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Air Force strengthens partnerships through International Enlisted Engagements Program

WASHINGTON (AFNS) -- The Air Force educates and trains more than 11,800 international partner air force members each year. Historically, enlisted airmen have made up a relatively small subset of this total. But the U.S. Air Force believes there is an opportunity to apply the world-class skills and expertise of the enlisted corps far more effectively to international partnering efforts.

The International Enlisted Engagements Program seeks to do just that, while also supporting the Air Force’s priorities of strengthening international relationships and building global airpower capabilities, using enlisted engagement as a tool for achieving security cooperation objectives.

“One of the goals of this enlisted engagement is to assist our partner nations with enlisted development while also developing culturally competent Airmen within our own forces,” said Chief Master Sgt. of the Air Force Kaleth O. Wright. “It’s part of our talent management plan, helping to build a well-equipped, professional corps or international senior enlisted leaders who are able to lead their forces in the advancement of national and international strategic objectives and interests.”

U.S. Air Force senior noncommissioned officers are employed as strategists to develop requirements and implementation plans for engagement with specific partner forces. IEE program activities are designed to establish and promote mutual trust and respect among participants, and to facilitate information sharing among partner personnel.

Success factors include the degree of interoperability between U.S. and partner airmen as well as partner forces’ responsiveness and collaboration with the U.S. Air Force during future coalition operations.

“IEE provides a unique opportunity to foster the enlisted development of partner nation militaries,” said Senior Master Sgt. Jennifer Johnson, Air Force international enlisted engagements manager. “We are constantly learning of new opportunities for cooperating with partners and then evaluating those against U.S. and (Defense Department) priorities to determine what we should move out on.”

“There is no doubt that our enlisted force is the most professional and capable force in the world,” Wright said. “Sharing that with our partners while capitalizing on unique opportunities to foster the enlisted development of our Airmen and those of our partner nation militaries is vital to carrying out our national security strategy.”

There are three IEE positions Air Force-wide. However, Johnson said the service will add another by the end of 2018, and will look to continue adding positions where they can benefit the Major Command and Combatant Command Senior Enlisted Leaders. Since its inception in 2015, 11 SNCOs have participated in the IEE program.

“This job is challenging and incredibly fast-paced,” Johnson said. “But it’s also thrilling, because we’re enabling the Air Force to break new ground with so many international partners and enlisted Airmen are front and center.”