FORT RUCKER, Ala. -- With almost 3,000 combined years of service, 118 senior warrant officers from 11 different Army branches graduated from two concurrent classes of the Warrant Officer Staff Course at the Seneff Building Feb. 4.

Classes 11-03 and 11-04 made the graduation ceremony even more special by donating more than $2,200 to the No Greater Sacrifice charity in honor of a recently-fallen comrade who died in a helicopter crash Dec. 20, said CW5 Michael Nysewander, WOSC course director.

"CW4 Hector Ramirez was a recent WOSC graduate who was killed in an aircraft accident only three days after completing WOSC 11-02 and leaving Fort Rucker," he said.

During the course, each class is expected to give back to the community, said CW5 Tony QuiAfA+-ones, Warrant Officer Senior Staff Course course director.

"A person who knew Ramirez let the class know what happened to him, and asked if the class could do something for Hector and his family - that was all that needed to be said," he said. "I had known about NGS since its inception since I had previously flown with one of its founders. The class decided this was the way to give back."

NGS's executive director, Rebekah Lovorn attended the graduation and accepted the check from the two classes. She said NGS is designed to help the Families of fallen and wounded serivcemembers by helping to fund post-high school education.

"The contribution today really is heartwarming because our focus is not to ask the military for support on top of what they already do supporting our freedom," Lovorn said. "It's really designed for those who haven't put on the uniform to contribute.

"So, when I see the military continuing to give, it is awe-inspiring - it made me feel guilty to accept the check," she added. "We're continuously looking for advocates to spread the word about our organization. There are people out there willing to support military Families - and we want the Families to know we're there."

Class 11-04 leader CW5 Jeremy Fryer, who is heading for an assignment with the U.S. Army Forces Command G3, said supporting NGS was an easy decision.

"In Army Aviation, there isn't anyone who hasn't lost at least one friend," he said. "I've lost count - it happens in Aviation. We felt this was the best way to support the cause. I love the idea of NGS and the way it supports the Families of our fallen comrades."

Also during the graduation, Maj. Gen. Anthony G. Crutchfield, commanding general of the U.S. Army Aviation Center of Excellence and Fort Rucker, served as guest speaker.

The general spoke to the graduates about leadership, and urged them to take a look at his commander's intent - adding that it could be applied to leadership strategies across all Army branches.

"One thing it says in my intent is we have to lead Soldiers and Families through professional leadership and maintain total commitment. It's not today's commitment I'm referring to - it's tomorrow's commitment. The fight isn't over - the next few years will be the hard part," he said. "We're asking for a lot from our Soldiers and Families.

"You'll be able to take back what you've learned here and use it to make you a better leader - a better person to lead the Army for the next few years," Crutchfield said. "It's important to our Army, whatever branch you're in - we've got to make sure that we maintain the commitment, the discipline and the standards."

He went on to talk about standards.

"No matter where you are, what environment you're in, you are a leader - never forget that," the general said. "When you walk by a Solider doing something not in standards and you don't say anything, what have you done' You've created a new standard."

He added that warrant officers played a key role in his development as an officer.

"Have you ever thought that the person you're developing today could be your branch chief of tomorrow'" he asked. "That's how important it is. I was mentored by exceptional warrant officers or I would not be here today. They did it with flair. They didn't say, 'Lieutenant Crutchfield, you're an idiot.'

"It's almost like a child on training wheels learning to ride a bike," Crutchfield added. "You take the training wheels off, but you're following closely. They think they're riding the bike - and you let go every once in awhile, but when they get wobbly, you grab that seat.

"That's what warrant officers did for me," he said. "They let me lead, but they were standing right there, hand on my shoulder, making sure I did not fail."

Message well received, Fryer said.

"He's an excellent speaker and the basis for his speech was right on target," he said. "We're all leaders even though we may not be in charge of someone. Just because I'm not in charge of anyone doesn't mean I can't improve myself and improve someone around me."