Katie Peterson | Staff Writer
Army University celebrated the Command and General Staff Officer Course Class of 2020 with two pre-recorded virtual ceremonies shown on the Army University Facebook page and YouTube channel June 11 and 12.
The 113 international CGSOC students representing 89 different countries were honored during the International Graduate Badge Ceremony June 11.
During the ceremony, Lt. Gen. James Rainey, Combined Arms Center and Fort Leavenworth commanding general and commandant of the Command and General Staff College, addressed the students.
“This isn’t about the United States military and the United States Army giving something to our international partners. This is about international partnership,” Rainey said. “I’ve worked with partners and allies all over the world. When I’m honest about it, I’ve learned more from them than they have probably learned from me, and I think that’s been the case here in CGSC.
Hopefully, you’ve learned a lot from us, but, I guarantee you, your fellow students and teammates and faculty have learned a ton from you, and I genuinely appreciate that and that’s why I value this program so much.”
The recipients of the General Dwight D. Eisenhower Award and the Major General Hans Schlup Award — the two CGSOC awards reserved solely for international graduates —were announced during the ceremony.
The Eisenhower Award recognizes the most distinguished international graduate of each class. The 2020 recipient is Italian Maj. Alessio Battisti.
“I feel really honored to have been deemed worthy of such a prestigious award,” Battisti said.
“I am proud of having well-represented my country and my military institution here at CGSC.
“I learned a lot on the professional side. I am really satisfied because I was able to see various aspects of the military profession under different perspectives, those being the ones of the U.S. Army, of the sister services and of other countries’ armed forces. I think this has been a truly enriching experience, and I can certainly say that I significantly grew as a staff officer during the course of the past year,” he said.
“Considering the personal side, I was able to build rapport with wonderful and really skillful officers and civilians from the U.S. and all over the world. I had the opportunity to talk about their life and their culture, and this adds even more value to this great opportunity I had the honor to receive.”
Battisti also received his master of military arts and sciences degree and the Father Donald Smythe Award for excellence in military history. He will stay at Fort Leavenworth to attend the School of Advanced Military Studies.
The Schlup Award, in honor of the late Swiss Maj. Gen. Hans Schlup, who graduated from CGSOC in 1978, recognizes an excellence in international relations while at Fort Leavenworth, and the winner is solely selected by his or her peers. The 2020 recipient is Capt. Abdele-Aziz Ali Orou of Benin.
The second ceremony recognized the more than 1,100 CGSOC students — 863 soldiers, 113 international students, 78 airmen, 28 Marines, 21 sailors, 21 civilians and one Coast Guardsman — with a graduation ceremony June 12. Master of military art and science degrees were bestowed on 135 members of the class.
Gen. James McConville, 40th chief of staff of the Army, served as the guest speaker. He asked the graduates to remember two things — people first and winning matters.
“People first is a philosophy,” McConville said. “I believe if you take care of your people, your soldiers, your families and your civilians, and if you create a command climate where everyone takes care of each other and treats everyone with dignity and respect, you will have a great cohesive team, which will win on any battlefield.
“Winning matters in the Army is an attitude. When we send the United States Army somewhere, we don’t go to try hard, we don’t go to participate, we go to win,” he said. “That’s what the American people expect and that’s why winning matters. …If you can define what winning looks like for your unit, and you can build cohesive teams of highly trained, well-disciplined and physically fit professionals, then you will be extremely successful.”
Secretary of the Army Ryan McCarthy served as keynote speaker and focused on three topics — power, influence and relationships.
“As challenging as your careers and the mission have been thus far… the Army will once again look to you to achieve the mission and preserve the force,” McCarthy said. “Now, your approach to problems, your ability to influence stakeholders and the behaviors you exhibit continues to evolve in order to be successful.
“Mission success and subsequently your own success will depend on your emotional intelligence, the relationships you foster and your ability to build teams,” he said. “This means you’ll have to recognize your own emotions and those of others and manage them. …It is about understanding other people’s intentions and how they relate to your own. …It is your responsibility to know your people. Help identify their unique skills and guide them in a direction where they can realize their potential. …No one has to go this alone.”
After McConville and McCarthy’s remarks, 19 awards were announced recognizing the most distinguished graduates.
The General George C. Marshall Award recognizes the most distinguished U.S. graduate in each CGSOC class. The 2020 recipient is Maj. Sarah Gerstein.
“I feel extremely lucky to have had the opportunity to be in two staff groups … where my peers supported me and challenged me to excel. I am convinced they were instrumental in my success this year,” Gerstein said. “I also had the opportunity to work with some great faculty and mentors this year who took the time to encourage and work with me while challenging me to provide quality research. Without them I would not have been as successful because CGSC is about building teams and working together.
“Peer relationships matter. I don’t have to be the expert on any particular topic, but I must work with others to develop a plan of action to accomplish our mission,” she said. “I’ve learned how important it is to take the time to develop good relationships and to take the time to mentor people around me. Seeing all of us coming together and then transitioning to the virtual environment has made me more empathetic to the difficulties that we all face. Without my advisers taking the time to mentor me, I wouldn’t have been as successful this year, and I want to pay it forward by mentoring junior officers.”
Gerstein also received her MMAS degree and the Birrer-Brookes Award for her thesis, “Retaining Talent: Lessons from Australia, Norway and Sister Services.” Her next assignment is battalion executive officer for the 741st Military Intelligence Battalion, 704th Military Intelligence Brigade, in Fort Meade, Md.
For the full CGSOC awards list, visit https://www.ftleavenworthlamp.com/community/2020/06/11/cgsoc-set-for-virtual-badge-ceremony-graduation/.
For the full International Graduated Badge Ceremony, visit https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F4CavaJDJlU.
For the full CGSOC Graduation Ceremony, visit https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wrOIbtmtUIk.