Honolulu, Hawaii – May 2024 

“The knowledge and connections we built here strengthen our region against the complex security challenges we face together,” remarked a participant as the inaugural Indo-Pacific Senior Enlisted Leaders Subject Matter Expert Exchange (IPSEL SMEE) drew to a close. This groundbreaking event, proposed by former USINDOPACOM Commander Admiral John Aquilino and Fleet Master Chief David Isom, united 55 senior enlisted advisors and leaders from 21 Indo-Pacific nations in Honolulu, Hawaii, April 15-19, 2024. 

Co-hosted by the Daniel K. Inouye Asia-Pacific Center for Security Studies (DKI APCSS) and the United States Indo-Pacific Command (USINDOPACOM), the SMEE elevated leadership professionalism and created a tailored educational platform for the region’s senior enlisted leaders. Dr. James Minnich, Colonel U.S. Army Retired and Professor at DKI APCSS and Fleet Master Chief Isom Command Senior Enlisted Leader for USINDOPACOM led the five-day event with plenary presentations, dynamic discussions, assessments, and networking sessions focused on their essential role in shaping security dynamics. 

Fleet Master Chief Isom

DKI APCSS Deputy Director Russ Bailey and Fleet Master Chief Isom kicked off the event, stressing the importance of collaboration. “Our vision is that this inaugural IPSEL SMEE becomes the foundation for enduring partnerships throughout the Indo-Pacific,” Fleet Isom emphasized. 

During Friday’s plenary, Chief Master Sergeant Jacob Simmons, Command Senior Enlisted Leader of the United States Space Command, delved into the strategic impact of space operations and their role in regional stability. He highlighted the domain’s criticality and the need for enhanced cooperation among Indo-Pacific nations. 

Key Insights and Outcomes 

  • Relevant Education: Participants lauded the content, particularly discussions on strategic leadership, evolving regional security threats like cyberwarfare, and enhancing operational cooperation. 
  • Networking Impact: The exchange sparked meaningful connections, with 95% of participants expressing a desire for continued collaboration. 
  • Strategic Integration: Recommendations underlined integrating enlisted leaders into policy planning to leverage their experience better. 
  • Data-Driven Outcomes: A post-event survey revealed that 94% of participants felt better equipped to tackle contemporary security challenges, and 100% were highly likely to recommend the SMEE to colleagues. 

Conclusion and Future Outlook
The inaugural IPSEL SMEE sets a strong precedent for future leadership development in the Indo-Pacific. The positive feedback and strategic recommendations highlight the value of such events for strengthening cooperation and stability. 

In his closing address, Admiral Aquilino emphasized the importance of allies and partners working together for a free and open Indo-Pacific. Stakeholders are urged to continue investing in this initiative to advance the professional development of the region’s senior enlisted leaders.