In just eight months, the newly redesigned Basic Leader Course will launch at each of the Army’s 32 NCO Academies. To ensure each academy is prepared to teach the new curriculum, as well as adapt to the new teaching method, the NCO Leadership Center of Excellence and U.S. Army Sergeants Major Academy is conducting Train the Trainer sessions for select individuals.
“We are bringing in representatives from all of the NCO academies that teach the Basic Leader Course and giving them training on the new curriculum,” William R. Ogletree Jr., director of Curriculum Development said. “We are doing two weeks – the first is focused on the Experiential Learning Model, problem solving, critical thinking and writing. The second week is focused on the curriculum itself – a deep dive into the lesson plans.”
Ogletree said the individuals will obtain a full immersion into the new course including the assessments and how to deliver the lessons in the classroom.
“The outcome is the representatives who are sitting here for two weeks getting the training, will go back and establish their faculty development program within their respective NCO Academy,” he said. “They can go back and train the folks and their cadre on the new curriculum so that when we do roll out the new course in January, we won’t have as many problems starting out.”
Ogletree said with news of the new curriculum and method of instruction already out on the street there is anxiety with the writing program and the critical thinking piece.
“These are not Army tasks and we are switching from a task-based kind of approach to an educational-based approach,” he said. “Some of the younger NCOs are struggling with this paradigm shift. So if we can get that across to them while they are here they can go back and create their own training program, learn the writing piece and relay some of the critical thinking piece.”
Sgt. 1st Class Stacya Mitchell, a small group leader with the US Army Alaska NCO Academy who is attending the train the trainer course, said the new curriculum for the Basic Leader Course will get Soldiers to think more, to self-assess, and to be independent so that they can gain the confidence the Army needs for them to be leaders.
“I’m actually in awe, because my experience with the Warrior Leader Course was more ‘do this, this is what I want you to do, this is how I want you to do it,’” she said. “There was no thought process to it. I think this allows the soldiers to make more decisions.”
Mitchell said using the Experiential Learning Model is a big plus for the course.
“The Experiential Learning Model is allowing the soldier to generally think on their own,” she said. “With the new curriculum we are going to start bringing them into the thought process and linking it to the Army curriculum, so they will have an understanding on their own versus, ‘Hey you are going to do this, this way and at this time.’”
Mitchell said she would have benefitted greatly from a course like the new BLC.
“I [could] see myself as a first sergeant already. I would have excelled because I know I would have all the tools I needed to be that leader the Army wants,” she said. “I wouldn’t be as reactive; I would have been a lot more proactive earlier in my career.”
The validation of the new Basic Leader Course is already complete, Ogletree said. The NCOL CoE & USASMA conducted four series of validations at seven different location – all with favorable feedback. The launch of the new course is set for January 2019.
“We made some adjustments, but all in all the feedback we got is we are going in the right direction,” he said. “The curriculum is solid; this is what the students want and need to know. We got it right.”
The NCO Leadership Center of Excellence and U.S. Army Sergeants Major Academy is responsible for developing, maintaining, teaching, and distributing five levels of Enlisted Professional Military Education – Introductory, Primary, Intermediate, Senior and Executive. Each level best prepares the soldier to fight and win in a complex world as adaptive and agile leaders and trusted professionals of Force 2025.
The United States Army Sergeants Major Academy ceremoniously recognized the academic accomplishments of the 45 international students of Sergeants Major Course Class 66 June 16, by awarding them the International Military Student Badge. The Academy also inducted two former international military students into the International Military Student Hall of Fame.
Command Sgt. Maj. Dennis Defreese, commandant, thanked everyone for attending the ceremony and honoring the international students.
“This morning we are going to one, recognize two outstanding leaders from their countries. Two we are recognizing our Class 66 international students who have spent the last 12 months here alongside their U.S. counterparts,” he said. “Our international program has a lot of importance to us for a few reasons – it helps us form partnerships with countries from all over the world and it helps broaden our sergeants majors and our officers; it is as much for us as it is for the international students. We get as much as we give.”
Defreese said that the international military badging and hall of fame induction ceremony is one of his favorite events of the year as it is the academy’s way of recognizing our international partners.
Following Defreese’s remarks, the academy recognized the two inductees of the International Military Student Hall of Fame. Many of the international students who have attended the Sergeants Major Course have gone on to make significant contributions to the lineage of their own NCO corps and education systems, but only a few have assumed the position of their respective country’s or armed forces senior enlisted advisor, a position similar to that of the U.S. Army’s Sergeant Major of the Army. The Academy recognized three individuals who have done just that by inducting them into the International Military Student Hall of Fame. Malloy assisted each of the honorees to unveil their induction plaques.
The first honoree was Warrant Officer Class One Don Spinks, Sergeant Major of the Australian Army and a graduate of Class 51. After unveiling his Hall of Fame plaque with the assistance of Defreese, Spinks addressed the audience.
“It is an enormous honor for me to be here. For an international student to come and attend the academy it is an enormous privilege, one that is not lost on any of us that have walked that path,” he said. “There is hardly a day that not gone by where I haven’t used or drawn on the experience, the understanding, or the knowledge that I gained here at this academy. I hope that reflect (the same) for all of you here today. … The Academy set me up for success; it gave me the foundation that I needed to be successful.”
The next honoree was the Sergeant Major of the Montenegro Army, Sergeant Major of the Armed Forces Vladin Kojic a graduate of Class 65. Speaking on behalf of Kojic was Sgt. Maj. Miodrag Jokanovic, a Class 66 international student from Montenegro who read a letter from Kojic.
“It is a great honor for me to be a member of the International Student Hall of Fame for the United States Army Sergeants Major Academy. In my opinion this a reward for all noncommissioned officers of the Armed Forces of Montenegro,” Jokanovic read. “At this academy I got the opportunity to get a broader perspective and a better understanding of modern warfare. I also got a chance to become more familiar with cultural diversity and meet friends from different continents, various religion and nationalities. The unique knowledge and experience I gained from this academy made me the leader I wanted to be.”
Following Jokanovic’s remarks, retired Command Sgt. Maj. Michael Huffman, the director of the International Military Student Office, joined Defreese on stage to present the Class 66 International students with the USASMA International Military Student Badge signifying their successful completion of the U.S. Army Sergeants Major Academy Sergeants Major Course.
Since the creation of the Sergeants Major Academy in July 1972, the Academy has had a direct impact on the education of the Army’s entire Corps of Noncommissioned Officers through its stewardship of NCO Professional Development Courses. To date, the Academy has graduated 23,639 students from the Sergeants Major Course and currently reaches more than 190,000 enlisted Soldiers annually through any one of its diverse academic products. The Academy gained international attention early on in its history and hosted its first international student in Sergeants Major Course Class 6 in 1975. Since then, it has graduated 821 international students from the Sergeants Major Course and dozens more from its other professional military education and functional courses. Our international partners proudly wear the Sergeants Major Academy International Military Student Badge and return to their homelands to expertly lead and train their Soldiers. Because of their experience at the Sergeants Major Academy, these great leaders maintain and strengthen productive relationships with the United States and their enlisted counterparts throughout the department of defense.
The U.S. Army Sergeants Major Academy celebrated the accomplishments of the 476 students of Sergeants Major Course Class 66 – a class that had within its ranks 47 international students from 33 different countries as well as members of the Marine Corps, Air Force and Coast Guard. The academy assisted in handing out 150 degrees during a Black and Gold Ceremony on June 13, followed by the International Military Student Badging and Hall of Fame induction ceremony on June 16.
On June 17, the graduates, accompanied by their family members filled the Abundant Living Faith Center in El Paso to complete their 10-month educational experience at USASMA. Command Sgt. Maj. Dennis Defreese, commandant of the Academy, welcomed all of the special guests and thanked all for attending.
“What a beautiful morning for a graduation,” he said. “This class is special for a couple of reasons – first, although I love the air force and our airmen, the last class allowed them to win two of the three writing awards and there were only three airmen in the class. The Soldiers of class 66 reclaimed some honor this year and swept all three awards. So good job. Second, and this may have happened before, but not recently and not in my memory, despite the fact that I increased the complexity and rigor of this course we did not have a single academic failure.”
Upon concluding his remarks, Defreese introduced Warrant Officer Donald Spinks, the 10th Regimental sergeant major of the Australian Army, as the keynote speaker who after thanking all for their attendance and allowing him to speak, turned his thoughts to the prominence of the day.
“Fifteen years ago this month I graduated with my fellow classmates of Class 51. I do feel privileged to return here to witness the graduation of this class,” Spinks said. “Today we join the 474 members of Class 66 to celebrate their achievements and recognize their hard work.”
After congratulating the Academy and its staff for their efforts to support Class 66, Spinks said he wanted to leave the graduates with a few words of wisdom from his experience as a graduate himself.
“Today is all about you and your classmates and rightly so. Enjoy that. I ask that you enjoy life and reflect on what has been for most a hard slope over the last few months,” he said. “However sergeants major, come tomorrow and into the beyond, it will be all about others. You will be the one they look to for guidance and leadership. It is on you to be ready. Your Soldiers, Marines, airman and coast guard will be looking to you so lead wisely.”
Spinks gave a special shout out to the international students for their accomplishment.
“I offer you a special congratulations for your achievements. For many of you English is a second or third language. The doctrine, the policies, the military function may also be very unfamiliar,” Spinks said. “Together these factors have made your year a little harder for one. You all should take great pride in accepting your scroll here today.”
To the class he encouraged all to know their jobs, become the expert; be proficient in the profession of arms; establish and maintain good routines; be responsible and accountable; live by the service values; report accurately and honestly; encourage and support education; look after one another, and take care of their families.
“Your journey starts tomorrow,” he said. “USASMA has given you the skills, the knowledge and the attitude to (go forward). The rest will be up to you.”
Following Spink’s remarks, the sergeant major was joined on stage by Defreese, Sergeant Major of the Army Dan Dailey and Command Sgt. Maj. David Davenport, Training and Doctrine Command, command sergeant major, to hand out the awards and diplomas.
Earning class awards were: Sgt. Maj. Thea E. Ray who earned the Association of the United States Army Award for Military Writing; Sgt. Maj. Deflin J. Romani who earned the Association of the United States Army Award for Military Excellence in Leadership; Sgt. Maj. Marissa M. Cisneros and Ramon Baca who earned the ULTIMA Physical Fitness Excellence Award; Sgt. Maj. John C. Black who earned the Military History Award; Sgt. Maj. Diane G. Cummings who earned the Ralph E. Haines Jr. Award for Research; Sgt. Maj. John J. Knight who earned the William G. Bainbridge Chair of Ethics Award; Sgt. Maj. Anazia Andrus-Sam who earned the National Association for Uniform Services Award; and Master Sgt. Andre Torre of Italy who earned the International Student Excellence Award.
The Army’s culminating enlisted Professional Military Education (PME) institution is the Sergeants Major Course. This course provides tools to develop critical reasoning, creative thinking and decision-making skills. Soldiers are provided an education that teaches them to enhance their character, self-expression, and strengthen teamwork abilities. The course assists in the development of logical, practical and original reasoning abilities necessary for problem solving. Students analyze problems based on available information, arrive at logical solutions and decisions with reasonable speed, communicate reasoning and decisions orally and in writing, and supervise to ensure proper execution. Intellectual honesty, integrity, and professional values and standards are highly stressed. The SMC contains a total of 1,484.7 instructional hours, and is also offered as a nonresident course which culminates with two weeks of resident instruction at the academy. The Sergeants Major Course is a ten-month resident program of instruction conducted once a year at the Academy.
A visit to Arlington National Cemetery is not complete until one witnesses a member of the 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard) perform his or her duties keeping watch over the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, or perhaps catches a glimpse of a full honors funeral complete with a U.S. Army Caisson Platoon, bugler and rifle firing team. Those who wore the uniform can tell you stories of the tireless preparations they make to their uniforms to ensure they provide “perfect honors.” So it came as no surprise to the staff of the United States Army Sergeants Major Academy that members of the Old Guard, including students from Sergeants Major Course Class 66, wanted to make perfect the NCO Heritage and Education Center’s display of the Old Guard. On April 6, they unveiled the redesigned display.
“When I came to the First Sergeant Course in 2006 this display was at the NCO museum and I noticed it was a corporal. The uniform was out of tolerance and was actually set up as a platoon Soldier and not reflective of proper setup,” Sgt. Maj. Anthony Chavez, an instructor at USASMA. “I didn’t have enough time at that point to work on it, so coming here as an instructor I got the chance. I asked the NCO Heritage and Education Center and the USASMA staff if we could do it and they were 100 percent on board.”
As a former platoon sergeant and first sergeant with the Old Guard, serving from 2005 until 2010, Chavez knew exactly who he needed to recruit and found his volunteers in Class 66 – former members of the Old Guard Master Sgts. Fletcher Whittenberg, platoon sergeant and first sergeant from 2007 – 2010; Shelly Jenkins, first sergeant, 2009 – 2012; Michael Goodman, operations sergeant 2014 – 2015; Justin Grieve, squad leader and platoon sergeant, 2004 – 2008; and Stephen McDonald, first sergeant, 2013 – 2015. After a week of after-hours work, the team was ready to display their collaboration.
“Today the 6th of April 1948 is a significant day for two reasons in our Army’s history. First the 3rd United States Infantry Regiment was reactivated and assigned the ceremonial mission of Fort Meyer, Virginia taking it from the Military District of Washington,” Whittenberg said. “Second tomb sentinels began standing guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier for 24 hours a day, 365 days a year regardless of the weather.”
Whittenberg informed those present about the Old Guard’s mission along with a bit of its history.
“The old Guard is more than just sentinel guards at the Tomb. The Old Guard is the oldest active infantry unit in the Army being first organized as the 1st American Regiment in 1784,” he said. “The Old Guard conducts memorial ceremonies to honor fallen comrades with military funerals at Arlington, National Cemetery, as well as dignified transfers of remains to Dover Air Force Base. Arlington is the only cemetery in the world that offers a full military honors funeral. Full honors burial services are offered to all officers and enlisted Soldiers who have fought and died in combat for the nation.”
Whittenberg then called for Goodman and Jenkins to pull back the cloth coverings from the display case to unveil the work they had done.
“Inside the display case you notice the memorabilia and photographs of Old Guard Soldiers and their history. Also displayed is the unique ceremonial uniform, noticeably different from the Army Service Uniform due to the stay bright medals that each Soldier must learn to make and produce on their own to place on their uniform in the exact precise location,” Whittenberg said. “Another noticeable item on the uniform that many people pick out and ask a lot of us about is, there is no name tag. They do not wear a name tag when they are in ceremonial uniform.”
Looking at the uniform and the memorabilia on display brought back some found memories by the team.
“This project was special because the time that I was at the Old Guard it really meant a lot and I got the chance to see the Army in a whole new light and perspective from a Soldier – from fighting on the battlefield to respecting them at internment,” Goodman said. “It actually took me back to when I was standing on the marks that I did with the Old Guard and I got ceremonial qualified. So seeing that uniform in that pristine condition it brought back a lot of memories.”
Chavez agreed. “Definitely, anytime I work with the uniform or see uniforms dress now, I will reflect back to the time in the Old Guard. That was a great time in my career and a very great experience including the funerals and ceremonies.”
“We were laughing because as we had the uniform and everything built on the mannequin, we were correcting each other, because we were like that’s not good, and this is not good. As a matter of fact about 10 minutes before the ceremony started this morning we noticed that the pant legs weren’t right, so we had to open the case and make another adjustment which is the same way it was in the Old Guard before a ceremony,” Whittenberg said. “You were constantly refining and retuning the uniform because you want to perform a perfect honor. Because for some American families and some foreign families it is the first time they have ever been involved with the Army so you try to give them, I hate to say that it is a show, but you try to honor that fallen Soldier by giving them perfect honors. And we wanted to have a perfect Soldier for our teammates here in the academy.”
The display, located in the foyer of the Cooper Lecture Center, is available for viewing during normal Academy hours, Monday through Friday from 9:00 a.m. until 5 p.m. The display is one of several that are part of the NCO Heritage and Education Center and help tell the story of the Noncommissioned Officer Corps.
For more than 44 years the U.S. Army Sergeants Major Academy has welcomed international military students from partner nations into its noncommissioned officer professional development courses. To date the academy has graduated 821 students, representing 76 countries, from the Sergeants Major Course.
On April 12, Command Sgt. Maj. Dennis Defreese, commandant of USASMA, recognized the achievements of seven of those graduates by inducting them into the International Student Hall of Fame during opening day ceremonies of the International Training and Leader Development Symposium hosted by Sgt. Maj. of the Army Daniel Dailey.
Inducted were Sgt. Maj. Lyubomir Kirilov Lambov, Sergeant Major of the Bulgarian Army; Sgt. Maj. of the Army Henry Whistler Dulce Dulce, Sergeant Major of the Army for Colombia; Warrant Officer One Anthony Lysight, Force Sergeant Major of the Jamaica Defence Force; Chief Warrant Officer Mohammad Al-smadi, Sergeant Major of the Jordanian Armed Forces; Command Sgt. Maj. Gil Ho Lee, Command Sergeant Major of the Combined Forces Command, Republic of Korea and Ground Component Command; Sergeant Major Genc Metaj, Sergeant Major of Kosovo Security Forces; and Plutonier adjutant principal Adrian Mateescu, Senior Enlisted Leader (Command Sergeant Major) for the Romanian Land Forces. One-by-one, each was brought onto the stage to unveil their plaques that will hang on the academy walls adjacent to the others who have been inducted before them.
“Each of these sergeants major have had long and distinguished careers and like all of us here have dedicated their lives in service to their country,” Defreese said. “There is a common bond between all of us here … each of us have the same basic duty – accomplishing the mission and taking care of our Soldiers. This truly makes us all brothers and sisters.”
Defreese said that he often tells delegations from other countries who visit USASMA that having international students attend NCOPDS courses is beneficial to all.
“The students and faculty here get more from our international students and faculty and their diversity, knowledge and experiences which they bring to us, then they get from us,” he said. “This newest class of hall of fame inductees are outstanding examples of this and we are privileged to honor them today and call them friends.”
Dailey lauded the inductees for their selection and said it was his honor to be the sergeant major of the Army that is bestowed the ability to spread education across the world.
“It is truly humbling,” he said. “Think about it, the sergeant major of the Army of the land forces, the combined forces of militaries across the world have come to our institution and that is a true honor.”
Dailey also lauded Defreese for his work in facilitating the international military student program.
“Our commandant has done a fabulous job of preserving the legacy of what we witness here today – an academic institution that has come second to none,” Dailey said. “This is an institution that is built time and time again from the great men and women who have been students here, but also from the great leaders that have had the privilege of leading this institution to an institution of excellence throughout history. I am truly proud and honored to represent the Army that represents the world through education.”
Since the creation of the Sergeants Major Academy in July 1972, the Academy has had a direct impact on the education of the Army’s entire Corps of Noncommissioned Officers through its stewardship of NCO Professional Development Courses. To date, the Academy has graduated 23,639 students from the Sergeants Major Course and currently reaches more than 190,000 enlisted Soldiers annually through any one of its diverse academic products. The Academy gained international attention early on in its history and hosted its first international student, Warrant Officer Robert J. May of Australia, in Sergeants Major Course Class 6 in 1975. The international partners proudly wear the Sergeants Major Academy International Military Student Badge and return to their homelands to lead and train their Soldiers. Because of their experience at the Sergeants Major Academy, these leaders maintain and strengthen productive relationships with the United States and their enlisted counterparts throughout the Department of Defense.
For every educational or training course the Army teaches there has to be a first class. On November 2, the 32 students of the first Master Leader Course 15-day pilot class completed the 108 hours of rigorous coursework and received their diplomas during ceremonies held at the U.S. Army Sergeants Major Academy’s Cooper Lecture Center.
Command Sgt. Maj. Dennis Defreese, commandant of USASMA, addressed the graduating students and asked them if the course was challenging, to which he received a rousing “Hooah”. He followed that with, “Was it too challenging?” to which he got only a couple of Hooahs.
“We wanted this to be challenging, right to that line,” Defreese said. “We never want anyone to fail. That is not the goal. The goal is to learn something. … The goal is to help you learn how to critically think and solve problems.”
Defreese explained that literally one year ago sergeant major of the Army Dan Dailey called the academy and said the chief of staff, Gen. Ray Odierno, wanted an E-8 level course; he wanted it quickly; how long will it take?
“So the answer is, about one year, that’s how long it takes and the nonresident version of this may take until next summer to get it done because that takes even longer to do,” he said. Defreese lauded the students for being the first, putting up with the long academic days and for providing their comments and feedback.
“The feedback we get from you is absolutely vital to the second pilot we are going to run in Utah,” Defreese said. “From there we will do a little bit more refinement and do the final pilot at the reserve center at Fort Knox and then sometime in Fiscal Year 17 it will be a totally vetted (intermediate operating capability). So you are an integral part of that and it should be something that you are proud of.”
Charles Guyette, the director of the Directorate of Training, lauded the efforts of the training developers and staff who put the course together.
“When the chief of staff and the Army leaders say, “Hey go out and make this thing happen”, and I turn to you guys and you put all this effort to it and it comes to fruition today after these 15 grueling days of academia that we had to put these Soldiers through, the outcome is fully credited to you,” he said.
Asked what he thought about the creation of the Master Leaders Course, graduate 1st Sgt. Thomas Hughes of the Combat Aviation Brigade, 1st Armored Division, said that he thought it was the right move.
“I personally haven’t been to an NCO professional development course since 2007. That’s eight years,” he said. “So I think there is tremendous value-added to have a Master Leader Course that kind of bridges the gap between the Senior Leader Course and the Sergeants Major Course.”
Hughes noted the course’s rigor and tight schedule, but also believed that if he had attended the course earlier in his career he would have been a more successful senior NCO.
“I believe this course really sets up a senior sergeant first class promotable, or master sergeant who is going to go onto a staff, to assist more than anything,” Hughes said. “We briefly covered a lot of the stuff a first sergeant would do, but as a first sergeant you still need to understand what (occurs) on a staff so you know how your company will be required to support whatever decisive action that you will be engaging in.”
Fellow graduate Master Sgt. John Itzin, the senior operations NCO at the Army Reserve Readiness Training Center at Fort Knox, Kentucky, and who will be one of the instructors for the third pilot class, said the course is a little more oriented towards staff functions than first sergeant duties and he believes it is on target.
“Being able to integrate ourselves onto a staff and be more valuable to the commander and other staff officers is something NCOs really need to be cognizant of. The ability to be able to be brought back in and have a more meaningful role I believe is very important,” he said. “As a promotable sergeant first class being able to back off from that tactical outlook of task management and to step back (from) and get the big picture is something that is brought into this course. I think that is very valuable because that is one area that I struggled with when I was that promotable sergeant first class going into my first staff position.”
The 108 hours of instruction is broken down into three modules – Foundation, Leadership and Army Profession, and Army and Joint Operation, Sgt. Maj. William Gentry, the Curriculum Development and Education Division sergeant major said.
“It provides the Army with senior noncommissioned officers who are self-aware and NCOs of character, confidence, and presence with the skills necessary to shape the joint operational environment, overcome the friction created by uncertainty and operate in an ambiguous environment,” he said. “So I believe this course is geared for the sergeants first class and the newly promoted master sergeants to enable them to perform the duties of a senior staff NCO or operations master sergeant in the S3. The course will give them the confidence to go into that staff role, with the education and institutional knowledge to be a productive member of a senior staff.”
The first pilot class was taught using two different instructional strategies – one using essays assessments, the other using a research project that enhances the collaboration between the students. Gentry said based on the educational outcomes from those two strategies will determine the way ahead for the next two pilot classes.
“The desired outcome is an operational leader that has the talent, ability and confidence in himself or herself to be a creative and critical thinker, to not just worry about beans and bullets, but to actually be able to think on line with that company commander or that field grade officer on the staff,” Gentry said. “Right now I give this course two thumbs up. Because it is only going to get better from here. When the students tell me they wish they had known this stuff three or four years ago and they are excited about what they know now, we are hitting the mark.”
The Master Leader Course consists of topics such as Army and Joint Doctrine; Interagency Capabilities and Considerations; Plans, Orders and Annexes; Decisive Action; Military Justice Rules and Procedures; Command Inspection program; Servant leadership; Personnel Readiness; Military Decision Making Process; Public Speaking; Military Briefings and Writing.
The MLC has been specifically designed to prepare sergeants first class for the increased leadership and management responsibilities required of all senior NCOs. The course is the fourth of five NCO Professional Development Courses beginning with the Basic Leader Course and culminating with the Sergeants Major Course. The makeup of the first pilot class consisted of 32 individually selected regular Army, National Guard and Reserve component professional NCOs from a wide range of career management fields.
Story and photos by David Crozier, Command Communications
The Sergeants Major Course of the U.S. Army Sergeants Major Academy at Fort Bliss, Texas, held a change of responsibility ceremony October 8, where Sgt. Maj. Robert R. Deblois handed over the duties and responsibilities of deputy director to Sgt. Maj. Maurice A. Thorpe. Command Sgt. Maj. Harold Reynolds, director of the Sergeants Major Course, officiated the change of responsibility and spoke a few words about both of the sergeants major during the event. “When I thought about what I wanted to talk about today, all of these ceremonies it is really bittersweet, we’ve got the new coming in with new ideas and revamping the organization but you also have that have that historical knowledge – that operational knowledge that is also leaving, that’s why it is a bittersweet thing,” Reynolds said. “If I could pick one word to describe SGM Deblois, it would be dedicated. He has been dedicated to the Army every unit that he has been in, he has dedicated to them and what they are doing. But first and foremost he has been dedicated to his family. … He has also been dedicated to the mission at USASMA of providing professional military education to senior leaders. He has been an astute asset in accomplishing that mission. And he has accomplished that mission.
Turning his attention to Thorpe, Reynolds said the one word that described him is “Commitment.”
“He is committed to his family, to the Army, to every unit that he has served. It is a hard balancing act to do, but he has done it. He is committed to the mission, to this mission, and he is committed to education, the pursuit of it, the teaching of it, and the importance of it,” Reynolds said. “Now that he takes these reins he will also ensure that you know and will give you the best curriculum that he can possibly give, as well as supporting all of the staff and students and instructors. You can’t do that without commitment.” Following Reynold’s remarks both Deblois and Thorpe were given the opportunity to address the gathered crowd. Deblois thanked the Academy and the staff for their support singling out several individuals, and specifically highlighted the work of the Sergeants Major Course Instructors and department chiefs and deputy chiefs.
“To my SMC instructors – you are world class, the best jobs in this academy. Your daily contact with the students, you are leading by example, your professionalism is phenomenal. Thanks for doing the heavy lifting,” Deblois said. “SGM and Mrs. Thorpe, I wish you good luck and congratulations. You are the right team to lead the resident course down the field.”
Deblois saved his closing remarks to the students of Class 66.
“Class 66 – you were selected to come here based off your past demonstrated abilities and potential. The goal is graduation,” he said. “Help each other out, don’t fret or worry about your assignments, first sergeant and the cadre will help you through that process. Remember the goal is graduation. Come June everything is going is work itself out.”
Thorpe likewise thanked everyone for attending the ceremony and also thanked Deblois for his dedication and leadership. “On today, the 8th of October, 2015, I have been given the privilege of accepting responsibility of the Sergeants Major Course. SGM Rob Deblois has done a great job as the leader of the corps and has performed with honor and distinction, not only here for the last two years, but for the 32 years of his career since 1984,” Thorpe said.Using a quote from famed baseball player Jackie Robinson who said, “A life is not important except in the impact it has on other lives,” Thorpe said that in assuming the position as deputy director of the resident Sergeants Major Course provides him a platform to impact and the educators, students, their families and our Army. He added that the ceremony was not about him, but “about preserving the tradition the history and legacy that has existed here in this institution since 1972.
I am humbled by such a responsibility and I am thankful to work with such a great team. I recognize that our educators, staff and faculty play a huge role in not only your success, but the success of the team.” Thorpe ended his remarks by asking everyone to remember the “Flag.”
“Family, always take care of your family. For some of us that is your battle buddy to your left or right. Leadership, always set the example and be that leader that you always wanted. Leadership is more than being a servant leader, it is about followership as well. Ambassadorship, find ways around the Army, find ways around the academy, your community, to always lend a helping hand. Because to some you are the only Army they know. As far as Growth, I want you to do more than be lifelong learners. I want you to encourage others to grow and remain open-minded to all things new so we all grow too,” he said. “So simply put, remember the FLAG – family, leadership, ambassadorship and family.” Additional photos can be found on the USASMA flickr site at https://www.flickr.com/photos/133821783@N02/albums.
Photos and story by David Crozier, Command Communications
The U.S. Army Sergeants Major Academy Fellowship Program logged on with the Pennsylvania State University’s (Penn State) World Campus August 20 when the first 20 sergeants major selected for the program received their orientation briefings from their faculty advisor Dr. William Diehl, Ph. D., coordinator of Online Graduate Programs in the Adult Education Program and Assistant Professor at the university.
“I want to congratulate all of you on being selected for being fellows in this program,” Diehl said. “I will learn more about you in the next few days, but I am really impressed with your background. It is really a privilege to be here and work with you.”
With his introduction complete, Diehl spent two days with the fellows giving them an understanding of the Penn State community, online learning, resources available as well as the technology they will use, an overview of the program and main courses, hands-on library and research skills, and a question and answer period at the end.
Eluding to the fact that the sergeants major will be full-time students focusing on completing 33 semester hours of study in one year, Diehl said they were in a unique and good situation.
“Most of the Masters students are working at a professional job 40 hours a week and then they are coming to take one or two classes to get through the program. So it is a much longer process for them,” he said. “You have your own challenges because you have four classes going in and you are going to have to juggle that.”
Another challenge Diehl said the students have is the fact that some of the students haven’t been in school for a while and that there are all kinds of issues with distance learning, but there is a large support system for them to use including a whole team of military support specialists.
For Command Sgt. Maj. Dennis Defreese, seeing one of his major goals as the commandant of USASMA come to fruition and having the sergeants major on board to begin the first iteration, makes it all the more meaningful.
“When we picked the 20 fellows, I could see that their records were impressive, but now after having met and talked with them I am impressed with the level of talent we got and wanted to be a part of this. My initial impression is I think we made the right selection for this program,” Defreese said. “I am excited that this is finally starting. This is a big win for the NCO Corps and for our Army.”
The establishment of the Fellowship Program, Defreese said, also means the leaders of the Army believe NCO education is important and that NCOs can be critical thinkers and help solve problems.
“I think it says a lot about our NCO Corps, but it is really because of what the officers think about us,” he said. “They think that we are worthy of this kind of program and they actually believe that we are an important part, and an important asset to this Army and we bring something to the table.”
Selected as one of the fellows in this inaugural class, Sgt. Maj. Scott Cates, who has spent the last year as an instructor in the Sergeants Major Course, said it is a privilege to be selected and believes the program to be a great advancement for the NCO Corps and the Sergeants Major Academy.
“I personally signed up for this because I look at things as an opportunity,” Cates said. “This is an opportunity to make the NCO Corps look better and in the future I think that this will help me not only do a better job while I am in the Army as an instructor at USASMA, but it is something that I can take with me when I exit the military.”
Fellow classmate Sgt. Maj. Christopher Roche whose last assignment was at Fort Drum, New York, said he signed up primarily to give back to the Army and to help NCOs be better leaders. Being a student full-time, however, has him wondering how it will go.
“Honestly I don’t know what we are going to do for a whole year. This is the first time in my military career where we haven’t had to do school and work,” Roche said. “So a lot of us are looking at it as a higher level education that will have a lot more reading, a lot more writing, but we are forgetting the fact that we are not going to have a 9 to 5 job, or actually a 6 to 6 job, which most of us did before getting here.”
Roche added that once he completes the fellowship program, he hopes to use his education to not only improve the curriculum of the Sergeants Major Course, but to help him to be an educator in the field when he leaves the academy.
“After (teaching on) the platform it is actually going to help most of us who are going to go back out into the field to do NCO professional development, leader professional development, officer professional development and help instigate the NCO Corps more into the day-to-day operation as a resource rather than just a standard bearer,” Roche said. “I think this is a great opportunity and we should have done this many, many years ago. Our sergeants major are well-deserved of this honor and I am just happy to be part of it.”
Diehl echoed his student’s comments.
“My path was not a military path, but I have always respected the role that the people in the military play,” he said. “I feel a huge responsibility to make this program successful and to make everybody here successful and because of that I feel that this is an opportunity for me to serve my country too. I think it is laying a solid foundation for courses that will be taught in this academy and I think you are going to come out with exceptional teachers and leaders.”
The United States Army Sergeants Major Academy Fellowship is the Army’s premier noncommissioned officer degree and instructor certification program aimed at sergeants major who have potential and a strong desire to be an educator for our future sergeants major. Selected candidates pursue a Master of Arts Degree in adult education through Penn State. The program was approved by the Chief of Staff of the Army on December 11, 2014.
The purpose of program is two-fold. First, fellows are personal representatives, and even ambassadors, for the Chief of Staff and the Sergeant Major of the Army. In this role, Fellows provide the civilian community with a sense of what the Army is doing and how they serve as personal envoys for senior leaders. Secondly, the fellowship program is the Army’s response to the Department of Defense instructions that require each service to have these outreach programs. The Office of the Secretary of Defense guidance recognizes that fellowships provide “Unique Opportunities” for professional development that is not available with our own Professional Military Education Systems and therefore, the NCO program at Penn State will bring a distinctive opportunity.
For more information on the program, contact Sgt. Maj. Kristy A. Swofford, director, USASMA Fellowship Program at (915)744-8827 or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Story and photos by David Crozier, Command Communications
The United States Army Sergeants Major Academy officially recognized Women’s Equality Day Aug. 26 with a ceremony produced by members of Sergeants Major Course Class 66 in the academy’s Cooper Lecture Center. Class 66 student, Master Sgt. Teela Washington was the mistress of ceremonies and welcomed those in attendance and announced this year’s theme.
“Today’s theme – Celebrating a Women’s Right to Vote – Breaking the Mold – pays homage to those women who were willing to stand up against inequality at a time when women were not allowed to have a voice,” Washington said. “They were the first to break the mold.”
The event began with the reading of the Presidential Proclamation recognizing Women’s Equality Day followed by a skit entitled “Who Do You See?” The skit begged the question, “Who do you see when you look at a woman – a wife, sister, mother, grandmother, niece or aunt; do you see the faces of the pioneers who came before them? Or do they see them as society sees them – as a wife, mother, or caregiver. Do they fit the traditional image of a teacher, secretary, nurse, maid, or waitress? Do you see their potential to be an athlete, surgeon, CEO, firefighter, military police, or a judge? The question continued, “Do you see us as we see ourselves? Do you see us as we really are? We are all these things and more – Soldiers, leaders.”
The guest speaker for the event was Col. Carey M. Wagen, deputy commander of the Brigade Modernization Command, Fort Bliss, Texas. Wagen is noted as being the first active duty female officer to command a combat aviation brigade and the second female commander of any aviation brigade in the Army.
Wagen began her remarks with the story of her youth saying she never felt that couldn’t do anything anyone else could do and didn’t realize she wasn’t allowed to do certain things until she joined the Army.
“I think I first realized that when I was in flight school and I found out that I was only allowed to go on hueys, blackhawks and chinooks and I wasn’t allowed to fly attack or scout helicopters because at that time they had a direct combat role which excluded women from roles that put you in direct combat,” Wagen said. “It seems rather naive today when you think about the last 13 years and where we have put women in combat. Even though I didn’t dwell on what I couldn’t do; I focused on what I could do.”
Wagen said her parents always taught her to be the best at whatever she decided to do with her life. So she decided to be the best at what the Army offered her. She added that she personally doesn’t think she broke any molds, only worked hard to progress through the ranks like her male peers. The only difference being was that she was a woman.
“Looking at the statistics women don’t make up 50 percent of the Army, only about 15-18 percent. So I suppose I unintentionally broke the mold because there is not a lot of us in the Army,” she said. “I know I was the first woman to command a combat aviation brigade. That is not what I was focused on, and it wasn’t because I did anything different than any of my peers. It was a long tough road with many gates I achieved not because I am a woman, but because I strived to be the best Soldier and best officer that I could be, and I worked hard at it.”
Jokingly she added she did not have to work hard at being a women; she had no vote in that and said you are what you are when you are born and you make the most of what you have. The only vote she did have was how she saw herself – a Soldier first, then an officer and finally a leader which happens to be a woman.
“That is how I want others to see me. When I walk into a room I don’t want somebody to say who is that female. In fact I don’t like the term female and male because this is not science class. We are men and women,” she said. “I acknowledge the fact that I am a woman, and there are a lot more men in this room than me, but I see Soldiers, leaders, future command sergeants major, and I like people to see me as a colonel, an officer, a leader, and a Soldier first. Not the fact that I am a woman.”
Wagen said the culture is changing and that she is pleased with the direction the Army and the military is going and said the fears and concerns about standards being changed or not upheld is all on “our shoulders as leaders.”
“As long as we as the Army, as a military, as a senior leaders, ensure that the standards required for the job are the standards that we must meet, then there should be no questions whether or not that ranger tabs is earned,” she said. “As a leader I recognize my responsibility to value, encourage and prepare both men and women for the challenges of being a Soldier in today’s volatile world. Whether you were born a man or woman, we are all capable Soldiers. We all have contributions to the fight.”
The U.S. Army Sergeants Major Academy, Fort Bliss, Texas, handed out certificates of graduation October 23, to the 13 students who made up the final pilot class of the Commandants Pre-Command Course.
Before handing out the certificates to the seven commandants, three deputy commandants and one incoming Sergeants Major Course director, Command Sgt. Maj. Dennis Defreese, USASMA’s 21st commandant, made a few remarks about the course and its ultimate goal.
“Hopefully you got something out of this. Our goal for this (course) is for it to be a dynamic, and by dynamic I mean we will change it based on input and the needs of our commandants and deputy commandants out in the force. We also want it to be relevant to the position that you are in,” Defreese said. “We don’t train to do this kind of a job so my hope is that we have given you some tools and if not you need to tell us.”
Defreese urged the graduates to inclusive in their role as commandant.
“Never forget to input compassion and understanding when you are dealing with your students. By the time it gets to you for a drop (or other administrative issue), that you are looking at both sides,” Defreese said. “You are not just the staff and faculty commandant; you are the commandant for the students and the staff and faculty. (Remember) the reason you are the commandant is because you are looking at both sides and you are the person who says, ‘I believe this is the right way to go.’”
On the job for only 60 days as the commandant of the NCO Academy at Fort Shafter, Hawaii, Command Sgt. Maj. John McDwyer said attending the course was very beneficial.
“When I first got (to Fort Shafter) I was inundated with a lot of stuff and not really understanding anything. Coming here to this course with everything they have provided has given me a basis for really what my job is and what I should be looking for,” he said. “More importantly than the things they taught in the course was the ability to talk to the other commandants who have been in position for a while. They give context to everything and allow me to balance a little bit more on what should be done and methods to do it.”
Command Sgt. Maj. Alma Zeladaparedes, who will soon take over as commandant of the NCO Academy at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri, said she came to the course with no knowledge of what a commandant is.
“I came here empty. You know you have your rucksack and it is empty. Here from day one I collected so many things that I can say that now I am in full battle rattle, fully equipped, with what I need to do to be successful,” Zeladaparedes said. “Being around this network of sergeants major and mentors who have been successful, to know that network is amazing; to know that I can come here empty handed and leave with this amount of knowledge because what they know, I know because all I have to do is reach out to them. That’s amazing.”
While the course was developed to better prepare command sergeants major to take on the role of commandant, seats were also made available to deputy commandants to help them understand the complexities of commanding an academy. Attending the course was humbling for Sgt. Maj. Robyn Collier, deputy commandant of the NCO Academy at Fort Huachuca, Arizona and who has been in the position for about a year.
“I was honored to be invited to this class and see what other commandants and other deputies are doing,” she said. “I would have liked to attend something like this prior to taking on my duty as deputy. I fell that this is definitely beneficial in preparing you and giving you some insight on what goes on. What the mission command is all about. It is a really good course. They thought of a lot of things that are very important to being a commandant.”
Sgt. Maj. Jude Landry, course manager for USASMA, said he believed the course was on track to be very valuable and does not believe there will be many changes going into the future.
“Most of the changes I see that will take place are just continuing to keep up with Army transformation. Regulations are constantly changing, so we need to stay on top of that,” he said. “There were couple of instances where things changed in October, regulatory guidance change, and we didn’t have time to get it into the current course, the mentors and the (subject matter experts) were able to articulate those changes in the classroom. So we were able to put out the most up-to-date information we could possibly do.”
Sgt. Maj. Gerardo Dominguez, course facilitator for the final pilot class called the class “phenomenal.”
“I think it is a phenomenal course, something that we cannot let die out,” he said. “We need to continue to push it because as a command sergeant major at a brigade level your roles and responsibilities are different than a commandant in a command position. This course gave the students the tools they need to know as a commandant.”
The biggest takeaway for most of the students, besides learning what their right and left limits are as an enlisted commander/commandant, was the importance of networking.
“How big relationships are with your installation, between all of the commandants where you have can help each other out so that you are not reinventing the wheel and there is somebody out there if you have a question,” said McDwyer. “You are not alone. Sometimes as a commandant you feel like you are alone because of all of your responsibilities, but there is a support network there to get you the right answers to make sure you are not messing up.”
The Commandants Pre-command Course is a challenging week-long 50-hour course of instruction designed to prepare commandants and deputy commandants assigned in positions throughout the Army’s noncommissioned officer educational institution. It is designed to bring command sergeants major into those unique positions where they are actually executing command-type leadership – a relationship that is not traditionally associated with being an NCO. It consists of instruction in 15 different topic areas: The Authorities of an Enlisted Commandant, Joint Ethics, Lines of Command/Support, Training Management, Inventory Management/Property Accountability, Budget Management, Academy Manning, Course Administrative Requirements, Instructor Development program, Civilian Personnel Management System, Student records, Learning Theories and Styles, Law for Leaders, Registrar, and Accreditation. The initial proof of principle was conducted in September of 2013.