By Ms. Danielle O'DonnellJune 12, 2019
FORT BLISS, TEXAS--The U.S. Army Sergeants Major Academy at the NCO Leadership Center of Excellence is now an accredited school under the academic governance of the Command and General Staff College. Qualified graduates of the Sergeants Major Course can now attain a Bachelor of Arts in Leadership and Workforce Development through USASMA.
A Combined Arms Center Execution Order on March 21, 2018, officially made a branch campus at USASMA, the CGSC's fourth school, thus placing USASMA under CGSC's academic governance policies and processes.
"Achieving accreditation is also another way we are adding value to our Soldiers' service," Sgt. Major of the Army Daniel Dailey said. "We are building readiness and developing highly-skilled leaders with competitive skill sets."
The BA in LWD is a degree program which helps the Army develop better NCOs who are ready to lead and inspire Soldiers and units. There are 214 USASMA Class 69 students participating in the pilot program and more than 90 students are projected to be the first to confer their degree on 21 June.
"There has been a lot of emphasis as of late on the importance of education," Command Sgt. Maj. Jimmy Sellers, commandant of the NCO Leadership Center of Excellence, said. "We cannot underscore that education is important, but leadership is equally important and developing our NCOs to be leaders is something we cannot take our eye off of. This accreditation is paving the way for our NCO Corps to focus in on taking care of, and leading soldiers. It allows them to focus on leadership, to develop individually and spend less time in college classes."
Soldiers who pursue the BA in LWD receive 47 college credit hours at the completion of the 10-month course and only need to complete 27 hours of LWD major requirements and 15 credit hours in electives to attain the bachelor's degree. SMC Students not in the LWD degree program receive a total of 41 college credit hours towards their degree program.
The BA in LWD degree requirements focus on four areas: Leadership, Decision Sciences, Training Program Management and Communication and intentionally leverages the Army's leader development program for NCOs, as well as an individual's professional experience. The SMC educates master sergeants and sergeants major to effectively assist commanders and field grade officers in the accomplishment of the unit's mission.
The accreditation process, which has been 10 years in the making, has now come to fruition for USASMA through the guidance and milestones of past and present commandants. Starting with the last officer commandant, Col. Donald E. Gentry.
Gentry, commandant from July 2007- June 2009, he introduced intellectual rigor to the Sergeants Major Course as it moved from training to education.
"My vision for the Academy was to be able to award degrees to our students as part of our curriculum just as many of the senior officer schools within the Department of Defense were doing," Gentry said. "We worked very hard at trying to identify the path and, to be honest, convince the accrediting agencies that our students and the courses they were taking were deserving of that result.
"We realized that to do this, we were going to have to change our methods and content. The students were already worthy of the degree by their own accomplishments as evidenced by the fact that they were already earning degrees on their own."
Gentry was also responsible for restructuring the USASMA staff to mirror the staff structure of the CGSC by splitting the staff between an academia, headed by the dean of academics, and a support organization headed by the chief of staff.
Sgt. Maj. of the Army (Retired) Raymond F. Chandler III, was the first NCO to be commandant of USASMA. He held the position from June 2009 -- February 2011.
"When I became the command sergeant major of USASMA, the leadership directives received were to take a hard look at what we were teaching and why, and how it was connected to the rest of Army".
Chandler's goal was to provide relevant, sergeants major who were able to contribute immediately to their unit's success in the operational sergeants major role.
"The advancement of NCO education has progressed, and the BA in LWD is a testament to the great strides occurring," he said. "Soldiers need to get all the tools beyond the hardware to keep them successful in what they can achieve. Fighting a peer, and near peer force, or a vague and ambiguous force, makes it absolutely critical to have an educated NCO force."
Continuing the momentum after Chandler, Command Sgt. Maj. Rory Malloy assumed responsibility for USASMA from June 28, 2011- June 10, 2014. Malloy was responsible for the implementation of semesters within both the resident and non-resident Sergeants Major Course which students currently rotate through.
"This was needed to create a university model," he said. "We increased the GPA from 70 to 80 percent in order to pass an exam which was in line with a graduate degree program and gained several graduate degree credits from the accreditation body. Finally, we redesigned the exams and course material to a challenging collegiate level."
USASMA's next commandant, Command Sgt. Maj. Dennis Defreese, continued pushing toward accreditation by gaining approval for an enlisted fellowship program for selected sergeants major.
These fellows would earn a master's in adult education and become instructors in-turn, which met another element of accreditation by having credentialed instructors.
Previous Training and Doctrine command sergeant major, Command Sgt. Maj. David Davenport recognized the importance of NCO education in creating a professional NCO Corps. Through his determination and guidance he helped push the key initiatives for accreditation across the finish line.
Command Sgt. Maj. Jimmy Sellers, with the help of the Sgt.Maj. of the Army Daniel Dailey, put the pieces together from the contributions of past commandants and built the framework for the USASMA to be documented as a regionally accredited institution within the academic councils of the Higher Learning Commission.
"This historic milestone will have a profound effect on the Army, the NCO Corps, and the legacy of our NCOs throughout history," Dailey said. "An investment in our people is an investment in our future."
"This is only the beginning," Sellers said. "There's more to come when it pertains to the education and development of our soldiers and noncommissioned officers."
The NCO Leadership Center of Excellence provides professional military education that develops enlisted leaders into fit, disciplined, well-educated professionals capable of meeting the challenges of an increasingly complex world. We develop, integrate and deliver education and training readiness. We are the premier institution driving innovative development for enlisted leaders; constantly focused on readiness.
For more information on the NCOL CoE visit https://ncolcoe.armylive.dodlive.mil/