By Pfc. Chalon Hutson, 301st Public Affairs Detachment May 25, 2012
GRAFENWOEHR, Germany -- Multi-national students of Warrior Leader Course Class 08-12 graduated during a ceremony held at the 7th Army Non-commissioned Officer Academy in Grafenwoehr, Germany, May 24.
The graduating class consisted of 257 students, two of which were from Bulgaria.
The students completed an eighteen-day course, which consisted of physical readiness training, drill and ceremony training, oral presentations while learning what it takes to be a non-commissioned officer.
In 2003 the academy started receiving international military students and has since trained over 500 of America's European and African allies.
Cpl. Yordanka G. Terzieva, a specialist in artillery with Military Formation 24490 of Assenovgrad, Bulgaria, received a Distinguished International Award.
"It was a challenge in the beginning; we were not sure what to expect," Terzieva said. "It was challenging, not only because of the training itself, but also meeting… different standards and a different way of life."
Despite the challenges Terzieva faced as a student in a foreign environment, she believed she benefitted greatly from the experience.
"[There were] different routines, different marching… we learned a lot," she said.
Multi-national students are not the only ones who benefit from the course; working alongside those from different countries also benefits U.S. Soldiers, said Staff Sgt. Yuri Armstrong, small group leader for A Co., 7th NCOA.
"Working alongside [multi-national] students is always interesting, not just for the instructors, but for the students as well," said Staff Sgt. Yuri A. Armstrong, a small group leader of A Co. 7th NCO Academy and native of Arima, Trinidad and Tobago. Armstrong was one of Terzieva's instructors.
The instructors take advantage of this to create an environment similar to what the U.S. Soldiers would experience on an overseas deployment, said Armstrong.
Regardless of the differences between all of the students, Armstrong said it helped teach them cooperation and leadership.
"They mixed in really well. They never had a problem working alongside the U.S. Soldiers," he said. "Even though they may speak a different language and be from a different culture, the students understood each other."
Guest speaker of the event, Command Sergeant Major Annette R. Weber, USAG Baden-Wuerttemberg, Heidelberg, Germany, congratulated the graduates on their accomplishments in learning the basics of being an NCO.
"I am very proud of each of you. You have demonstrated perseverance and determination to complete this phase in your NCO development," Weber said. "I urge you all to give the very best to your profession."
The 7th Army NCO Academy is the oldest NCO academy in the Army, officially being designated in 1951. In 2009, it earned the recognition as an "Institution of Excellence" by the United States Army Sergeants Major Academy and the Training and Doctrine Command.