Graduates of the School of Advanced Military Studies are in high demand for the operational Army — so much that three members of this semester’s class of 30 graduated early and deployed into theater.
The remainder of SAMS students who graduated Dec. 2 will be called upon soon for their critical-thinking skill sets, said Brig. Gen. Sean MacFarland, deputy commandant of the Command and General Staff College.
“I just want to take this opportunity briefly to congratulate our soon-to-be graduates on completing a very successful course of instruction ... and your hard work has paid off,” MacFarland said. “And that’s the good news. But the bad news is the real work is about to begin.”
MacFarland told SAMS students the Navy is fond of saying that in a crisis, the president always asks, “Where are the aircraft carriers?” In the Army, leaders ask, ‘Where are the SAMS graduates?’
“Just as the aircraft carrier was a game changer in naval warfare, SAMS graduates and practitioners of operational art have been game changers in land warfare,” MacFarland said.
Lt. Gen. Guy C. Swan III, commanding general of U.S. Army North (Fifth Army) and Fort Sam Houston, Texas, was the graduation speaker. He graduated from SAMS in 1989, the fourth class of the program.
“I’ve told many others that SAMS was the point at which I personally made the mental leap into seeing myself as a true professional in every sense of the word,” he said.
Swan said upon his graduation from SAMS, he served in the 1st Armored Division in Germany under Gen. Frederick M. Franks Jr. At the time, the Army was focused on the Soviet threat and the Cold War. Initially, Swan was assigned to work on the general defense plan, or GDP, for the Cold War.
Less than six months later, the Berlin Wall fell.
“It was an exciting time to say the least,” Swan said. “But after euphoria subsided, there was a period when all of our facts and assumptions about what our forces in Europe were expected to do were called into question.”
This was a time when deployment meant driving tanks outside the gate of the motor pool, Swan joked, and the American military never considered leaving their families in a foreign country while they deployed to combat.
Swan said while on a division staff, he was part of a team that had to re-engineer the decades of planning that had gone into the GDP almost overnight.
“It had never been done before, and SAMS graduates were expected to make it happen, and we did it, as General Franks described,” Swan said. “In my view, and with a great sense of pride, this was the first true test of SAMS on a large scale.”
Maj. Christopher Lowe was presented an engraved cavalry saber as an award for his outstanding monograph, “‘Battle’ to ‘Battle of Ideas’ — The Meaning and Misunderstanding of Information Operations.”
“This year has prepared me in three areas,” Lowe said. “First of all, I’m a more polished and better leader. Second, I’m immensely more competent as a planner. … Thirdly, I’m a teammate, I’m used to working with a group to solve complex problems.”
Lowe is preparing to deploy to Afghanistan.