FORT LEAVENWORTH, Kansas - Faculty and staff of the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College said farewell to 985 graduates of the institution's Intermediate Level Education program Friday in a ceremony that drew a crowd of about 3,000 to the post's historic parade grounds.

Drizzle threatened to dampen the first ILE graduation to be held outdoors in several years, but the mist ended moments before the ceremony began.

"It appears we timed it perfectly," said Lt. Gen. Robert Caslen Jr., the college's commandant.

Caslen took note of the sacrifices made by the graduates and their families. Most of them are combat veterans, and some will be deploying to Afghanistan soon.

"Our nation depends on your leadership now more than ever," he said.

In his commencement address, retired Lt. Gen. Karl Eikenberry, who left the Army 14 months ago to become the U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan, told the graduates he and his staff looked forward to working with them.

Eikenberry, a 36-year Army veteran, urged the officers to bridge the cultural gap that separates them from the civilians from 14 U.S. government agencies they'll be partnering with to help rebuild Afghanistan, devastated by more than 30 years of warfare. He said the number of U.S. government civilians working in the country is scheduled to triple between 2009 and 2011.

"None of us can accomplish our mission without our (civilian) comrades," Eikenberry said. "Sooner or later, the military will go home, but the civilians will stay behind."

The ILE 10-01 graduating class was one of the largest in the college's 119-year history, totaling 1,049. Sixty-four of them took part in early graduation ceremonies last month.

Most of the graduates are Army majors. The group also included 67 international students representing 58 foreign countries, 127 Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps officers, and 14 civilians from U.S. government agencies.

The commencement exercise capped an intense year for the graduates.

Maj. Sunset Belinsky, who is headed to a staff assignment in Kabul, Afghanistan, later this summer, described a feeling of "relief, anticipation about my next assignment - and a little tinge of sadness" on her graduation day.

"The classes here completely prepared me," she said. "I'm excited to put everything I've learned to work."

During his year at Fort Leavenworth, Capt. Mattia Zuzzi of Italy earned a master's degree and gained his pilot's license in addition to completing his ILE studies. He praised the CGSC program.

"The theme of this year has been eclecticism," Zuzzi said. "There is no other country in the world that is able to set up such a great school."

Maj. Danielle Eley smiled broadly as she picked up her diploma.

"It was actually a great learning experience. I'll miss all the camaraderie," she said. "It was the best year of my life."

Leaders at the College also recognized 13 students for work or performance that demonstrated excellence deemed worthy of award. They were:

Aca,!AcMaj. Anthony Barbina, U.S. Army, earned the General George C. Marshall Award, presented to the distinguished graduate in each regular class in recognition of scholarship and leadership. Maj. Barbina also earned the General George S. Patton Jr. award, which recognizes the class' Distinguished Master Technician.

Aca,!AcMaj. Yi-Jin Lee, Singapore, earned the General Dwight D. Eisenhower Award, presented to the most outstanding international student for military scholarship. Maj. Lee also earned the Birrer-Brooks Award for Outstanding Master of Military Arts and Science thesis and the Brigadier General Benjamin H. Grierson Award for Excellence in Strategic Studies. His thesis is entitled "Singapore's Defense Policy: Essential or Excessive."

Aca,!AcKarisha Kuypers, Department of Agriculture, earned the General Colin L. Powell Interagency Award for Excellence, presented for excellence in scholarship and overall contribution to interagency education in the College.

Aca,!AcMaj. Christopher Abbott, U.S. Army, earned the Major General James M. Wright award, presented to the class' Distinguished Master Logistician.

Aca,!AcMaj. Adam Wojack, U.S. Army, earned the General Douglas MacArthur Military Leadership Writing Award. His thesis is entitled "Putting Experience First: An Analysis of the Impacts of the Army Junior Officer Development Model on Combat Effectiveness."

Aca,!AcMaj. David Emmel, U.S. Marine Corps, earned the Arter-Darby Military History Writing Award. His thesis is entitled "Development of Amphibious Doctrine."

Aca,!AcLt. Col. Shereef Elaraishy, Egypt, earned the Major General Hans Schlup Award, presented in honor of excellence in International Relations.

Aca,!AcMaj. Michael Brock, U.S. Army, earned the Excellence in Joint Command, Control, Communications, Computer and Intelligence (JC4I) Writing Award.

Aca,!AcMaj. Daniel Sennott, U.S. Army, earned the Homeland Security Studies Award, presented by the CGSC Foundation in recognition of excellence in homeland-security research.

Aca,!AcMaj. Anthony Figiera, U.S. Air Force, and Maj. Damir Slijepcevic, Serbia, earned the Iron Major Award, presented in recognition of outstanding physical fitness.

Aca,!AcMaj. Matthew Eberhart, U.S. Army, earned the Father Donald W. Smythe Military History Award, endowed by Armed Forces Insurance and presented for excellence in history studies.

Aca,!AcMaj. Jason Terry, U.S. Air Force, earned the Excellence in Joint Service Warfare Studies Award, endowed by the Military Officer Association of America and presented to the student who contributes most significantly to the study, implementation and spirit of joint-service warfare.

Brig. Gen. Ed Cardon, CGSC's deputy commandant, also presented awards to two faculty members. Lt. Col Brian Freidhoff, Department of Command and Leadership, was named Military Instructor of the Year and Edward Cross, Fort Belvoir satellite campus, was named Civilian Instructor of the Year.

Page last updated Fri June 11th, 2010 at 16:58