FORT BLISS, Texas—Honoring our allies and partners, the NCO Leadership Center of Excellence held a virtual ceremony to induct five past international graduates of the Sergeants Major Academy, into the International Student Hall of Fame, June 18.
The HoF recognizes the tremendous achievements of our international partners.
While also solidifying the bonds between the institution, the United States Army, and our allies by inducting them into the HoF.
The history behind the establishment of the HoF, starts in 1975, with Class 6 having Warrant Officer Robert John May of the Australian Army as the first International Military Student to attend the Sergeants Major Course.
Through this pinnacle moment in time, the international partners proudly wear the Sergeants Major Academy International Military Student Badge and return to their nations to lead and train by example.
These great leaders now inducted into the HoF continue to maintain and strengthen productive relationships with the U.S. and the enlisted counterparts throughout the Department of Defense.
Senior Warrant Officer Paula Fifita, Force Sergeant Major of Fiji in His Majesty's Armed Forces, is the first 2020 inductee into the HoF.
SWO Fifita served honorably over the last 31 years and is the highest-ranking Noncommissioned Officer in HMAF.
Throughout his service, he displays excellent resolve and discipline in every position he has held. He is one of only a few Soldiers in the entire Tongan Military to attend and graduate from the Sergeants Major Academy.
The second inductee, Command Sgt. Maj. Hans Juergen Stark of the German Army currently serves as the Command Senior Enlisted Sergeant Major at the NATO headquarters of Allied Joint Force Command Naples.
He became an honorary member of the Sergeant Audie Murphy Club in June 2015 for demonstrating dedicated leadership and exemplary NCO professionalism.
"It's a privilege to address members of an organization [the NCOLCoE] that's devoted its existence to the training and education of Noncommissioned Officers, not just from the U.S., but also from partner nations around the globe," Sergeants Major Academy Class 58 graduate, Stark said.
During his speech, Stark quoted President John F. Kennedy, "leadership and learning are indispensable to each other," he said.
Throughout his service, Stark has been indispensable to all his counterparts by working tirelessly to deliver an exceptional level of service.
Warrant Officer Kazuo Nemoto of Japan, a Sergeants Major Academy Class 61 graduate and assigned as the Sergeant Major of the Japan Ground Self Defense Force, the senior JGSDF Noncommissioned Officer position, equivalent to the Sergeant Major of the Army in the United States Army is the third inductee.
Nemoto recognized the challenges of the course and the benefits of the sponsorship program during his speech.
"Nine years ago, I was one international student of Class 61, at the Sergeants Major Academy. It was challenging for me," he said. "Fortunately, I overcame numerous challenges, as I had a strong sponsor, who always helped me throughout the course."
Throughout his career, Nemoto is actively committed to the U.S.-Japan bilateral NCO relationship.
Nemoto was a vital part of the success of the U.S.-Japan Bilateral Senior Noncommissioned Officer Symposium, which the NCOLCoE successfully conducted with Sergeants Major from across the Japan Ground Self-Defense Force formations.
The fourth inductee, Chief Warrant Officer Chua Hock Guan of Singapore, is the Sergeant Major of the Army for the Singapore Armed Forces.
Guan is a graduate of Class 55 and is a central driving force in shaping the roles of the Singapore Army's Warrant Officers, specialists, junior military experts, and enlistees to meet operational demands; and developing them to fulfill these roles and responsibilities.
In his address to the audience, Guan spoke to the importance of the NCO Corps.
"No matter how conditions change," he said. "One thing remains constant. The NCO corps will always remain the backbone for the army. And we do that by leading and training our people to cope with the challenges. As Sergeants major, we pass our technical and tactical competencies to our Soldiers."
Throughout his tenure, Guan emphasizes the importance of anchoring decisions and actions on strong values to ensure that the Singapore military remains relevant in an ever-changing environment.
The fifth and final inductee for 2020 is Warrant Officer One Gavin H. Paton, the British Army Sergeant Major from the United Kingdom.
Paton, a graduate of Class 67, is the first British Soldier to attend the world-class NCO educational institution since 1989.
"I never thought I'd be the sergeant major of my army, a journey that you, the NCO Leadership Center of Excellence, have contributed towards," Paton said.
In his remarks, Paton thanked all who contributed to his success while attending the Sergeants Major Academy and congratulated SMC Class 70 student, from the United Kingdom Warrant Officer One Dean S. Morgan.
Paton built an extensive network across the U.S. Army and other international partners as a student of the Sergeants Major Academy.
"My class was a class of 600 students made up of American Army Marines, Navy, Coast Guard, Air Force, and 55 international students from 35 different countries," he said. "That is quite a global network, and one that I genuinely use every week."
Through the amassed network, Paton continues to enhance the professional reputation of the British Army.
To date, there are 52 inductees from 33 different countries that are a part of the Hall of Fame, now adding five more International Senior Enlisted Advisors.
For more information on the NCOLCoE or the International Military Student Office, visit https://www.ncolcoe.army.mil/Administration/International-Military-Student-Office/.