Graduating USASMA students leave lasting legacy
Sgt. Maj. Terry Anderson, Class 58 Public Affairs | Fort Bliss Monitor | 22 May 2008
BIGGS ARMY AIRFIELD – Six hundred forty-two graduates of the U.S. Army Sergeants Major Academy’s Class 58 will walk across the stage at the Abraham Chavez Theater in downtown El Paso today, leaving in their wake many people and organizations who benefited from their generosity.
USASMA students gave almost four years’ worth of volunteer hours during the past nine months, working more than 34,000 hours with organizations in the border region and on post, using a variety of skills and talents to give back to the El Paso and Fort Bliss communities.
Senior noncommissioned officers from the U.S. and 39 international countries arrived at USASMA in August and formed the 52nd Infantry Division. Sgt. Maj. Scott Dooley, 52nd Inf. Div. commander and Class 58 student, said it is hard to put Class 58’s accomplishments into words.
“We built six houses for Habitat for Humanity, raised $6,000 for a Family who lost their three children in a tragic car accident, donated 240 Christmas gifts for needy Families, cleaned up Dyer Street and laid wreaths at the Fort Bliss National Cemetery,” Dooley said. “I could go on and on. It was truly an honor for me to be a part of the mighty Class 58.”
USASMA students also broke new ground during the school year. Sgt. Maj. Todd Tracy and his committee organized the first Big Brothers/Big Sisters of El Paso Golf Tournament at Underwood Golf Complex, raising $9,956.79 for the organization.
“That was by far the largest single donation by any one organization to Big Brothers/Big Sisters of El Paso,” said Beth Senger, the program’s director.
The students of Class 58 volunteered much of their personal time while completing the challenging capstone course for the Army’s Noncommissioned Officer Education System. Students also earned more than 300 associate’s, bachelor’s and master’s degrees during their nine months at the academy.
Another major recipient of the students’ generosity was Habitat for Humanity. USASMA students volunteered more than 4,700 hours to build six homes for needy Families in El Paso.
“We helped build a home for a Family who lost their home in the 2006 floods, and they were living in a garage,” said Sgt. Maj. Rob Stanley, Habitat for Humanity committee chairman. “It was very satisfying to meet the needs of these deserving Families.”
Several international USASMA students also gave back to the El Paso community. An international student from Holland, Warrant Officer Patrick Slagers, volunteered as a soccer coach during the fall and this spring seasons, passing on his years of experience to the 7- and 8-year-olds on his team. In return, Slagers also got to spend some quality time with his son Pim, 8, and daughters Flora, 6, and Babs, 4. Other international students assisted in the Dyer Street cleanup, raised funds for motorized wheelchairs and worked with the Girl Scouts.
USASMA spouses also got into the act, recruiting more than 250 entrants to take part in Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure, which benefited breast cancer research. The large number of participants earned USASMA the Race for the Cure traveling trophy, beating William Beaumont Army Medical Center for the most racers, and helping Race for the Cure raise more than $500,000. Several USASMA spouses also completed the Spouse Leadership Development Course and attended the Spouse Leadership Seminar.
“Both courses were very informative and invaluable to all of us,” said Alexia Russey, wife of Class 58 graduate Sgt. Maj. Ira Russey. “The courses helped us prepare to take a more active leadership role as a senior spouse. I will definitely use what I learned at our next unit in Germany.”
Other organizations that benefited from the USASMA students’ and spouses’ time and skills included the Girl Scouts, Boy Scouts, Wounded Warriors, Delta Academy, Milam Elementary School, local high schools and the El Paso Zoo. Students of Class 58 also restored trails in Franklin Mountains State Park and partnered with UTEP to build handicap ramps for needy Families. Partnerships with the Veterans of Foreign Wars, the American Legion and the Association of the U.S. Army also enabled Class 58 to give back to the community and veterans of past wars.
“We had nine months to take advantage of the little things, like walking our kids to school, eating breakfast with our Families, and focusing on personal improvement, while completing our coursework at the academy,” Dooley said. “(USASMA) has been a memorable experience, and we’re all anxious to get back to the operational Army, lead Soldiers, and make sure their Family members are taken care of.”