By Spc. Samuel J. Phillips, U.S. Army Sergeants Major AcademyAugust 13, 2010
The United States Army Sergeants Major Academy inducted four members into its Hall of Honor during a ceremony in the East Auditorium Aug. 12.
The Hall of Honor pays homage to individuals who have made significant and long-lasting contributions to USASMA and the Noncommissioned Officer Education System. Initiated in 2006, there have been 28 members inducted into the hall, including the 14 Faculty Group Members of Class 1 who were inducted as a group.
The newest members of the hall include retired Lt. Gen. David P. Valcourt, retired Command Sgt. Maj. Daniel K. Elder, retired Command Sgt. Maj. Jimmie W. Spencer and retired Sgt. Maj. Elvin Hobbs.
The first inductee was Valcourt, who influenced the quality of NCOES for artillery sergeants attending the Basic and Advanced Noncommissioned Officer Courses while he was the commanding general of the U.S. Army Field Artillery Center and Fort Sill, Okla.
Later, as the commanding general of U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command, Valcourt became a catalyst for change for USASMA by supporting the principles of a concept plan to transform the Sergeants Major Course curriculum from training to an educational learning outcome strategy.
"Gen. Valcourt has been a lifelong supporter of the noncommissioned officer," said Command Sgt. Maj. Raymond Chandler, USASMA commandant. Chandler told an anecdote of a dinner at the general's house when Valcourt said, "I have always been an NCO at heart," and he flipped up his baseball cap to reveal sergeant stripes pinned underneath the bill.
"This is indeed an unexpected honor," Valcourt said. "I just have to thank all of the NCOs who have touched my career. Throughout my 37 years, I have been able to witness the growth of the NCO Corps, and it has just been incredible. Today, our Noncommissioned Officer Corps truly does distinguish our Army from any other."
The next inductee was Elder, who founded the original NCO website and its successors, squad-leader.com and firstsergeant.com. Elder later donated his sites to the Army, which turned them into the Battle Command Knowledge System, the premier site on the web for Army NCOs.
Elder was the general editor and author for the Center of Military History's book, Sergeants Major of the Army, and the author of Educating Noncommissioned Officers. He has also worked with publishers and authors on a number of other books.
"As a warrior-scholar, Dan is a person whom I personally want to emulate," Chandler said. "We have incorporated many of the things that Dan innovated into the Sergeants Major Course curriculum and we're cascading that down across the rest of NCOES."
After Chandler's introduction and the unveiling of his Hall of Honor photo, Elder expressed his shock at being chosen for the hall and explained what drove him to his accomplishments during his career.
"I was speechless when I found out about this induction," Elder said. "I didn't set out to be inducted; I actually was just on a quest for knowledge. There were questions not being answered. There were challenges that were not being addressed. There were needs not being met. So, instead of waiting for someone else to step up to the plate to solve or address them, I did it."
Third was Spencer, who, while assigned to Headquarters, Personnel Command, Alexandria, Va., played a significant role in ensuring that the right people with the right qualifications where assigned to the academy.
Also, while assigned to the U.S. Army Special Operations Command, Spencer became a mentor and frequent guest speaker at the academy and ensured that the best NCOs of the Special Operations Community were assigned as academy faculty.
"Command Sgt. Maj. Spencer served on active duty for a little bit more than 32 years," said retired Gen. Gordon R. Sullivan, the 32nd chief of staff of the Army. "For 17 years he has devoted his life to the noncommissioned officers and Soldiers as he performs his duties as the director of NCO and Enlisted Affairs for the Association of the United States Army."
"When I came in the Army, my first platoon sergeant would always tell us, 'Leave it better than you found it,'" Spencer said. "He was referring to the area we occupied, whether we were there for five minutes or five days. As I got older, I carried that with me everywhere I went. My philosophy in life for every mission, every assignment, and every task was to leave it better than I found it, and that carried me through my entire career."
Finally, Hobbs was inducted for actions while assigned as director of Evaluations and Standardization at USASMA and the second serving battalion commander of the Student, Staff and Faculty Battalion at USASMA.
Hobbs was the driving force in the establishment and advancement of the Museum of the Noncommissioned Officer and further advanced the reputation of the academy by establishing battalion and company level operations, personnel, logistics policies and procedures. He accomplished all of this while the academy moved from its original home, Fort Bliss' former Defense Language Institution buildings, to its current campus on Biggs Army Air Field.
"Sgt. Maj. Hobbs has been an integral part of the Sergeants Major Academy and the El Paso community for a very long time," Chandler said. "He has gone out of his way to make sure El Paso becomes the first choice for Soldiers and their families, and he will continue to do so in the future. Look at the institution that you are in right now... Hobbs was intricately involved in its design and construction... This beautiful campus is his legacy."
"As I look back when I came down on orders to come to this establishment, it was a very proud moment but a very nervous moment as well," Hobbs said. "I just tried to make things a little better for those who came after me, and I hope that you will try to make it a little easier for those who will come after you."
And with the ceremony coming to an end, the USASMA staff, faculty and members of Class 61 were not only left with the challenges posed by the four men inducted into the Hall of Honor, but also a challenge from their commandant.
"As members of the services, we all aspire to be like these individuals ... who have given their complete dedication to the service that they represent, to the Noncommissioned Officer Education System and to this institution that we hold dear," Chandler said. "And so I ask you to reflect on not only how you can live up to that standard yourself, but how you can inculcate it in those that will come behind you."