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EJPME Distinguished Alumni Spotlight

By Joint Knowledge Online | February 06, 2023
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EJPME Student and Alumni Spotlight   (Related News Story)

The EJPME Spotlight series features current and former students serving in the Joint Interagency, Intergovernmental, Multinational environment or in named joint operations, and aims to inspire current students and provide an example for others to emulate.

Command Sgt. Maj. Jones

Our current distinguished alumni, Command Sgt. Maj. Benjamin Jones, command senior enlisted leader (CSEL) for SOUTHCOM, was gracious enough to provide his insights on the value of joint education and recommendations for the success to others in joint environments.



What joint experiences have you had?


From 2016 to 2017, during my time as the XVIII Airborne Corps Command Sgt. Maj., our headquarters deployed and assumed responsibility as the Combined Joint Task Force- Operation Inherent Resolve (CJTF-OIR) for Iraq and Syria. Now I am the CSEL for SOUTHCOM, which is a joint Combatant Command (CCMD) with an area of responsibility that encompasses 31 nations in Central and South America and the Caribbean. SOUTHCOM is one of the Department of Defense’s (DOD) seven geographic CCMDs, so I travel to and maintain lines of communication with U.S. service members throughout the area of operations (AOR) as well as strengthening relationships with our partner nation military and security forces. Helping our partners create and expand professional development programs for their enlisted force is an important aspect of my work at SOUTHCOM.


How has EJPME impacted your experiences in a joint environment?


I tell people you can’t solve a joint “Purple” problem with a service color solution. Although your service-specific experience and insights are value added, you need to know and understand the joint environment in order to provide a joint “Purple” solution. You do this by embracing joint education and knowledge through schooling and insights and best practice focus papers, etc. My recommendation to all is never pass up an opportunity to attend a course that teaches you joint skills and perspectives.




These pages are designed as a place for joint student, staff and faculty, and alumni self-development, research, and references.

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Tell us about an experience you’ve had where your EJPME knowledge came into play.


Where I truly believe EJPME helped me immensely was during my deployment as the CSEL of CJTF-OIR. My EJPME knowledge helped me grasp the authority’s aspect very quickly during joint combat operations.

Another example is the ability to assist in the adjustment of the joint manning document and to ensure we were getting the right service members, with the right skill sets and ranks to fill critical gaps and positions. To this day, I use my EJPME knowledge to assist me in navigating through my current position at SOUTHCOM.


What is the most important thing you’ve learned about joint operations?


The most important thing I have learned is that you need to be able to master the art of navigating and operating in your boss’s “blind spots” without being disruptive to the overall command. Another important lesson is, you must be able to advise and provide the commander with your enlisted leader perspective on joint service member employment, professional development, discipline, policy, health, welfare, and training. At the end of the day, the commander doesn’t need you just to check the pulse of the organization, he or she expects you to BE the pulse of the command.


What do you feel is the most important subject for future joint leaders to know?


Understand each of the service cultures; force yourself to learn as much as you can or, at a minimum, the “101” of each of the services to include active duty, guard, and reserve components, as well as the roles of DOD civilians, contractors, and interns (from basic admin., evals., promotion process, and fitness test requirements, to include specific service programs, etc.). Create a joint enlisted leader professional development program within your headquarters. Bottom line: We owe our service members the mentorship they deserve to ensure they never lose their “warfighter” edge when returning to operational commands, regardless of service.


What advice do you have for current students?


Never stop learning, especially in a joint environment. There are plenty of courses in JKO to help strengthen your knowledge on all things joint. Don’t assume that everyone understands or knows your roles and responsibilities regardless of your position in a joint command. With that said, you should educate others; however, make sure you understand your roles and responsibilities as highlighted in the unit’s Terms of Reference (TOR) documents before doing so. The lack of understanding on your part of what is expected of you will only confuse the staff and the subordinate commands, not to mention your allies and partners.


What’s next for you?


I tend not to look for what’s next, I stay focused on my current position.


What would we be surprised to learn about you?


I consider myself to have a “green thumb.” I enjoy growing vegetables and putting my harvest on my grill. There is nothing better than fresh vegetables straight from the vine to my grill with a tomahawk steak!


Is there anything else you’d like to share?


Here are some things to consider when you are about to be assigned to a joint command or staff as a CSEL for the first time in your career:


Talent management
Talent management at the joint level is critical. Your command should have a vote on the selection to fill a critical position.
Relationships matter
Stay engaged with your partners via weekly vector checks. BLUF- Don’t just hear but listen to your partners. What’s important to our partners should be important to you especially when it comes to enlisted leader professional development.
Professional development strategy
Creating an enlisted leader professional development assessment/strategy for each partner nation helps establish a baseline and helps you to measure progress or the lack of progress.
Leverage institutions
Understand how to leverage institutions to help shape partner nations through the IMET process, Services PME, SME Assessment Team, SMEE, ISMEE, MTTs, RTIs, etc.
Tie-in State Partnership Programs
As the CSEL, you have a responsibility to tie-in the State Partnership Programs (SPPs) with service components, institutions, and partner nations. They are truly a combat multiplier, make them part of your team.
Have strong communication
You must be the voice of experience and the strong link in the communication chain. Understand what it means to “flatten communication” and when to use it. Timing is everything, especially during crisis. Also, recommend selecting the right SEL (by service) within your HQs to assist in information sharing coming from each of the services.
Tell your story
Telling your story through interviews, storyboards, videos, and on social media outlets is very important in order to gain influence, support, and resources!
Embrace the joint operational environment
In a joint headquarters, people will defer to their service culture. Don’t let them. You need to encourage them to gain a broader understanding and to embrace the joint operational environment. We are all stronger together!
Build joint future leaders
Never forget that people are important so treat them with dignity and respect. Part of your responsibility is to promote a learning organization that embraces initiatives and innovation- and by doing so, you are helping to build joint future leaders for tomorrow’s fight.
Enjoy your time in a joint command
It will go by quickly


Many thanks to Command Sgt. Maj. Jones for sharing a wealth of knowledge and experience with our audience. May you enjoy a bountiful garden this summer and please invite us for dinner!


Individuals may be nominated for this quarterly distinction by the EJPME program manager or their Command Senior Enlisted Leader (CSEL). If you are a CSEL interested in nominating an EJPME student or alumni, please contact Program Manager John Lipps at

80% of survey respondents stated training provided on JKO positively impacts their preparedness.


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