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Joint Warfighting Is The Future
by C. Todd Lopez, DOD News
March 15, 2021

Senior Enlisted Advisor to the Chairman Ramón "CZ" Colón-López said his leadership philosophy has remained largely unchanged from his time in the Air Force: "collaboration without encroachment."

Senior Enlisted Advisor to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Ramón "CZ" Colón-López at the Air Force Association's 2021 Virtual Aerospace Warfare Symposium on February 24, 2021. (U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Michael Crowley)
Senior Enlisted Advisor to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Ramón "CZ" Colón-López at the Air Force Association's 2021 Virtual Aerospace Warfare Symposium on February 24, 2021. (U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Michael Crowley)

"I see myself as a sensor, a synchronizer and an integrator for the total force," said Colón-López, during an online discussion today that was part of the Air Force Association's 2021 Virtual Aerospace Warfare Symposium. "A lot of that comes with understanding the issues that are exclusive to the services."

The SEAC said he always works in partnership with senior enlisted advisors from the military services to solve problems in a joint way.

"The one thing that we're in the habit of doing is always getting around a table to discuss the issues, find the connective tissue between those particular items and then come up with the best solutions," he said.

For most of the last 20 years, the U.S. military has been fighting a counter-insurgency and counter-terrorist war, Colón-López said. That fight has been successful because it was a joint fight from the start.

"It has taken a joint effort, a multinational effort, to get after the mission at hand," he said. "That is the model that we're going to follow from now on. So the joint perspective is critical to the success of future missions."

An AH-64 Apache Longbow sits ready for a night mission in northern Iraq on Oct. 12, 2007. Operations in Iraq and Afghanistan were a joint effort all along and joint warfighting is widely considered to be the way combat operations will happen in the future. (U.S Army photo by Maj. Enrique Vasquez)
An AH-64 Apache Longbow sits ready for a night mission in northern Iraq on Oct. 12, 2007. Operations in Iraq and Afghanistan were a joint effort all along and joint warfighting is widely considered to be the way combat operations will happen in the future. (U.S Army photo by Maj. Enrique Vasquez)

A new document, titled "Developing Enlisted Leaders for Tomorrow's Wars," was recently released by the Joint Staff this week, Colón-López said. That document will spell out expectations for enlisted leaders in the joint force.

"The intent and the purpose of this particular document is to provide you a foundation of expectations from every member fighting a joint war," Colón-López said.

He said the professional military education vision document was written in collaboration with all the service senior enlisted advisors, the National Guard Bureau and the Coast Guard.

"The reason we did that is because the multiple approaches to leadership that we have, based on the different cultures of the services, is what matters the most for a joint warfighter," he said. "Once we build the right airman, soldier, guardian, sailor, Marine and Coast Guardsmen, to be able to go ahead and fight in the joint arena, there are three things that we require, and that is character, competence and commitment. And from that, we start growing you into a more rounded entity to be able to go ahead and execute the mission, anytime, at any place."
Solving Problems at the Lowest Level

Colón-López also said that the No. 1 solution to sexual assault, harassment, suicides and other issues in the services won't come from the Pentagon, it'll come from enlisted leaders.

"It's no secret that we have been living in some pretty tough times here lately ... we're dealing with sexual assault, harassment, suicide, many other issues — diversity and inclusion — that are plaguing and eroding the cohesion of military services," he said.

Fixing those problems must start at the lowest level — where those problems occur — not at the highest levels, where policy is made, Colón-López said.

"You deserve what you tolerate," Colón-López said. "If you see a problem, don't walk past it — take action. If you have a fix, voice it. And if you need to stand up for somebody, stand tall and make sure that your voice and your actions carry the mail to the people that need to correct that. This is all about personal involvement and accountability — and we can do that at the lowest levels. Do not wait for the institution to spoon feed you the solutions that are intrinsic to mission command."

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