Force) programs started many years ago, and we are striving to perform just as well."

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