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First Foreign National Awarded Sgt. Morales Medal

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Published on May 23, 2013

COPENHAGEN, Denmark -- The senior enlisted leader of the Croatian Army, Sgt. Maj. of the Army Dominick Ban became the first foreign national awardee of the Sgt. Morales Medal at a ceremony here, May 22. The ceremony and dinner wrapped up the seventh annual Conference of European Armies for Noncommissioned Officers going on this week.

The three-day conference co-hosted by U.S. Army Europe and the Royal Danish Army brought together senior NCOs from 32 European nations and the U.S. to share tactics and techniques and to build relationships among European, U.S. and other allied and partner forces.

"The purpose of the conference is to encourage the development of professional armies throughout the European land forces and build relationships between the European armies and senior NCO's," explained USAREUR Command Sgt. Maj. David Davenport.

Sharing ideas was the goal of every conversation. Many of the senior leaders that attended the conference said they looked forward to engaging in discussions and reestablishing networks with their peers.

"I think the important thing is we get to meet people in similar positions in the different armies just to make that connection," said Sergeant Major of the United Kingdom Army Vern Stokes. "No longer will we be operating as a singular army and we need the help of all of our allies and these opportunities are great for building those relationships."

Stokes cited an example of how important these peer networks can be, discussing an incident at the Royal Military Academy at Sandhurst, England, in which there was concern that a cadet suffering from post-traumatic stress might harm himself.

"All it took was a phone call from me to the army sergeant major I had met last year, and I asked him to give him (the cadet) a telephone call and tell him how well he's doing and how his country is really proud of him," Stokes said. "That was enough for him to realign himself and focus on what he had to and that was to pass the course. We saw a complete turnaround, and that was enabled purely by making contacts during this conference."

Stokes's example was one of many brought up during the conference that touched on this year's theme of soldier resiliency. Throughout the event participants attended briefings on issues that affect the readiness and resiliency of Soldiers before, during and after deployments.

"This is a topic that has an impact on all armies," said Sergeant Major of the Croatian Land Forces Dominik Ban.

Ban went on to talk about the stigma that is often associated with seeking help for mental health issues and the need for professional militaries to focus on removing that stigma and getting soldiers the help they need.

"If you have a pain in your leg you go see the doctor; if you have a pain in your mind you go see a doctor. It's normal," he said.

From all the briefings and discussions it was clear that the welfare of their soldiers was first and foremost in the minds of the assembled NCOs.

"When you talk about the care of Soldiers, that's easy to say, but to actually cause an effect is something different," Davenport said. "Many of the presenters and discussions, they all are doing something -- they take care of that vital resource of Soldiers."

The conference wrapped up with a dinner co-hosted by USAREUR commander Lt. Gen. Donald M. Campbell Jr. and Danish Maj. Gen. Per Ludvigsen, commander of the Danish Army Operational Command.

During the dinner Campbell spoke about the need for a strong NCO Corps to act as the eyes and ears of a military force's senior leadership.

"NCOs are the backbone of any professional force, and you have a role to play, not only in the accomplishment of the tactical, operational and strategic missions, but also in maintaining the resiliency of your Soldiers and units as we shape the force for the future."

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