WASHINGTON — Between his full-time duties as a special operations non-commissioned officer, deployments and parental obligations, Sgt. Maj. Benjamin Buzek spent more than nine years earning his bachelor’s degree.
He then wanted to pursue a Master of Business Administration without pulling dual responsibilities as a Soldier. So Buzek devised a way for NCOs to attend The College of William and Mary Raymond A. Mason School of Business in Williamsburg, Virginia full time while still receiving active-duty pay.
The college offers a full-time MBA program for active-duty officers and veterans, but previously, there was no program for active-duty NCOs, Buzek said.
Two other NCOs have earned their MBA through the Buzek’s initiative since Buzek graduated from William and Mary in August 2022. Although the program has limited eligibility, Buzek now hopes to expand it to afford other Soldiers the same opportunity.
Buzek’s efforts earned him the 2023 Sgt. Maj. Larry L. Strickland Educational Leadership Award. Sgt. Maj. of the Army Michael R. Weimer presented Buzek the award in a ceremony at the Association of the U.S. Army Annual Meeting and Exposition in Washington Oct. 9.
Strickland, senior enlisted advisor to the Army deputy chief of staff for personnel, died in the 9/11 attacks on the Pentagon. The 29-year Army veteran strongly believed in Soldier education and professional development.
Buzek believes the changing nature of war requires Soldiers of all ranks to be better educated to make smarter decisions in combat.
“I think the times when officers were the only educated people that make decisions, that’s changed,” said Buzek, 40. “[On] today’s battlefield, the command team of officers and NCOs have to move at the speed of light because the enemy is moving that quickly.
“As the wars have ended, the best thing that you could have is experience,” he added. “The second best thing you could have is education. So, I think it’s incredibly important that our force is educated and that our NCOs get the time to go to school.”
Buzek said that he had to secure permission from his chain of command for successful enrollment in the program and to receive his full-time salary.
“I think great leaders don’t do things for themselves,” Buzek said. “They do things for people that they’re leading. This program that I’ve developed wasn’t just for me, it was for the next person.”
As a teen growing up in Raleigh, North Carolina, he described himself as a “troublemaker.” After enlisting in the Army at 17 in 2000, he went on to have a successful 23-year career in special operations.
Master Sgt. Jacob Connor, NCO-in-charge of the 101st Airborne Division Public Affairs Office at Fort Campbell, Kentucky won the Sgt. Maj. Dawn Kilpatrick Memorial AUSA Scholarship Award for excellence in Public Affairs.
The award is given in honor of the late Kilpatrick served in Army public affairs from 1979 to 1999. She took roles as the editor of three Army publications and also acted as a special assistant to the Secretary of the Army. She died of cervical cancer eight days after her retirement from the Army in 1999.
Connor, a 16-year veteran who started his career as a cavalry scout, credited his fellow staff members for winning the award.
“My shop stands out because of the teamwork; the team that we built, the camaraderie that we have,” Connor said.
For the third year in a row, the Mid-Missouri Chapter of Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri won the Don Thomas NCO and Soldier Programs Best Chapter Award to recognize engagement with local Soldier populations.
Winners of the Command Sgt. Maj. Troy Welch Action Award to honor the top dining facilities in the Army were:
1st place: Army Reserve Command
2nd place: Army Forces Command
3rd place: Army Special Operations Command
Army News Service