Taiwan’s armed forces are later this year to send noncommissioned officers (NCOs) to the US to observe training to bolster joint operations between the two nations, a military source said on Wednesday.
An undisclosed number of Taiwanese NCOs would in the coming months visit the US military’s Joint Readiness Training Center and the US Army’s Asymmetric Warfare Group to observe how the US military trains its NCOs, the source said on condition of anonymity.
The armed forces have previously only sent high-level officers on such observation trips to the US.
Without disclosing when NCOs would visit the US or how long each group would stay, the source said that it marks the beginning of a three-year program that the military would review after it is completed.
Such trips would benefit Taiwanese NCOs, the source said, adding that knowing how the US trains its NCOs, including differences between military branches, would help in joint operations, especially given the multidimensional threat that Taiwan faces from China.
Before the introduction of the program, Ministry of National Defense Chief Sergeant Pan Wen-ching (潘文清) led a small group of NCOs to the US late last year, the source added.
On that visit, from Dec. 1 to 10, the group visited the US Army’s Indo-Pacific Command, Special Operations Command Pacific and the 25th Infantry Division’s Lightning Forge exercise, which typically serves as preparation for a rotation at the Joint Readiness Training Center in Fort Polk, Louisiana, the source added.
In Taiwan and the US, NCOs are the backbone of the army, and have the responsibility to ensure that the soldiers under them are combat ready.
A Ministry of National Defense report to the Legislative Yuan earlier this year said that about 90,000 of the armed forces’ 180,000 members are NCOs.
Defense experts applauded Wednesday’s decision, saying that the US trips would boost the professionalism of Taiwan’s NCOs and enhance the combat readiness of its soldiers.
Institute for National Defense and Security Research analyst Su Tzu-yun (蘇紫雲) said that it is a positive sign that the two nations are offering exchanges for lower-ranking personnel, when they used to only be offered to officers.
Unlike officers, who are frequently rotated to other units, NCOs stay in a unit longer, and are more familiar with the unit and its weapons systems, Su said.
Chieh Chung (揭仲), an associate research fellow at the National Policy Foundation in Taipei, said that NCOs in the US military are the core of combat units.
In the US, senior personnel make decisions, while the NCOs are in charge of execution and guiding the soldiers, he said.
Institute for National Defense and Security Research analyst Shu Hsiao-huang (舒孝煌) said that Taiwan’s NCOs typically only receive local training and do not have the opportunity to conduct exchanges with other nations’ militaries.
Over the past year, the US has launched more exchange programs to enhance the combat readiness of militaries in allied nations that are equipped with US weapons systems, he added.
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