Sergeant Major Course Class 71 celebrates unity, diversity
Master Sgt. Eric Bryant, a student in the Sergeant Major Course Class 71, delivers a poem he wrote addressing racial unity and diversity, Dec. 14. Bryant and 20 of his classmates formed the Martin Luther King Junior observance committee and filmed a 30 minute video to present to students, faculty and staff of the NCO Leadership Center of Excellence. (Photo Credit: James Seals) VIEW ORIGINAL

FORT BLISS, Texas – In honor of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, Soldiers in the Sergeant Major Course Class 71 created a video highlighting historical milestones during the Civil Rights Movement. The video, available only to fellow classmates, was designed to foster comradery, teamwork and social progress amongst the Army’s future top enlisted Soldiers, Master Sgt. Peta-Gail Drummond, the observance committee chair, said.

“The video showcases individuals reciting parts of historical speeches, [like] Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s ‘I have been to the mountaintop’ and ‘I have a dream,’” she said. “A lot of what Dr. King says in his speeches actually reflects some of the things happening in the world right now, and [the committee] felt it is important for Class 71 to reflect on it.”

A native of New York City by way of Spanish Town, Jamaica, Drummond admitted that many of the issues facing people of color in the United States were not routine occurrences in her birth country.

“With everything happening in the U.S. and in our Army, I felt the need to be part of this committee and send a message promoting unity and diversity rather than strife and indifference,” Drummond said.

On Dec. 17, Acting Secretary of Defense Christopher Miller issued a memorandum to the defense department regarding actions to improve racial and ethnic diversity and inclusion in the military. In the memo, Miller outlined his expectations that leaders “take an aggressive approach to embed diversity and inclusion practices into the core of our military culture.”

The committee’s 21 members decided that a video based on the civil rights era of 1963-1965 would spark dialogue and promote teamwork within Class 71.

Drummond recommended that leaders engage with smaller groups to discuss diversity and inclusion, noting that people feel more comfortable sharing views and personal experiences with their peers rather than an entire battalion.

“If our peers are suffering then we’re not progressing,” she said. “As the Army’s future sergeants major, discussions we have on diversity doesn’t have to come with strife, but rather the hope that we can positively impact our Soldiers and build a better nation, a better army.”


The U.S. Army Sergeants Major Academy is the Army’s culminating enlisted professional military education institution, and provides tools to develop critical reasoning, creative thinking and decision making skills to senior enlisted Soldiers. The SGM-A is a 10 month course with over 1,400 hours of instruction, and is an accredited school under the academic governance Command and General Staff College. Qualified graduates of the SGM-A can attain a Bachelor of Arts degree in Leadership and Workforce Development. For more information on the SGM-A and the NCO Leadership Center of Excellence, visit