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Servicemembers from across the military gathered on Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall May 14-16 for the first National Capital Region Joint Professional Development Seminar, a program designed to prepare attending enlisted servicemembers for joint missions.

Military leaders founded the pilot course to enhance noncommissioned officers’ (NCOs) and petty officers’ knowledge and understanding of the different military services in order to accomplish missions in the future.

“By bringing them together, they begin to see that while each Branch does business a little differently, because of our different missions, the leadership challenges are the same regardless of what uniform they wear,” said Master Sgt. Jeremy Owens, the logistics chief on Henderson Hall who led a number of the course discussions, in an email to the Pentagram.

The three-day course was based on the National Defense University’s book, “The Noncommissioned Officer and Petty Officer: Backbone of the Armed Forces.” The three-day seminar included a series of lectures detailing the joint perspectives of each of the armed services, as well as a variety of team-building exercises.

During the week, students received advice and guidance during a joint panel discussion with senior NCOs from across the military, as well as valuable insight into resiliency, standards, discipline and the appropriate use of social media.

“Regardless of the color of your uniform … we all fight for the same thing,” said Air Force District of Washington Command Chief Master Sgt. Jose LugoSantiago during the opening lecture on the profession of arms. “And although we sometimes have rivalries between the services – and we do that on purpose, just for fun – in the end, we are bound by one code.”

Course instructors said the discussions were designed to both strengthen bonds between servicemembers and render them better, smarter leaders.

“You need to be competent, credible and capable,” Owens told a roomful of students during a discussion on building partnerships, both with your superiors and those under your command.  “To build those partnerships, to build those bridges, you’ve got to be a leader.”

Marine Corps Sgt. Major Brian Battaglia, senior enlisted advisor to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, delivered the graduation speech at the end of the course, capping off the three days of advice from senior officers with some wisdom of his own.

Battaglia told the room of graduating NCOs and petty officers that they were in a unique position within the organizational structure of the military.

“We, as an NCO Corps, execute from the structure’s middle,” he said. “Some could look at it as a center of gravity. Most will look at it as a backbone.”

This meant that many of the people in the room had been taught useful and effective problem-solving skills, but Battaglia said they would ultimately need to go one step further to be truly great leaders.

“While problem solving is definitely needed … it’s not the heart of leading,” he said. “Inevitably, your goal is to be a problem preventer.”

Emphasizing the joint aspect of the military and focus of the course, Battaglia said that working together would be the only way to accomplish missions.

“It is literally impossible, ladies and gentlemen, for you to successfully discharge your duties and achieve a career in this profession as a soloist,” he said.

The success of the pilot course will be reviewed to determine if it will be instated as a permanent fixture for NCOs and spread across services.

“Everyone involved in the class felt it was successful and that conducting similar classes will only strengthen our NCOs and Petty Officers,” Owens said in an email after the course’s completion.

The “Backbone of the Armed Forces” is available online at