Katie Peterson | Staff Writer
Forty-five international officers, representing 43 countries, were presented the Command and General Staff College International Graduate Badge in a ceremony June 17 in the Lewis and Clark Center’s Eisenhower Auditorium.
In 1894, Swiss Lt. Henri Le Comte became the first international officer to study alongside U.S. officers when he attended the School of Application for Cavalry and Infantry, the precursor to CGSC. Since then, international student participation has continued at Fort Leavenworth and more than 8,400 officers from 165 countries have graduated from the Command and General Staff Officer Course.
The international students kicked off the academic year with the International Flag Ceremony on Sept. 8, 2020. The badge ceremony served as the bookend for the year and precursor to the CGSOC graduation June 18 with more than 1,000 of their U.S. peers.
“Today’s badge ceremony marks another chapter in a long history of collaborative education and friendship the United States Army (CGSC) and its international students have enjoyed since 1894,” said Maj. Gen. Donn Hill, CGSC deputy commandant. “This institution has seen the world’s best and brightest leaders pass through its doors, and today you become part of that storied tradition. Throughout the years, international student participation in this college has directly contributed to the strength of our mutual alliances and to the professional development of our respective officer course.
“Many of you have served alongside the U.S. Army and our partner nations in various parts of the world or will in the future. Indeed, the bonds forged here with your international partners may one day prove vital in preventing or in resolving conflict in some battlefield we cannot currently predict,” he said. “With your selection to attend CGSOC and your demonstrative performance, you have come to realize some of your vast potential, and make no mistake, your countries will call on their investment in you in the near future. As your countries confront the challenges of the 21st century, your mental agility and adaptability honed through this institution’s educational process will prove indispensable in securing your nations’ futures.”
Hill said the badges the international graduates received are cloaked in symbolism.
“It is a sign that you embody the finest of military qualities,” Hill said. “Above all, it represents a tradition of excellence, forged by the remarkable accomplishments of your predecessors and serves as a reminder of the burden you now bear to uphold the fine legacy of distinction it represents.”
The badge ceremony began in 1964 in response to a request by international graduates for a distinctive emblem that would identify them as resident graduates of the course, said Jim Fain, International Military Student Division director, who served as the ceremony narrator.
The badge depicts the Kansas State flower, the sunflower, with 12 bright flower petals and 12 dark flower petals, symbolizing the 24 hours of the day. In the center of the badge, the words “U.S.A. Command and General Staff College” surround the Lamp of Knowledge, the symbol of the college.
Along with the presentation of the badges, 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 also announced.
The Eisenhower Award recognizes the most distinguished international graduate of each class. The 2021 recipient is British Maj. Philip Anderson.
“It’s very humbling, and it’s very nice to be recognized,” Anderson said. “It’s really a testament to all my instructors, my staff group … and my family as well who supported me all the way through it, so while it’s an individual award, it was definitely a group effort to get me to do it. I’m very thankful for that.
“It’s a fantastic achievement by the (CGSC) to hold this (schoolyear) during a pandemic, and it’s being really well run. Student safety has been very important, and it’s been a very good environment to be in,” he said. “The friends made here, both U.S. and international, that’s something I’ll take away.”
Anderson 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, a 1978 graduate, recognizes excellence in international relations while at Fort Leavenworth, and the recipient is solely selected by his or her peers. The 2021 recipient is Mexican Maj. Ahiram Rivas Valles.
“I feel very, very honored because despite the fact of COVID-19 and those challenges, we can make it through CGSC,” Rivas said. “I’m very glad that they chose me as a representative of this award because now I have a feeling that I have a tiny piece of the heart of the world with me.
“It is definitely sad that this cycle is already finished, but I think every time I look back to this award, I will be remembering every single day that I was here,” he said.
Rivas said his next assignment will be determined upon his return to Mexico.
Following the badge presentations and award announcements, the students were addressed by Chilean Lt. Col. Gonzalo Lopez, IMS chief of staff.
“We are all marked by the unprecedented impact of the global pandemic that has made its presence felt during our time here. Despite all these limitations, I believe we have all benefitted from our time together,” Lopez said. “It is hard to believe this year has passed so quickly, and I suspect it will take us many years to fully appreciate all that has transpired into our minds and lives.
“I’m confident that the friendships we made here and perspectives we have formed will follow us throughout our life, and may this life be long, healthy and peaceful,” he said. “I’ll always remember the greatest words of wisdom that we learned here: ‘Don’t worry, we are going to do something.’”
Following his remarks, Lopez and Romanian Maj. Florin Botezan presented the IMS class gift to Hill — a 25×30 flat map of the earth framed by the portraits of all 45 IMS graduates.
Because of COVID-19 restrictions, ceremony attendance was limited. To view the full ceremony, visit the CGSC Facebook page.