Military leaders of the future were recognized Wednesday as 62 soldiers graduated from the yearlong Command and General Staff Officer Course at the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation at Fort Benning.
The course is designed to educate intermediate level Army and partner nation officers to be prepared to operate in joint, interagency and multinational environments as field grade commanders and staff officers. Forty-five American students, which made up 72 percent of the class, joined students from Canada, Colombia, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, Guatemala, El Salvador, Mexico and Panama.
U.S. Army Maj. Gen. Simeon G. Trombitas, a senior defense official/defense attache at the U.S. Embassy in Mexico, was guest speaker at the event in Marshall Auditorium at McGinnis-Wickam Hall. He reminded the men and women to remember the graduates who may meet again in training or on a battlefield.
"You are the strategic leaders of tomorrow," Trombitas said.
At least five of the students completed the requirements for a master's degree by doing additional work while studying at the institute.
Maj. Alissa McKaig, a UH60 helicopter pilot at Fort Rucker, Ala., and Maj. Jonathan Bissell, a foreign area officer in Latin America, both earned higher degrees while studying at the institute. McKaig realizes the role the course plays in helping officers become leaders.
"The importance of the course here is working together as a team and working together with our partner nations," McKaig said minutes after the graduation. "Moving on to be staff officers, we are going to have to work with our partners or partner nations who are going to be the leaders of their nation in the future. It's important to establish and maintain those relationships."
Bissell said taking the course elevates his military senses to the next level to work with the Department of State and foreign nations as well.
It also teaches contingency operations and planning in Latin American countries but gives a footprint for operations around the world.
Bissell said he will remember reading, writing and planning as three things to help him teach soldiers in his staff.
"The actions I take to plan properly will effectively teach soldiers in my staff," he said.
A plan of action is imperative with reaction to incidents much quicker than they were in years past.
"Having a global contingency plan to deal with a myriad of contingencies that might come up throughout the world is imperative for us," Bissell said. "Being able to take those plans and transition them into operational plans quickly with our staff probably is the biggest issue I see."
The Command and General Staff Officer Course is the longest at the institute, which is responsible for training eligible military, law enforcement and civilian personnel from the Western Hemisphere. The institute is expected to train about 1,575 students this fiscal year.