FORT BLISS, Texas -- The 60th class of the U.S. Army Sergeants Major Academy began nine months of instruction this week, following an opening ceremony on Aug. 11. Class 60 marks the beginning of a new curriculum; redesigned to reflect today's military.

"The focus in our previous class was more at the tactical level of war, our class now is more focused at the strategic and operational level of war," said Command Sgt. Maj. Raymond Chandler, USASMA commandant. "So at the end of day, the sergeant major and any noncommissioned officer have instant rapport with the enlisted soldier. A sergeant major from this class will understand the strategic goals of our country."

The new curriculum is the culmination of a study conducted by the Army about the role of the sergeant major in a period of persistent conflict. The redesigned course also works to synchronize the education of officers and noncommissioned officers, so both have a common understanding of the Army's direction on strategic and operational levels.

Another effect of the course redesign is the movement of the command sergeant major course from USASMA to Fort Leavenworth, Kan. The one week-long course, for those selected as command sergeants major, is now part of the command team seminar at the school of command preparation.

The opening ceremony for Class 60 included a welcome from Sergeant Major of the Army Kenneth O. Preston. After the ceremony, Preston stressed the importance of the school's new direction.

"You've got to continue to look out and seek ways to do things more efficiently and effectively for Soldiers on the ground," Preston said. "This is all about saving lives, accomplishing the mission and taking care of host nation partners."

Class 60 is comprised of 600 Soldiers, sailors, Marines, coastguardsmen and international military students. The 42 international students come from 36 nations.

Turkish Armed Forces Master Sgt. Iadin Cavas said that attending USASMA will help him better understand other militaries and enhance his personal military knowledge.

"It [attending USASMA] is a great honor for me, " Cavas stated.

The USASMA classes last nine months and its completion is required for promotion to sergeant major. Beyond what they learn in the classroom, students are able to network and share their wealth of military experience.

"To me it's the culmination of successful career," said Master Sgt. Michael Williams, a Class 60 student. "I've been in the Army 26 years, and the opportunity to network with some of the finest NCOs in the world makes me very proud."