SANDF Warrant Officers meet US counterparts

Senior warrant officers of the South Africa National Defence Force (SANDF) earlier this month hosted their US counterparts in Pretoria for a week.
The US delegation included Command Sergeant Major Mark Ripka of US Africa Command (Africom) and Command Sergeant Major Robert Van Pelt, who is the State Command Sergeant Major for the New York Army National Guard.
They were accompanied by Sergeants First Class Steven Ryan and Joey Mitchell from the US Embassy in Pretoria.
Ripka, in an article posted on the Africom web site explains the New York National Guard is partnered with the SANDF under the US` State Partnership Program.
Ripka says the purpose of 16-20 March visit was to discuss SANDF warrant officer and non-commissioned officer (NCO) development, build relationships and to establish a permanent warrant officer/ NCO cooperation sub-working group to the SANDF-US Military Relations Working Group in preparation for a Defense Committee discussion in July.
“In the US military, senior enlisted personnel and sergeants major hold positions comparable to those of warrant officers in many African militaries. In the US military, a command sergeant major is the commanding officer’s senior advisor on matters affecting the enlisted force,” Ripka says.

The SANDF visit began 16 March with an office call and discussions with the Master Chief Warrant Officer[1] FJS Scheepers.

The delegation also met the SANDF accompanying officer for the week, Chief Warrant Officer Leon Halgreen of the Command and Management Information Systems Division.
Scheepers provided an overview on the history and the challenges of the SANDF since the creation of the post-apartheid military force in 1994.
After the initial discussion with Scheepers, the delegation proceeded to the Army College where the Senior Chief Warrant Officer Kgaladi, South African Army, met and hosted the delegation for the remainder of the day.
The delegation received briefings from Chief Warrant Officer Van Onselen of the South African Army Headquarters Staff Force Preparation, and from the South African Army Formation chief warrant officers. They discussed training in general, followed by warrant officer/non-commissioned officer development.

On 17 March the delegation was hosted for briefings and discussions by Senior Chief Warrant Officer L. Dan Tshabala, South African Air Force (SAAF).

The delegation also met with the Chief of the South African Air Force, Lieutenant General Gagiano.
The briefings covered the SAAF`s technical training and warrant officer/ non-commissioned officer leadership development. The SAAF College presented a detailed briefing on its organisation, capabilities, and current and future pathway for warrant officers and non-commissioned officers.
The US delegation agreed to explore the possibilities of future student and instructor exchanges between the United States and South Africa National Defense Force.

Next the delegation travelled to the Joint Operations Division. Senior Chief Warrant Officer Gogo hosted the delegation for a series of detailed briefings of the Joint Operations Division’s roles and functions and the Special Force Brigade`s mission, roles, and functions.

Senior Chief Warrant Officer MMT Sebone, South African Military Health Services (SAMHS), hosted the delegation on 18 March for a SAMHS organisational briefing, a visit to 7th Medical Group, and a visit to SAMHS Training Formation. The 7th Medical Group provided a mission briefing and demonstrated the Chemical Biological Radiological Defensive Protection capability.

During the visit to the Training Formation they observed military health training using a variety of computer-based and non-computer-based simulators and simulations.

On the afternoon of 18 March the delegation was hosted by the Master at Arms Mark Hyde, South African Navy. Hyde and the warrant officers on the headquarters South African Navy staff provided a briefing with accompanying discussions focused on petty officer, chief petty officer, and warrant officer professional development.

Vice Admiral Johannes Mudimu, chief of the South African Navy, also spoke to the assembled warrant officers about the success of the 3rd Africa Seapower Symposium hosted in South Africa and the importance of regional maritime cooperation and the relationship with the United States.
The delegation proceeded to the Warrant Officer’s Academy on 19 March and was hosted by the Master Chief Warrant Officer of the South African National Defense Force and Senior Chief Warrant Officer, D.J.W. Cloete, Warrant Officer Academy, for a full day of briefings and discussions.
Joining the group for briefings was Warrant Officer 1 (Retired) Moorcroft, former South Africa Army Sergeant Major of the Army, who had recently been appointed by the South African National Defense Force to monitor and assist with Retiree Affairs.
The master chief warrant officer began the day`s discussions by explaining the history of warrant officers and the new warrant officer ranks in the South African Defense Force.

After the MCWO`s briefing, the U.S. delegation provided a short white-board discussion on the US national security organization to include US Africa Command; the discussion also covered US warrant officer/non-commissioned officer education and development.

The next series of briefings were presented by the Warrant Officer’s Academy’s staff and covered the Joint Warrant Officer Program.
The WOA is currently administering their second intake of Joint Warrant Officer Program. Members of the US delegation said they were quite impressed with the year-long, combination resident with short-duration distance-learning periods, operational and military/political strategic level focused course.
The US delegation agreed to explore the possibilities of instructor/ facilitator and learner exchanges at the Warrant Officer’s Academy.
20 March was the inauguration of the WO/NCO Cooperation Group as another sub-group to the Military Relations Working Group of the Defense Committee. The Master Chief Warrant Officer, South African National Defense Force and the Command Sergeant Major, US Africa Command participated.
“The weeklong visits and discussions formed the basis of the warrant officer/non-commissioned officer Cooperation Group`s plenary out-brief to the full Military Relations Working Group (MRWG),” Ripka says.  
“Most important from the presentation was the recommendation that the WO/ NCO Cooperation Group become a permanent sub-group to the MRWG. The recommendation was approved by the MRWG Co-Chairmen.
“In conclusion, the weeklong warrant officer-to-warrant officer level SANDF-U.S. military engagement and discussions created an understanding which enhanced respect, trust, and confidence. Moreover, the success of the engagement is also reflected in the addition of a permanent WO/NCO Cooperation Sub-Working Group to the Military Relations Working Group to the Defense Committee,” Ripka says.

[1] One of a set of new ranks introduced for SANDF warrant officers on 1 June 2008:
Master Chief Warrant Officer
Sergeant Major of the SANDF
Senior Chief Warrant Officer
Sergeant Major of the Army, Air Force, Military Health Service. Master-at-Arms of the Navy
Chief Warrant Officer
Formation Sergeant Major
Senior Warrant Officer
Command Sergeant Major
Warrant Officer Class 1
Sergeant Major/Warrant
Warrant Officer Class 2
Sergeant Major/warrant