After Hiatus, Senior Enlisted Leaders' Panel Returns to Navy Expo


After a year's hiatus, a roundtable event with the senior enlisted leaders from the sea services is returning to this year's Sea-Air-Space expo.

Planners of the Navy League event dropped an annual panel featuring the master chief petty officers of the Navy and Coast Guard and the sergeant major of the Marine Corps from its lineup last year, citing scheduling conflicts and difficulty in getting enlisted troops to attend the event.

The panel is set to return this year in keeping with Navy League tradition, said Kevin Traver, staff vice president of corporate affairs with the organization.

"The five years before [last year], there had been an enlisted panel at Sea-Air-Space," he said.

Traver, a former Marine staff sergeant, also noted that competing schedule demands and limited time can result in events getting dropped from the schedule from year-to-year. "The commandant of the Coast Guard is not a keynote this year; he was last year," he said. "There's three services we have to deal with, and a lot of diverse subjects."

The enlisted roundtable will discuss the topic, "Recruit, Train, Retain: Manpower in the 21st Century."

Master Chief Petty Officer of the Coast Guard Steven Cantrell will moderate the discussion with Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps Ronald Green and Fleet Master Chief April Beldo, in lieu of Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy Mike Stevens. The officers in charge of the Navy and Marine Corps' recruiting commands will also have a seat at the table.

Traver said the topic was suggested by the services' enlisted leaders during a series of meetings over the past year.

"There was a lot of discussion with [Stevens] and [Green]; I personally went and saw them," he said. "They came up with recruiting and training: How are we keeping and recruiting and training in an era where folks are leaving pretty quickly? How can industry help you down the road? It was kind of a groupthink discussion."

Those themes have been points of emphasis for all three sea services over the past year.

In a fragmentary order released in January, Marine Corps commandant Gen. Robert Neller called recruiting and retention "our friendly center of gravity and our highest priority" and ordered a plan to grow high-demand fields, including cyber and information warfare.

The chief of naval personnel, Vice Adm. Bill Moran, warned in December that the Navy could be staring at a cliff in recruiting and retention after enjoying strong numbers during the wartime era.

Adm. Paul Zukunft, commandant of the Coast Guard, this year called recruiting and retention of premiere talent "one of the foremost challenges" for the service."

The service enlisted leaders may enjoy a larger audience than in previous years when they tackle the topic at Sea-Air-Space. Traver said the conference is set to have the largest turnout in recent history, with about 15,000 attendees and a waitlist to register. Organizers are also expecting 23 international delegations to attend, up from 11 last year.

The conference will be held Monday through Wednesday near Washington, D.C.

-- Hope Hodge Seck can be reached at Follow her on Twitter at @HopeSeck.

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Sea-Air-Space Conference