FORT BLISS, Texas (April 3, 2009) - Key U.S. Army South leaders celebrated a proud moment on Mar. 31 as a classroom at the U.S. Army Sergeants Major Academy (USASMA) was dedicated in honor of their venerated command headquartered at the historic Old BAMC building at Fort Sam Houston, Texas.

Army South deputy commander Brig. Gen. Manuel Ortiz, and Command Sgt. Maj. Armando Ramirez joined with USASMA commandant Col. Donald Gentry and Command Sgt. Maj. Raymond Chandler for a ribbon-cutting ceremony commemorating the occasion.

The ceremony took place in the classroom proudly decorated by Sgt. Maj. Jerry Eddin, Army South Sergeant Major for Engineering, who made numerous trips from San Antonio to El Paso over a two-year period to update and configure the room to "Army South standards."

The room was freshly painted and decorated with new rugs, chair covers, name plates and window treatments, all prominently emblazoned with the widely recognized Army South "Spanish Galleon."

On the walls, portraits with matted frames depicted past Army South command sergeants major while panoramic photographs of Army South buildings displayed the evolution and transition of the unit from Panama, to Puerto Rico, to its present location at Fort Sam Houston. The brilliant combination of red, royal blue, sun-kissed yellow and pristine white of the Army South accouterments contrasted vividly with the rich, polished, mahogany-topped desks and instructor's podium giving the classroom a tastefully appointed look.

"It's taken me two years of fighting to get this room and it's for you all," said Ramirez to the senior enlisted students who occupied the classroom. "It also represents the 32 countries in our area of focus that we work with, which make up our Partnership of the Americas."

Ramirez thanked Gentry and Chandler for the opportunity to share the Army South history and legacy with future sergeants major and gave them each a "command coin" that he said represents the unity and bond shared between a commander and his command sergeant major. Ramirez also issued a coin to USASMA instructor Sgt. Maj. Larry Fegans and charged him, as the classroom instructor, with the care of the Army South room.

"We train about 48 students per year out of this room and the way it's configured it makes it very conducive to learning," said Fegans. "The students feel a great deal of pride because they have something to be proud of. So it's a great honor to have Army South come down here and dedicate this room, which will be appreciated by students for many years to come."

Ortiz spoke of the importance of the academy, the leadership of the noncommissioned officer corps, and what it means for Army South to be associated with the USASMA institution. He went on to say that it was befitting that the room dedication coincided with the Secretary of the Army designating 2009 as the "Year of the NCO."

"We at U.S. Army South really believe in the NCO corps, especially the leadership of sergeants major," said Ortiz. "On behalf of Major General Huber, the U.S. Army South Commander, I would like to thank Colonel Gentry and Command Sergeant Major Chandler for giving us this opportunity to be a part of this academy in a small way. I also want to thank Sergeant Major Fegans, who is the caretaker of this beautiful room."

The ceremony concluded with a cake-cutting tribute and refreshments served to the students, who echoed sentiments of pride for their new historic classroom.