USASMA AND NCO EDUCATION
“BRIDGING THE GAP”
The last of three tiers in the NCO educational system started in June 1972 when GEN Haines took advantage of approval by the Acting Chief of Staff, Bruce Palmer, to establish the Sergeants Major Academy at Ft. Bliss. Classes began in January 1973 with a pilot class of 105. Each class was six months long. The Army located the academy at Ft. Bliss where facilities became available with the closing of a Vietnamese language school on Biggs Field. It was the capstone of NCO training for war fighting as well as garrison duties.
The Sergeants Major Course expanded to nine months in 1995 and in 2009 began transforming into an educational course projected to offer college degrees in the near future. The tan “Class B” uniform gave way to the olive drab “Class B’s” only to be replaced by the BDUs in 1991 to show support for the troops in the first Iraq War. Now students wear the ACUs. Symbolically, the Army has also changed as the jeeps of 1973 have given way to the HUMVEEs of today.
Initially, officers ran USASMA when it first opened. A substantial number of them served as instructors. Change came incrementally. NCOs first took over teaching duties as faculty advisors. By 1986, NCOs were in place as commandants at all the NCO academies except USASMA. Over 20 years later the Army presented the Sergeants Major Academy with its first NCO Commandant as COL Donald E. Gentry handed over the guidon representing command to CSM Raymond F. Chandler in June 2009.
The vision or inspiration for this painting consisted of a few things; first the overall theme, “Bridging The Gap” represents the bringing together of knowledge of the Non-Commissioned Officer Corps and that of our Officers while simultaneously symbolizing the shared knowledge between military services and international students. Lastly, following the student body criteria of diversity, ethnicity and military bearing the artist created a unique painting capturing the changes from 1972 to the present.