By Laura Almaraz
International students from the U.S. Army Sergeants Major Academy visited White Sands Missile Range and toured Trinity Site June 13.
The students were a group of 38 international non-commissioned officers from 28 partnered nations attending the 64th Sergeants Major Course at Fort Bliss, Texas. The course is their next step towards becoming sergeant’s majors.
“The intent was to provide them background information on WSMR’s strategic mission, as well as the capabilities and capacity of the range facilities. When I attended the academy, the exposure and information provided on WSMR was limited and revolved around missile testing, only. However, those of us who live and work here know – WSMR does more than test missiles and that’s the point I wanted to reside with them,” said WSMR Command Sergeant Major Sgt. Maj. Jimmy Sellers, a graduate of the USASMA Class of 1956.
International students learned about the mission of the installation during their visit to the WSMR museum. Then, they toured the McDonald ranch house, where the first atomic bomb was assembled, and Trinity Site, where the first atomic bomb was tested in 1945.
“It was (an) amazing experience (and a) unique opportunity to see (a) historical event for the society and the world,” said Master Sgt. Marjan Kirovski, of Macedonia, about his visit to Trinity Site.
During their stay at Fort Bliss, the students visited other places in Southern New Mexico including Ruidoso, Alamogordo, and the White Sands National Monument. They also visited cities in Texas, including Austin, Houston, and San Antonio.
“We know America from the movies. Now we see the real life,” said Master Sgt. Filip Petricusic, of the Croatian Army.
He said he has also learned about the Mexican culture due to the strong influence in the area.
Some of the Soldiers brought their families and have been staying at Fort Bliss for the duration of the course. The international students take part in a 10-week pre-course prior to the 10-month Sergeants Major Course and must be at least 80 percent proficient in English. They were integrated into a class of 526 students in total with national students.
“I wanted to congratulate them on their successful completion of the academy,” said Sellers, who welcomed the group when they arrived at WSMR. “The academy has recently undergone a dramatic overhaul of courseware in efforts to enhance the quality of NCOs who are now expected to operate effectively in battalion, brigade and division level Sergeants Major positions.”
Sellers encouraged the group to pursue additional leadership and to take back what they learned to their parent countries. He spoke about the importance of SHARP, resiliency, building partnerships, and leader development.