Katie Peterson | Staff Writer
More than 1,000 students, including U.S. service members from the Army, Marine Corps, Air Force, Navy and Coast Guard, civilians and 45 international officers representing 43 countries, graduated from the Command and General Staff Officer Course in a virtual ceremony June 18 posted on the Command and General Staff College Facebook page.
Master of military art and science degrees were earned by 36 members of the class.
“This is a significant accomplishment in any year and even more impressive that you’ve done so dealing with the COVID-19 crisis,” said Lt. Gen. James Rainey, former Combined Arms Center and Fort Leavenworth commanding general and former CGSC commandant. “You all have demonstrated that you clearly have the character, competence and commitment required as a member of our profession.
“I encourage you to go out to your units, lead well, develop others and take very, very seriously your new requirement to serve as stewards of our profession,” he said.
Gen. James McConville, Army chief of staff and 1994 graduate of CGSOC, served as the keynote speaker for the graduation. He asked graduates to remember two things — people first and winning matters.
“People first is a philosophy and the Army’s No. 1 priority. Take care of your people, your soldiers, your families and your Army civilians,” McConville said. “Work hard to build cohesive teams that are highly trained, disciplined and fit where everyone is treated with dignity and respect. If you do that, you will win on any battlefield or any of your endeavors.
“Winning matters is an attitude. When we send the United States Army somewhere, when we send your units somewhere, we’re not sending you to try hard. We’re not sending you to participate. We are sending you to win,” he said. “That’s going to look different for everyone depending on your mission, so I charge you with defining what winning looks like for the people in your organization, and I charge you with winning.
“Your success in your new assignments will be critical to our Army and our nation. I am proud of all of you, and I trust you to lead our Army in the decades to follow.”
After McConville’s remarks, 18 awards of excellence were presented recognizing the most distinguished graduates. The General George C. Marshall Award, the General Dwight D. Eisenhower Award, and the General Colin L. Powell Interagency Award are considered the most prestigious awards earned by CGSOC students.
The Marshall Award recognizes the most distinguished U.S. graduate in each CGSOC class. Created in 1960, it “recognizes scholarship and leadership, pays homage to one of America’s most honored soldiers and serves as a lasting incentive to officers attending the college,” according to the CGSC Foundation website.
The 2021 recipient of the Marshall Award is Maj. Spencer French.
French said it was humbling to receive the award.
“I got to see in the Art of War Scholars program the caliber of the CGSOC students, so to be honored as No. 1 among such an amazing cohort is really humbling, and I just feel proud to be part of this amazing institution, part of what I think is a really great cohort of officers,” French said. “There’s a feeling of innovation that’s going on in the Army these days, and you feel it here at CGSC. Just new ideas being batted around for how we can win in competition and prevail in conflict. That spirit of innovation is going around, and you feel it in those classrooms with people having conversations about how we can make the Army better.
“The other big thing that I’m struck by is the alliances with having so many phenomenal international students here,” he said. “I was privileged to serve in my staff group with a phenomenal officer from Canada (Maj. Todor Dossev) and just seeing the strength of those relationships between the United States and its allies is pretty awesome.”
French also received the Excellence in Information Warfare Writing Award and the Birrer-Brookes Award for outstanding MMAS thesis. His next assignment is with the 742nd Military Intelligence Battalion, 704th MI Brigade, at Fort Meade, Md.
The Eisenhower Award was first announced at the CGSOC International Graduate Badge Ceremony June 17 in Eisenhower Auditorium. The award recognizes the most distinguished international graduate in each CGSOC class. Established in 1969 by the Henry Leavenworth Chapter of the Association of the U.S. Army, it “honors military scholarship and is held in the highest esteem by the winners and the nations from which they come,” according to the CGSC Foundation website.
The 2021 recipient of the Eisenhower Award is British Maj. Philip Anderson. He will be attending the School of Advanced Military Studies for the 2021-22 schoolyear.
The Powell Award recognizes the most distinguished interagency student in each CGSOC class. The 2021 recipient of the Powell Award is Special Agent Michael Tom of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
“This has by far been one of the better professional schools that I’ve been to. I got really lucky with my staff group as well … which contributed to my learning and probably everyone else’s,” Tom said. “It’s a very cohesive environment, and a very accepting group, so it was very easy to collaborate and learn.
“(Civilian participants) add a different dynamic to (the CGSOC) because a lot of folks, in my class especially, don’t have interaction with a lot of interagency, so being an FBI agent here and being able to contribute that perspective … adds a different dynamic to the classroom,” he said. “I feel it opens up for the aperture for bigger and better questions, and then you get a different side, perspective, angle or view for different problem sets.”
For the full ceremony, visit the CGSC Facebook page or the Army University YouTube channel.