U.S. Soldier represents JFC Naples at NCO Winter Camp in Slovenia

U.S. Army Sgt. 1st Class Leverion Wynn was chosen to represent Allied Joint Force Command Naples at the 10th International NATO and Partners for Peace NCO Winter Camp at Pokljuka, Slovenia.
11 Apr 2017

Story by U.S. Army Sgt. 1st Class Mark Patton

There’s not much U.S. Army Sgt. 1st Class Leverion Wynn hasn’t done in his nearly 20 years of military service and four combat deployments.

The 38-year-old native of Dudley, North Carolina, can now add one more accomplishment to his resume. Thanks to a recent noncommissioned officer course, he learned to ski.

Wynn, who currently serves as a logistics operations NCO, was chosen to represent Allied Joint Force Command Naples at the 10th International NATO and Partners for Peace NCO Winter Camp at Pokljuka, Slovenia, March 3 to 10, 2017.

The course, which included 28 NCOs from 14 NATO and Partners for Peace nations, culminated with a biathlon competition that combined skiing and shooting.

For a Soldier who had never donned skis before, Wynn was pleased with how far he came during his week in Slovenia. He described standing on top of the biggest hill around at the beginning of the course, weighed down with his rucksack and gear, hoping his skis would guide him to the bottom.

Members of Slovenia’s Armed Forces and instructors of the 132nd Mountain Regiment and Mountain Warfare Centre of Excellence utilized the sink-or-swim approach to see which participants would need more training to get up to speed with skis. Wynn said another Albanian Soldier was also struggling during the first run, but they motivated each other to the bottom of the hill. A more experienced British participant also helped the duo through their initial run.

"I kept falling,” Wynn recalled. "I was going fast, but I couldn’t stop. By the end, I was getting good.”

Although the camp participants spent a lot of time skiing – up and down as no ski lift use was allowed - it wasn’t just slope skills that were enhanced during the course. The NCOs also studied leadership, rappelling, mountain climbing and participated in education exercises. The group also took in a local museum where they learned Slovenian history.

The participants even took on the challenge of learning mountain survival skills. At one point, the instructors placed objects in the snow, and the NCOs had to probe and use tracking devices to locate the hidden objects. Wynn said that he got a great appreciation for how critical time is when an emergency happens like an avalanche.

Although skiing for the first time and trying to maintain steady aim with a rifle after cross-country skiing during the biathlon was satisfying, Wynn said overcoming challenges with his international peers was the highlight of the course.

"In a week we built some strong relationships,” said Wynn. "The camaraderie and being with those other guys…that was the best part of it.”

Wynn highlighted the benefit of learning and talking about how different countries operate, specifically with their NCO structure. He did say despite some differences, there are striking similarities.

"All the NCOs there have the same values,” Wynn said about his international peers at the course. "Although each has different tools to work with, we have a common goal.”

Another proud moment for Wynn occurred one day during a lunch break. A group of kids were gathered at a nearby table, and Wynn heard them whispering and looking his way. He decided to get up and greet the children, and they were eager to shake his hand and say "What’s up” in their best English.

According to Wynn, additional benefits to the course are the lessons in leadership and culture that troops can take back to their units after completing the camp.

"More NCOs need to make efforts to get to these schools,” said Wynn.

 

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