Croatian Land Forces’ Top Enlisted Soldier Joins Elite U.S. Army Europe NCO Organization
Staff Sgt. Joel Salgado
U.S. Army Europe
May 29, 2013
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U.S. Army Europe honored the highest-ranking enlisted member of the Croatian Land Forces with the award of the first Sergeant Morales Medal presented to a non-U.S. soldier. The medal was presented at the seventh Conference of European Armies for Noncommissioned Officers in Copenhagen, Denmark, May 22.
Sgt. Maj. Dominik Ban, the Sergeant Major of the Croatian Land Forces, was presented with the medal by USAREUR commanding general Lt. Gen. Donald M. Campbell Jr. for living the values that embody the best noncommissioned officers.“He is the first,” said Command Sgt. Maj. David Davenport, USAREUR’s senior enlisted advisor. “When you’re the first of anything, you have to be the best. Everyone after this will be measured by him.”The Sergeant Morales Club is unique to the Army in Europe. It was established in 1973 by Lt. Gen. George S. Blanchard, who commanded VII Corps in Germany at the time, and later served as USAREUR commander. The elite organization was created to promote the highest ideals of integrity, professionalism and leadership among the enlisted force serving in Europe.
Ban spoke of how this award recognized not only him, but the Croatian army as a whole.
“I would like to say thanks to the United States Army Europe that they recognized not me, but the Croatian army, as a reliable partner in training, operations and everything else,” he said. “We are standing here, and we were, we are and we will be a reliable partner not only for USAREUR but for all our allies.”
Ban has been serving his military for 22 years. He enlisted during the Croatian War for Independence in September 1991 at the age of 17 after dropping out of high school. He was assigned to the unit in his hometown of Karlovac, where he participated in driving enemy forces from the city.
“My hometown was on the line, so my family was in that town,” he said. “My obligation was to help our forces defend that city.”
After Croatia gained its independence in 1995, Ban expected to part ways with the army. Eighteen years later he is the senior enlisted soldier in the Croatian Land Forces, and took on the tough task of moving the land forces from a conscript army to a professional volunteer military backed up by a solid NCO corps.
“When I joined the army I was just thinking that is my duty to serve my country and after the war will be done– that’s it — I will get out and I will be done with the army,” he said. “I remained in the army (because) I like this job and it became something that I enjoy and that I like.”
Under his guidance the Croatian army has grown and developed from its beginnings fighting for its country’s independence to a regional partner with land forces across Europe. Croatia has hosted and participated in training and partnership exercises throughout the Balkans, and served as co-host and venue for last year’s CEANCO. The country has integrated in NATO as well, becoming a key member in the “Adriatic five” countries of Albania, Croatia, Montenegro, Bosnia-Herzegovina and Macedonia.
“He’s been a leader in the region,” Davenport said. “Sergeant Major Ban was very instrumental in providing me with tools to mentor or coach other countries in the path of developing an NCO corps. He realizes that it doesn’t happen overnight. He’s very patient, very calm and very reassuring that we’re going to get to the end state.”
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