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  SAMS Graduates Largest Class
by Steve Liewer
 
     
  FORT LEAVENWORTH, Kansas – More than 120 field-grade military officers and civilians received diplomas Thursday for completing graduate-level programs in Fort Leavenworth’s School of Advanced Military Studies (SAMS).

It was the largest class in the school’s 26-year history.
“We say not just goodbye, but thank you,” said Col. Ronald Thomas, the military chaplain who delivered the invocation. “They are ready to stand in the gap, matching courage with intellectual stamina.”

 
     
 
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    Of the 121 graduates, 105 completed the one-year Advanced Military Studies Program (AMSP) that educates students in military arts and science. Sixteen others completed the Advanced Operational Arts Studies Fellowship (AOASF).  The school’s focus is on planning and executing full-spectrum operations in coordination with other government and nongovernmental agencies.
       
 
  Army Vice Chief of Staff Peter W. Chiarelli, the guest speaker, praised the school and its retiring director, Col. Stefan Banach, for being at the forefront of the effort to remake strategic military planning for the 21st century.

“Our strategy cannot be focused on seizing terrain or destroying insurgent forces. It must be focused on winning over the population,” Chiarelli said. “I believe this represents the most important lesson of the last eight years.”

He said the graduates’ job now is to “carry the water to the masses” in the junior officer, NCO, and enlisted ranks, all of whom he said will carry a greater responsibility than ever before in the success of future operations.

“I know you will do an outstanding job. Jedi knights always do,” Chiarelli said.

Nearly all of the students are veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Currently 34 of them are scheduled to deploy to Afghanistan soon.

One of them is Maj. Matt Archambault, 35, who served a tour in Iraq as a company commander in 2004-05 and is headed to Afghanistan within a month.  He said his experience at SAMS has transformed his thinking about military strategy.

“This is the best Army school I’ve been to. It’s been as professionally rewarding as it has been personally,” Archambault said. “I feel like I’m leaving here a better officer.”

SAMS graduated its first class of 13 students in May 1984, and subsequent classes over the next 16 years averaged 48.  In 2000, the Army began expanding the program from four seminars to the current nine to more than double the size of the class.

Most of the graduates are field-grade U.S. Army officers, but this year’s list of graduates includes 16 Air Force, two Marine Corps and one Naval officer as well as four civilians from U.S. governmental agencies. Eleven of the graduates serve in foreign militaries, including Argentina, Australia, Canada, Colombia, Germany, Spain, and the United Kingdom.

“It was a steep learning curve for me because I don’t come from an Army background,” said Air Force Maj. David Gordon, 35, who will shortly be heading to Hickam Air Force Base, Hawaii, as a crisis action planner.   “It’s been a very rigorous year academically. I’ve really enjoyed the course. I think it will really help me in my new position.”

As part of the ceremony, SAMS officials announced the winners of the best monograph awards for the two graduating classes.  Col. John DeJarnette’s composition, “Toward a Nation-Building Operating Concept,” was selected as the best among the AOASF entries. Maj. Terrence Buckeye won in the AMSP category for his entry, “The Military Role in Reconciliation.”  Each received a saber provided by the CGSC-Foundation to recognize his academic accomplishment.
 
     
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Last Reviewed: May 21, 2010

 
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