By Ms. Danielle O'DonnellJune 14, 2019
Embarking on a new path of education, the United States Army Sergeants Major Academy at the NCO Leadership Center of Excellence hosted an official accreditation ceremony in the Kenneth W. Cooper Lecture Center on Fort Bliss, Texas, June 14. This event was held to commemorate the USASMA receiving an accreditation through the Higher Learning Commission and being named as a branch campus under the Command and General Staff College.
The NCOL CoE and USASMA spent the Army's 244th birthday celebration by adding another milestone to Army history by unveiling the Bachelor of Arts in Leadership and Workforce Development diploma from the USASMA.
"What a great day it is to be a noncommissioned officer," Command Sgt. Maj. Jimmy Sellers, the NCOL CoE commandant exclaimed. "We began today with a four mile run, and a great conversation. Now, we are here on the Army's birthday to officially acknowledge the fact the USASMA is an accredited institution and branch campus under the CGSC."
Receiving an accreditation was a dream for USASMA, after 10 years of an arduous and complex journey down a road less traveled, this dream is now a reality.
The initiative encompassed years of course catalog development, assessment plans, policy bulletins, and most importantly the development and credentialing of a collegiate faculty. Every piece of the puzzle was imperative in order to develop the supporting academic justification for the USASMA to become a branch campus under the CGSC.
"If you look backwards you will have a better appreciation on what has occurred and what it took to achieve the desired goal," Sellers said.
The Year of the NCO, 2009, was the same year retired Sgt, Maj. of the Army Raymond Chandler became the first enlisted commandant of the USASMA. His vision for the institution is what placed USASMA on a course for higher education.
"I wanted to provide relevant sergeants major who were able to contribute immediately to their units' success in the operational sergeants major role," said retired SMA Raymond Chandler. "There was a huge gap. We were in a bubble and not understood at the time. We were not in sync. We needed to align our curriculum with the CGSC."
The next commandant to take charge of USASMA was Command Sgt. Maj. Rory Malloy, now retired. Malloy added rigor to the curriculum, and changed the passing scores on tests from 70 to 80 percent.
"My vision was to bring the academy well into the 21st century and to ensure the sergeants major had the tools needed to meet current and future wartime needs," Malloy said.
The third enlisted commandant, Command Sgt. Maj. Dennis Defreese, who is also retired, instituted the USASMA Fellowship program and was lauded by Sellers for his innovative thinking on credentialing instructors, which became the foundation of the degree process.
The road less traveled took another turn towards accreditation in January of 2017, when Command Sgt. Maj. Jimmy Sellers, Charles Guyette, William Ogletree and members of the Army University met in Austin, Texas to collaborate on a pathway for the USASMA students to take in order to attain their degree in a timely manner.
"We have been waiting a long time and finally, summer is here," shouted Sellers. "Which brings us to this point of accreditation a year sooner than anticipated."
Keynote speaker, Command Sgt. Maj. retired Philip Johndrow the former Combined Arms Center, command sergeant major, spoke to the long journey USASMA has endured to attain this historic milestone in NCO history.
"With true NCO Corps fashion, when we see something that is important to us we will continue to press forward until we are able to see the mission accomplished," Johndrow said.
During his time as the CAC, CSM Johndrow noticed the inadequacies in the intermediate level of education for officers in the rank of major receiving a graduate degree versus the enlisted soldiers graduating the USASMA with only some college credits.
"This started a long chain of many amazing leaders who continued to look at our senior NCO capstone school the USASMA and how we could maximize its effectiveness," he said.
Speaking to the history of USASMA Johndrow highlighted key points in history which made this monumental achievement possible.
"In 1971 the Army gave the NCO Corps a huge boost by making an enduring commitment to NCO education, with the establishment of the NCO Education System. In 1972 the Army established the U.S. Army Sergeants Major Academy as the capstone of its NCO Education System. In January 2019 they received notification that the resident Sergeants Major Course was accredited by the Higher Learning Commission, he said"
He reminded the students to be prepared for the challenge as a leader and to continue to self-improve, and seek education.
"We must develop and exercise our mind just as we exercise our bodies. Education is PT for the mind," he said. "The Leadership and Workforce Development degree program is making the process of receiving the education you require easier to obtain and giving you the college credits, you deserve and have earned in recognition for the time you have invested."
The Bachelor of Arts in Leadership and Workforce Development is a degree program that helps the Army develop better NCOs who are ready to lead and inspire Soldiers and units. The core competencies of Leadership and Workforce Development are essential requirements for Army NCOs.
Using the motto of Sergeants Major Course, Class 69, Johndrow had one final word for the students.
"Embrace this opportunity and know that you will now be armed with tools necessary to BE THE DIFFERENCE," he shouted!
Closing the event Command Sgt. Maj. Jimmy Sellers thanked Sergeant Major of the Army Daniel Dailey, Maj. Gen. Jack Kem, former Army University provost, Dr. James Martin, CGSC Dean and the SMC developers Bill Backschieder, Lori Ramos, Jose Madero and Efrin Ordaz.
"On behalf of this institution and those receiving the degree on June 21, thank you, Sellers said. "Thank you for your hard work and dedication for bringing this accreditation to fruition. You changed the lives of at least 98 Soldiers this year and many more in the years to come."
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/.