With memories of Class 63 still fresh, the staff and faculty of the U.S. Army Sergeants Major Academy had very little down time to rest up before welcoming in a new batch of senior noncommissioned officers and their families.
The initial onslaught of arrivals to the academy began even before Class 63 graduated. Several students arrived early to be sponsors and mentors to the 38 Class 64 international students who were taking part in the international pre-course, a 10-week course designed to help prepare them for the rigors of the Sergeants Major Course. Mike Huffman, director of the International Military Student Office, said this year’s pre-course was more robust than in years past.
“This was the longest amount of time the international students have had to prepare for the sergeants major course. We did a lot of preparation teaching the American Psychological Association –APA – style of documentation for their essays,” he said. “The students were given in-depth blocks of instruction on exactly how the instructors will be grading their research papers. So they will be able to write them with some confidence.”
Huffman also alluded to the newest and possibly biggest challenge that not only the international students, but all students, will face this year – closed book testing.
“This is the first year of closed book testing, so that is going to be a challenge for the Sergeants Major Course,” he said.
While the international students were navigating the pre-course, their sponsors, when not helping their international partners, were kept busy helping the cadre prepare for the arrival of the rest of Class 64. On August 7, USASMA welcomed the remaining infusion of students. Coming in from all around the Army, more than 300 Soldiers descended upon the Academy to begin Day 1 of in-processing, marking the beginning of their 10-month long educational experience.
“We are doing four briefs along with the Post Relocation Fair which will happen later on today at the Centennial Club on Fort Bliss,” said 1st Sgt. Zachary Smith, first sergeant of the Sergeants Major Course. “Then tomorrow the students will conduct in-processing with Finance and then complete their Fort Bliss and academy in-processing on Thursday and Friday.”
On Day 1 the students received their group room assignments along with what department they would be in and where they were actually starting the course. On the last day of in-processing, the students and their families were treated to a BBQ-style icebreaker complete with hot dogs, chips and sodas, a DJ and jumping balloons for the children to let loose some energy.
“Today we are bringing the students and their families here for this icebreaker to set the tone for a great year,” Command Sgt. Maj. Gary Coleman, director of the Sergeants Major Course said. “We want to let them know that their families are welcome and it is a time to not only get engaged into school, but it is a time for the families to come together and enjoy this year with them. “
Coleman said the picnic-style icebreaker came about naturally because it is summer, still warm, and the weather accommodates it, but more so because a lot of these students have come off deployments and missions and haven’t had these opportunities to bring their families together for an event like this.
The next two weeks saw the students attending mandatory briefings and training, as well as unpacking household goods and getting their children ready for the new school year. With so much going on during the day, the Academy set aside a couple of evenings to properly welcome the spouses and give them some much needed information and support.
The first evening was dedicated to the international spouses and was hosted by the IMSO in true Texas fashion.
Mike Huffman, IMSO director, welcomed the students and their family members, but not before each learned the Texas way of greeting one another. The group was informed that everything in Texas is bigger, including the welcome and all were mentored in saying, “Yee Haw” and “Howdy Partner.”
Huffman, with the assistance of Command Sgt. Maj. Wesley Weygandt, deputy commandant and Mrs. Deborah Malloy, spouse of USASMA commandant Command Sgt. Maj. Rory Malloy, introduced the international spouses to key members of the academy staff and were encouraged to participate in the English as a Second Language course, the spouse leadership development course and to explore the El Paso community.
The next evening get together focused on all of the spouses of Class 64 and was hosted by Weygandt, Coleman and Mrs. Malloy. The spouses were shown a breakdown of the school year and how their Soldier would be affected, as well as given a calendar of important events and holidays. The spouses were also provided a full briefing on the ULTIMA family readiness group and the Spouse Leadership Development Course. During each of the presentations the cadre opened it up to questions and concerns from the spouses.
With all of the orientations complete, it was time to start the academic year with some pomp and circumstance.
The United States Army Sergeants Major Academy recognized the singular and cumulative achievements of three former sergeants major that have made significant contributions to the Academy and the Noncommissioned Officer Education System in a ceremony held Aug. 23 in the Academy’s Cooper Lecture Center.
Command Sgt. Maj. Rory Malloy, USASMA commandant hosted the ceremony and spoke about each of the inductees — Sgt. Maj. (Ret) Jeffery Colimon, former TRADOC deputy chief of staff for Education; Sgt. Maj. (Ret) Danny R. Hubbard, former Academy director of Doctrine and Training and former TRADOC G3/5/7 sergeant major; and Sgt. Maj. (Ret) Jeffery Wells former TRADOC G3/5/7 sergeant major and HQDA G3/5/7 sergeant major.
“This year we have the great honor of inducting three great Americans into the history books as members of the United States Army Sergeants Major Academy Hall of Honor. They join the likes of great leaders such as Gen. [Ralph] Haines who is known as the father of our sergeants major academy and the establishment of our noncommissioned officer education system for his vision professionalized our NCO corps,” Malloy said. “Also amongst the ranks includes our first command sergeant major for the Academy, Sgt. Maj. of the Army William Bainbridge, as well as a former chief of staff of the Army, Gen, Gordon Sullivan one of the most passionate leaders to serve our NCO corps.”
Malloy said that each of this year’s inductees shared a theme in that each was instrumental in the development of the Warrior Leaders Course, the creation of Structured Self-Development, the use of distance learning as well as video teletraining to further the education of noncommissioned officers.
While Colimon and Hubbard could not be at the ceremony, both recorded video acceptance speeches thanking the Academy for the recognition. Present to accept his plaque and take part in the ceremony, Wells gave a gracious acceptance speech.
“Nowhere in my wildest dreams did I ever dream that I would be standing here being inducted into something like this in front of my peers. So I share with you that it is an honor to be here,” Wells said. “When I talk about the NCO corps and education it was all about the corps. It was never about me and it can never be about you. It has to be about those in which you are going to lead. The legacy that you will leave behind is supposed to be an honor to the true corps.”
SMA welcomes Class 64, challenges them to excel
With the pomp completed, it was now time for the circumstance — the opening ceremonies for Class 64.
The U.S. Army Sergeants Major Academy began its 64th iteration of the Sergeants Major Course August 23 welcoming in the 526 students who comprise the class during opening ceremonies in the Academy’s Cooper Lecture Center. On hand to mark the event was Sgt. Maj. of the Army Raymond F. Chandler III, the 14th sergeant major of the Army, who was the guest speaker.
“It is quite an honor to be here and I want to offer you my congratulations to everyone who is in this auditorium. It has taken you a great deal of work and service and sacrifice to be here and I would like you to reflect on that; on who helped you along the way to be in the position that you are today – sitting in a seat amongst 526 or so of your peers – and to understand that there were a whole lot of others, I believe it was about 78 percent or so, that were not selected to be in one of these seats,” Chandler said. “That means something about you and your commitment, your character, your competence, your professionalism and your support to your nation, whether you are part of the United States armed forces or one of our partner nations that is here today. Congratulations it really means something.”
Chandler challenged the students to seize the opportunity and to understand that the Army of tomorrow is in their hands.
“We are at a crossroads right now and what I would like everyone to understand is that we are in the process of reducing the size of the Army and there are so many unknowns out there we are not sure where the bottom is going to be. What I would ask you to do is while you are here, is understand that you are here to be the leader of the future and that your leap from organizational leadership to strategic level leadership is one that is going to be predicated on your commitment to what this course provides,” he said. “You are going to have to lead the army into the future. You are going to have to decide what type of army you want, because it is going to be on your shoulders.”
Chandler also challenged Class 64 to be the kind of leader that keeps the trust and ensures it is about the NCO Corps and the future of the corps.
“You represent every other NCO in the Army. Remember who you are and why you are here and understand that this is a once in a lifetime opportunity … to learn something and carry our Army into the future,” Chandler said. “Take a few minutes and reflect on the privilege of being here and be a part of a team and learn together and you will come out on the other side a much better well-rounded individual, sergeant major. We need you in the future. We need you to continue to move the NCO corps’ reputation and attitude of let’s get it done, let’s solve the problem, into the future.”