FORT BRAGG, NC – For the month of October, Command Sgt. Major Wojciech Labuz could not be caught on his own. Whether conducting physical training, working at his desk or overseeing an airborne operation, the Polish native had the constant company of large, silent shadow.
Chief Warrant Officer 4 Jan Wenda, senior enlisted advisor of the Polish army’s Central Psychological Operations Group, spent 30 days shadowing Labuz, senior enlisted advisor of 6th Military Information Support Battalion, 4th Military Information Support Group. The Polish equivalent of a command sergeant major, Wenda’s undertaking was to learn the day-to-day operations of an American PSYOP battalion, the importance the U.S. Army places on the noncommissioned officer corps, and how to apply those lessons learned to his own unit.
Labuz said his first order of business was to give Wenda a general overview of how the U.S. Army works, specifically special operations. This began with a visit to Fayetteville’s Airborne and Special Operations Museum, followed by an overview of the Army as a system from the company level to the group level. “We went over what the Army’s structure looks like, what Army doctrine looks like, from manning to personnel to the investment and the development of the Soldier,” Labuz said.
Wenda was able to spend time completing pre-mission training with 4th MISG Soldiers as well as seeing the planning process behind organizing an M4 carbine qualification range and a driver’s training course. “We looked at the troop leading procedures and the preparation and planning that goes into a range,” Labuz said, also mentioning that Wenda qualified expert on his assigned weapon. “He already possess a Humvee license, so we did a driver refresher training. It was a break a little bit from all the Army structure and paperwork.”
From there, Wenda was introduced to the Soldiers responsible for the process of creating a PSYOP Soldier, from recruiting at Special Operations Recruiting Battalion, to selection and assessment, to the PSYOP instructors at the U.S. Army John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center and School. “I found this extremely helpful and beneficial,” Wenda said. “I was extremely impressed with the process itself and their investment in people.” He spent an additional day at the language lab, where he said he was fascinated by the program as a whole, especially the number of languages offered, the one-on-one training and the small student-to-instructor ratio.
Wenda was introduced to the concept that Leaders are not defined by their specialties but a separate and well cultivated skillset. He met with the commandant of the XVIII Airborne Corps Noncommissioned Officer Academy and observed a period of instruction to see the NCO development process. “We spent a significant amount of time on understanding training principles and understanding core competencies for not only the PSYOPers but of all Soldiers,” Labuz said.
Wenda demonstrated his own merit during the XVIII Airborne Corps Pre-Command Course, a requirement for first sergeants and company commanders prior to filling those critical leadership positions. He is the first foreign NCO to graduate from the course.
“It wasn’t until I came here and worked from dawn till dusk every day that I realized the role the NCO plays in the U.S. Army,” he said. “And how important it would be to incorporate that into the Polish army.”
Labuz is in the ideal position to host someone like Wenda. Born in Poland, he lived there for 20 years before moving to the U.S. and joining the Army. He eventually reclassified to PSYOP as a Polish speaker, serving in the battalion strategically aligned with his home country. Now serving as the senior enlisted leader of that battalion, he said it is a rewarding experience to be able to reach back to his home country to work with leaders like Wenda to improve upon their own country’s PSYOP units, while at the same time solidifying international relationships between the U.S. and its partners.
“We can learn from each other. We both have a lot to offer, with the main goal in mind of bettering our units and looking at it from different lenses of two different countries,” Labuz said. “We certainly recognize the Polish Central PSYOP Group as a unit that is a near peer.”
This growing relationship encompassed more than just a working rapport. Wenda lived at Labuz’ home for the entirety of his stay. The pair spent all day, every day, together, waking up early for an hour-long drive to the office, conducting physical training and daily duties together, followed by the commute home and hours in the evening getting to know one another on a personal level.
“The purpose of him staying in my home was purely selfish,” Labuz joked. “I wanted to spend as much time and show him as much as he can see.” He said he wanted Wenda to see how normal Americans live day-to-day, not just the work and tourist attractions in his spare time.
He added, speaking to Wenda, “I think that’s so important for partners, not just nation partners, but also for you to really see us. I want you to think of us as friends and neighbors.”
Moving forward, Wenda will take what he has learned back home and apply it to his own unit. In a few months Labuz will travel back to his home country to see Wenda’s progress and to learn some lessons of his own.