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.
More stories and photos of the week’s ceremonies can be found on the Academy’s Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/USASMA#. Additional photos of the event can be found on our Flickr site at https://www.flickr.com/photos/133821783@N02/albums.