PANCHEVO, Serbia --
Senior noncommissioned officers from the Serbian Armed Forces worked with U.S. Marines during the NCO Workshop to share information about the noncommissioned officer rank and role at the Serbian Armed Forces Training Center Pancevo, March 3-5, 2015.
“It is very important to talk about developing NCOs through their career with other armed forces in other countries,” said Maj. Sasha Petkovic, Commander of the Serbian Armed Force Training Center Pancevo. “It is interesting for us to hear about how it is done in the United States and how some other European countries educate and develop NCOs so we can collect that and adjust to better our training and programs of education of our NCOs in the Serbian Armed Forces.”
Twenty-five Serbian senior NCOs joined four Marines to discuss the rank, roles and responsibilities of a platoon sergeant; this particular workshop focused on NCO development, decentralization, platoon sergeant employment and advising the platoon commander, among other related topics.
The "backbone of the Corps," the corporals and sergeants comprising the NCO rank, is analogous with the Serbian military. However, the "title platoon sergeant" does not exist in Serbian translation.
"The platoon sergeant is actually the first squad leader in the company," Sgt. 1st Class Boyan Petrovic, attendee and translator for the NCO Workshop explained. "He is the most senior and most experienced squad leader within the company. That is a reason why we are interested in this topic. We are trying to look and see how we can implement it."
These subtle differences and similarities in the structure and intuition among the service members allow for a greater understanding in Serbia’s effort toward NATO interoperability in the area of leader development.
“We are trying to strengthen and develop our NCO Corps and the Serbian Armed Forces in general, and also largely develop and expand our interoperability with the NATO forces as a Partner for Peace,” Petrovic explained.
The discussions were heavy and interests were high throughout the three days.
When explaining U.S. Marine Corps attributes to the group of Serbian service members, Marine Staff Sgt. Dale Elbert, with Black Sea Rotational Force supporting the NCO workshop in Serbia, paralleled the attributes to the history and culture he learned while in Serbia.
“Loyalty. It’s awesome to see the national pride and brotherhood of the country, the rich history this country has which we had an opportunity to see in the military museum, here,” Elbert described. “Seeing how it is preserved and honored - that is loyalty.” Heads nodded among the group.
Overall, the engagement was a very positive one for all parties involved.
“The soldiers we were able to work with were very open and very receptive. I think I got as much out of it as they did,” Staff Sgt. Jonathan Sidhu, a U.S. Marine with Black Sea Rotational Force supporting the NCO workshop in Serbia said. “I hope they go back to their units with some of the tips, tricks and advice we’ve given them to help them improve their proficiency and ultimately their success on the battlefield.”
Cooperation with the U.S. Marine Corps began in 2011 with the creation of the Serbian Armed Forces Training Command in 2010. Throughout the past four years the militaries discussed NCO and junior officer development. The Serbian Armed Forces Training Command hit a high mark in 2014 by hosting seven engagements with U.S. military. This year will be no different, as there are currently more than four engagements planned further developing the partnership and interoperability between the U.S. and Serbian forces.