FORT BLISS, Texas — The NCO Leadership Center of Excellence conducted a virtual graduation ceremony for the Sergeants Major Course, Class 70. A total of 693 students received their diplomas, June 19.Out of the 693 graduates, 233 received the Bachelor of Arts in Leadership and Workforce Development provided through the Sergeants Major Academy, a branch campus under the academic governance of the Command and General Staff College.Command Sgt. Maj. Jimmy Sellers welcomed the graduates of Class 70, before introducing the guest speaker, Maj. Gen. Stephen J. Maranian, Army University provost and Command and General Staff College deputy commandant.“For starters, we’re conducting a graduation ceremony on campus and virtually,” he said. “Clearly, not the preferred method to recognize the hard work and achievements of this academic year, however, it’s necessary considering our current operating environment.”Sellers took this time to recognize the senior leaders for their support throughout the year.“Thank you for your visits during the guest speaking events here at the Academy,” he said. “Your caring words of wisdom, guidance, and leadership to the students and faculty of class 70.”Sellers also thanked the professional civilians, Families, and Friends of the SMC graduates.“We couldn’t have made it without your unyielding support, dedication, and encouragement this year,” he exclaimed. “Thank you.”During his remarks, Sellers let the Class 70 students, staff, and faculty of the NCOLCoE he was proud of their prowess and achievements over the last year.“I’m very proud of every one of the 693 graduates of the course and wish you all the best from the Staff and Faculty, he said.”Sellers reflected over the last year and spoke to the latest NCOLCoE product, The NCOLCoE People Strategy.“I’m proud to announce the release of this document today,” he said.“I appreciate all of the team's hard work and efforts in preparation for this comprehensive document. It’s always been my belief that the core strength of this organization is our People- our diverse population of professional Soldiers and Civilians.”After Sellers’ remarks, Maj. Gen. Stephen J. Maranian spoke to the graduates.“You have persevered, overcome, and are graduating from the premier Non-Commissioned Officer Professional Military Education course in the world,” Maranian said. “Well done.”The Class 70 students adopted the motto “Lead the Change” at the beginning of the course.To the students, “Lead the Change” is a call to action that ignites, reminds, and empowers leaders at all levels to take charge and exercise resilience despite an ever-changing military and world.“This motto has inspired you to do exceedingly well in an already challenging academic environment,” Maranian said.He added, “It is a time of change. During this unprecedented time, I hope ‘Lead the Change’ will serve as inspiration for how you will lead your organizations at your next unit of assignment. You’ve certainly proven yourselves here.”For the second time in NCOLCoE history, recipients of the Bachelor of Arts in Leadership and Workforce Development were recognized as the result of completing the Sergeants Major Course and other general education requirements.“You have excelled academically with more than 200 class members earning the Bachelor of Arts in Leadership and Workforce Development (BA in LWD) and many earning baccalaureate and advanced degrees from civilian institutions as well,” Maranian said.Maranian also spoke to the unforeseen effects of the COVID-19 pandemic during the students' last semester.“Thanks to your effort and the efforts of the staff and faculty of the Sergeants Major Academy and the Non-Commissioned Officer Leadership Center of Excellence, you were able to graduate on-time despite the effects of social distancing and working from home,” he said.Before the COVID-19 precautions, the faculty at the NCOLCoE were diligently working to ensure graduates from the Class 70 had the opportunity to opt-in to the BA in LWD program.“The faculty was already working through a large scale curriculum revision to ensure the number of students with an opportunity to earn a bachelor’s degree was maximized,” he said. “Adding this requirement to teach the course remotely made that work even harder.”Maranian added, “it’s a challenge they overcame, and we all owe them a huge debt of gratitude.”The SMC Class 70 is not only comprised of American Soldiers, Marines, Airmen, and Coastguardsmen. It also includes military personnel from across 49 countries.“Your international student partners have been integral to the fabric of Class-70,” Maranian said. “This class hosted 57 international students from 49 countries. I’m proud to say that nine of our international graduates are among those who earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Leadership and Workforce Development.”The Class 70 graduates not only achieved academic success during their time attending the NCOLCoE. They also displayed leadership through volunteerism and set the standard for athletic excellence within the Fort Bliss Community.“More than 3,000 volunteer hours are credited to students and spouses. I know that many students, staff, and faculty and family members have given countless hours of their off-duty time to local schools, churches, civic organizations, and military and veterans groups,” Maranian said. “Thank you so much for these efforts. Our community is better for them.”On this day, the Sergeants Major Course, Class 70 graduates join the line of Sergeants Major Course graduates who, since 1973, have established a legacy of service and accomplished so much for our Army.“You’ve given your heart and soul to this class, but remember that the Army gave you this time to grow and better yourselves,” Maranian said. “I like to say that to those who much is given, much is expected. And you will certainly give back to our Army, our Soldiers, and our military communities.”The Sergeants Major Academy is the premier professional military education institution focused on providing the Army with agile and adaptive senior enlisted leaders.