Katie Peterson | Staff Writer
More than 150 students graduated from the School of Advanced Military Studies during a pre-recorded virtual ceremony May 21 on the Army University Facebook page and YouTube channel.
SAMS graduates receive a master’s degree from one of two courses — the Advanced Strategic Leadership Studies Program or the Advanced Military Studies Program.
“You have been given a year to study our profession,” said Lt. Gen. James Rainey, Combined Arms Center and Fort Leavenworth commanding general and Command and General Staff College commandant. “That is a huge investment on the part of the Army … and it comes with a huge set of expectations.”
Commanders will come to them with the hard problems, Rainey told the graduates.
“If it was easy, they would’ve given it to somebody else,” Rainey said. “Their expectations are going to be excellence, not looking for you to do things to standard.
“Remember, commanders are looking for options, not solutions,” he said. “Your excellence is about … creating and preserving decision space, presenting thoughtful options that clearly identify advantages, disadvantages and risks associated with them, so those commanders can make decisions.”
Supervisors will lean on them, Rainey said.
“They’re going to lean on you to make the organization successful. You’re going to get way more than your share of the work; you’re going to get the hardest work,” Rainey said. “Their expectations are mastery of the planning process.”
Peers will expect leadership, Rainey said.
“If you’re doing things right, your peers are going to come to you for help based on your experience, reputation and the extra training you’ve received,” Rainey said. “Their expectations of you are going to be that you’re a great teammate, that you make others around you better, that you’re helpful and that you’re not a jerk about it. … It takes an intellectual humility to be that person.”
Following Rainey’s remarks, awards for excellence were presented to four members of the graduating class.
The Colonel Thomas Felts Leadership Award is considered the top award in SAMS. It is awarded to the student who best exemplifies all of the desired attributes of a SAMS student. Felts graduated from the AMSP in 1998 and was a student in the SAMS senior service program in 2005. He was killed in action in Iraq in 2006 while serving as an adviser to the Iraqi Army.
The 2020 recipient of the Felts Leadership Award is Maj. David Pevoto.
“I am honored to receive the award named after Colonel Felts. His example is the epitome of selfless service to our nation, and his story of volunteering for a deployment reminds me of the verse in the Bible, Isaiah 6:8: ‘Here I am, send me,’” Pevoto said. “I look forward to carrying out his example of selfless leadership in my next assignment (75th Ranger Regiment in Fort Benning, Ga.), understanding that it is never going to be about me. It is going to be about making sure Rangers have every advantage possible before we are sent into harm’s way.”
The Colonel Arthur D. Simons Center for the Study of Interagency Cooperation Writing Award recognizes the student who shows excellence in writing and provides insight and fresh thinking in advancing the knowledge, understanding and practice of interagency coordination and cooperation.
The 2020 recipient is Chuck Vetter, for his monograph “Assessing China’s Belt and Road Initiative,” which will be published in the InterAgency Journal through the Simons Center.
“Attending SAMS was a unique and distinct privilege. I cannot express how much I grew as I was both challenged and encouraged by my seminar classmates and instructors,” Vetter said. “As I prepare to return to the State Department, I know that my approach to thinking and problem solving has forever changed, and I am eager to put my SAMS education and training to work.”
The final two awards recognized one student from each course — ASLSP and AMSP — who were determined to have the best monograph in their class.
The ASLSP best monograph award recipient is Lt. Col. Angela Polsinelli for her paper “Organizing for Innovation.”
“After observing the proliferation of organizations as solutions to a variety of problems within the (Department of Defense), I was curious what theory and experience could teach about the best organizational structure for implementing change within a large bureaucracy,” Polsinelli said. “These lessons can be applied not just for harnessing technological innovation, but for innovative ways of operating to include security cooperation and other non-kinetic military roles.”
The AMSP best monograph award recipient is Maj. Sam Kriegler for his paper “Artificial Intelligence Guided Battle Management.”
“The increasing speed of action and consequent complexity of being able to converge capabilities against a peer threat … was an area of interest,” Kriegler said. “I learned about the capabilities and limitations of artificial intelligence, and the importance of keeping humans in the decision-making process for the foreseeable future.”
Along with the four main awards, 50 students — five ASLSP and 45 AMSP — were recognized as being on the honors list signifying the top 30 percent in their class.
“It’s not a matter of if you’ll be called to action, but when you’ll be called to action,” said Maj. Gen. Stephen Maranian, Army University provost and CAC Education deputy commanding general, at the end of the ceremony. “I can’t tell you how proud we are of you, and I wish you all the best in the future. Your Army is counting on you.”