YEREVAN (RFE/RL) — A team of U.S. military instructors will finish on Saturday a weeklong training course for dozens of new sergeants recruited by Armenia’s armed forces, highlighting NATO’s growing role in the selection of Armenian non-commissioned officers.

The Defense Ministry in Yerevan announced on Thursday that the course is part of four-month training which the recruits will undergo before serving in the Armenian army on a contractual basis.

The Armenian military has been increasing the number of contract sergeants as part of ongoing defense reforms supported by NATO. The United States and another key NATO member state, Britain, have been particularly active in helping it train non-commissioned officers.

“The course that began on February 24 is part of a training program for American sergeants,” the Defense Ministry said in a statement. “Within its framework, contract sergeants of the Armenian Armed Forces are trained to become junior commanders and acquire leadership skills by acquainting themselves with the basics of U.S. sergeants’ physical preparation, terrain orientation, and combat tactics of small units.”

Photographs of the course released by the ministry showed several U.S. military officers teaching lessons to around 40 Armenian servicemen seated in a classroom at an Armenian military school for warrant officers.

U.S. support for Armenian defense reforms has also taken the form of joint exercises held by U.S. Marines and Armenian army units. U.S. Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus praised such drills when he visited Yerevan in October 2012. He said one of their goals is to help Armenia develop a “highly capable and highly professional non-commissioned officer corps.”

Later in 2012 a team of U.S. and British military officials visited Yerevan to brief their Armenian colleagues on the recruitment, training and role of non-commissioned officers in the U.S. and British militaries as well as rules and procedures regulating their service.

An Armenian military delegation headed by First Deputy Defense Minister Davit Tonoyan underscored the significance of the British assistance with a two-day visit earlier this week to the British Military Advisory Training Team (BMATT) deployed in the Czech Republic. The team specializes in multinational training courses for peacekeeping operations. The commander of an Armenian army unit providing troops for such missions was among officials who accompanied Tonoyan.

A Defense Ministry statement said Tonoyan and BMATT officials agreed to increase the number of Armenian servicemen studying there each year and to organize similar courses in Armenia. According to the statement, around 170 Armenian officers and sergeants have been trained at the center since 2002.

BMATT is located at the premises of a Czech military academy in the town of Vyskov.

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