Christopher Burnett | Staff Writer
Four international graduates of the Command and General Staff College became members of the International Hall of Fame in a March 16 ceremony at the Lewis and Clark Center.
The induction brings the number of leaders who have been honored in the IHOF to 270 from the nearly 8,000 international officers who have graduated from CGSC. Maj. Gen. John Kem, provost of Army University and deputy commandant of CGSC, noted the success of international officers at the college.
“We’ve been fortunate to host international students here since 1894. It is important to point out that these officers were very high achievers before attending CGSC. We have simply augmented their talents and took advantage of the ambassadorial contributions their presence has. The exchange of knowledge and ability, throughout this history is amazing,” Kem said.
Kem said members of the IHOF are “an elite group from among an elite group” for having achieved the most senior positions of leadership in their countries. He noted that more than half of the college’s international graduates achieved general officer rank. He then introduced the four international honorees: Maj. Gen. Arthur Gawn of New Zealand, Lt. Gen. Tadeusz Buk of Poland, Gen. Alberto Jose Mejia Ferrero of Colombia and Brig. Gen. David Jones of Belize.
Gawn began his career when he enlisted in the New Zealand Army in 1978 and undertook initial officer training at the Officer Cadet School, in Portsea, Australia. He graduated into the Royal New Zealand Infantry Regiment as a second lieutenant in 1980.
Gawn held regimental appointments, saw operational service and served in many staff assignments. As a general officer, he commanded New Zealand’s 3rd Land Force Group, the Land Component within Joint Forces Headquarters and assumed the position of deputy chief of staff. Gawn was appointed joint forces commander in 2011 during operations while based in Santici Camp, Bosnia, and as part of the United Nations Transitional Authority mission to Timor-Leste.
Gawn graduated from the Command and General Staff Officer Course in 1996. He is one of 43 New Zealand graduates since 1944 and is one of five who reached the rank of general officer.
Gawn was not able to attend the ceremony. New Zealand Maj. Iain Hill, a student in the 2017 CGSOC class, accepted the honor on Gawn’s behalf. Hill relayed the general’s gratitude and appreciation for being recognized by the IHOF.
Buk is the first IHOF member from Poland and the first inducted from the CGSOC class of 1999. His multi-national command assignments included Multinational Division Central-South in Iraq in 2004 and 2007, and Combined Security Transition Command-Afghanistan in 2006. He was promoted to major general in 2007 and appointed the commander of the Polish Land Forces in 2009. Buk died April 10, 2010, in a plane crash near Smolensk, Russia, en route to the commemoration of the 70th anniversary of the Katyn Massacre.
Page 2 of 2 - Making remarks on behalf of her late father, Elzbieta Buk said she was only four years old when her father attended CGSC. She said her father was very proud of being a CGSC graduate, and she thanked the IHOF for her entire family.
“He was a hard-working man,” Elzbieta Buk said.
Mejia has served as the commander of the Colombian National Army since 2015. He has served as commander of special forces and infantry battalions, director of the Colombian Infantry School, commander of infantry brigades, an air assault division, and the Joint Special Operations Command. Mejia holds several national and international distinctions. Among these are the Order of San Carlos and the Special Operations Medal from the U.S. Joint Special Operations Command.
In his remarks, Mejia said the lessons about building a professional army learned in CGSC classrooms are continually reinforced during his career. He cited the inherent challenges of transitioning a national army from a militia to a structured force.
“Professionalism strengthens civil and military institutions that respect democracy,” he said. “I am honored to be here with my family today and thank you all very much.”
A 2007 CGSOC graduate, Jones is currently the Belize Defence Force commander and joined the force in 1990. His initial tour of duty was commanding an infantry platoon. Jones also served as aide de camp to Sir Colville Young, governor general of Belize. Because of his performance as a student, Jones was selected to serve as an instructor for the Junior Command and Staff Course, Aldershot, Nova Scotia, Canada. He attended the Caribbean Defence and Security Course in Washington, D.C., the Royal College of Defence Studies Course in the United Kingdom and is a recipient of the Belize Defence Force Certificate of Distinguished Service. Jones has served in assignments ranging from rifleman to deputy commander of the Belize Defence Force.
Jones said his time at CGSC was a great atmosphere to develop as a military leader and provided tools to interact positively with political leaders.
“As officers, apart from our primary role as war fighters, we need to be prepared and acquire the skills to negotiate and be diplomatic enough to prevent conflict,” Jones said.
Established in 1973, the International Hall of Fame is a joint initiative between CGSC, the Greater Kansas City Chapter of the Military Order of the World Wars and the CGSC Foundation. Inductees receive a certificate of honor presented by the Military Order of the World Wars and a Life Constituent Certificate from the CGSC Foundation.