Air Force African Senior Enlisted Leader Summit 2023

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Heather Ley
  • USAFE-AFAFRICA Public Affairs

Senior enlisted leaders from the U.S. and 20 African nations joined together for an African Senior Enlisted Leader Summit in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire, November 7-9, 2023.

This is a first-of-its-kind gathering of African Air Force senior enlisted leaders.

U.S. Air Force Chief Master Sgt. Randy Kwiatkowski, U.S. Air Forces in Europe - Air Forces Africa command chief, co-hosted the summit alongside Côte d’Ivoire air force Chief Warrant Officer Okoue Denis, Côte d’Ivoire air force senior enlisted leader.

Kwiatkowski began the conference with opening remarks where he spoke of the qualities he believes make an amazing partnership. He expressed the foundations into building a great partnership are respect, friendship and trust.

“We have an opportunity this week to cultivate and nourish the friendships that we have among one another," said Kwiatkowski. “I look forward to growing and sharing this experience with each and every one one of you.”

During the three-day event, senior enlisted leaders from each country had the opportunity to share their respective insights on Noncommissioned Officer development and answer questions from their counterparts.

Additionally, ASELS provided a space for leaders to gather and share what their forces are doing with regards to multiple topics to maximize idea sharing and problem-solving solutions across partnered nations.

“It’s important to gather and share ideas at a summit like this because it helps us to know each other better, understand our different cultures and develop oneself so we can all raise each other up,” said Denis.

One section of the summit focused on the advancement of the Women, Peace and Security initiative which recognizes women as critical actors in all efforts to achieve sustainable international peace and security. Additional topics included Enlisted Force Development, U.S. Space Force information, the State Partnership Program and professional military education.

“A topic we discussed that greatly interests me is the Women, Peace and Security initiative,” said Denis. “We need to improve the life of women in the military and how to help female NCOs manage their careers and find that work-life balance that many struggle with.”

Denis also spoke about the importance of NCOs and how they need to be a transition point between officers and the lower enlisted. He emphasized the need to empower them through delegation in allowing them proper authority to accomplish tasks which frees up officers to focus on the bigger picture.

Throughout the summit many senior enlisted leaders discovered they are facing similar challenges and passions in taking care of their Airmen. A lot of leaders were relieved to know they were not alone in that battle and hope through the new friendships formed they can put their heads together and find solutions to these problems.

“We really want to establish a network where we are leaning into each other's challenges and successes,” said Kwiatkowski. “This event allows us to communicate across that network to help each other grow and to enhance those partnerships, friendships and the trust that we have in each other.”

The 20 African countries that participated in ASELS 2023 were Benin, Botswana, Côte d’Ivoire, Eswatini, Gabon, Ghana, Kenya, Lesotho, Madagascar, Malawi, Morocco, Mozambique, Nigeria, Republic of the Congo, Rwanda, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Tanzania, Tunisia, and Zambia.

Other U.S. representatives in attendance were senior enlisted leaders from the Inter-European Air Forces Academy, National Guard Bureau State Partnership Program, 406th Air Expeditionary Wing, USAFE Directorate of Space Forces and the U.S. Africa Command.

During closing statements, Kwiatkowski said he gained a deep sense of unity, hope and certainty from his experience at ASELS. He noted that each air force faces similar challenges, uniting them all to find solutions together. His feelings of hope derive from how each leader is focused on improving their airmen’s lives and professional development. He also feels certain that each country's future is bright because of the focus to develop those airmen.

“The airmen we are developing now are going to lead us through the challenges we face 20 years from now,” said Kwiatkowski. “We cannot take their development lightly.”

The next ASELS is scheduled for 2025 with no determination of the location yet. Many participants from this year’s summit share the same anticipation and excitement for the next meeting.