WHINSEC Cadre and Student body successfully tackle difficult pandemic-related obstacles and complete 2020 -2021 CGSOC.

“When obstacles arise, you change your direction to reach your goal; you do not change your decision to get there.” –Zig Ziglar.

By Milton Mariani Rodriguez May 25, 2021

FORT BENNING, GA – On Friday, fifty-six students, were awarded diplomas for completion of the 10-month course by the Army’s Command & General Staff College.

This year student body had representatives of the countries of; USA, Colombia, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, México, Panamá, and Paraguay.

“This year’s class faced unique challenges that they were able to overcome, to successfully arrive at their goals. Our School of Professional Military Education (SPME) faculty and other extended faculty were challenged by environmental, technical, modality, and time constraints; germane to the daily live during COVID,” said Jim Llinet Sr., SPME director of Academic Affairs & Curriculum Integration.

Additionally, the students took advantage of the CGSC Master Degree program offered and 92% of the class completed the academic requirements for a Master’s degree. The college conferred 38 Master of Operational Studies; and 13 Master of Military Arts and Science.

During the ceremony, a number of awards for outstanding performance were presented.

The Honorary Graduate distinction is presented in two categories: the first is the “General Dwight D. Eisenhower” Honor Award for an international student and the second category is the “General George C. Marshall” Honor Award for a student from the United States of America. These awards are given to those students who have stood out within the concept of “INTEGRAL STUDENT” during the Command and General Staff Course. This distinction consists of the WHINSEC Saber, donated by the Military Officers Association of America and the 59th Special Forces Association. Additionally, the Peruvian Army Academic Excellence Award. The Peruvian Academic Excellence Award goes to students who rank first in the respective professional development programs. And the WHINSEC International Junta Military Award. The Junta Military Award is given in recognition of professionalism; academic quality; effort and sacrifice; spirit of personal improvement in the military field and application of the philosophy of fraternity, which governs the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation (WHINSEC).

Honduran Navy Lieutenant Commander Jonathan A. Lopez Álvarez is the top international student for the 2021 CGSOC class. Lopez, the first Honduran Navy officer to attend CGSOC, also completed a Master of Military Arts and Sciences.

The honors for the top U.S. student went to U.S. Coast Guard Lieutenant Nathan M. Borders. He also earned a Master of Operational Science from CGSC. Borders, a Department of Homeland Security representative, is the first member of the U.S. Coast Guard to attend the course.

The Birrer-Brookes Award recognizes the author of the “most outstanding thesis” for the academic year from each graduating Master of Military Art and Science degree cohort of the Command and General Staff School.

U.S. Army Major Carlos Vaca, was recognized for the most outstanding thesis within the 13 MMAS submissions and has been nominated for the Birrer-Brooker Award.

The Leadership Award, General Matthew B. Ridway, is presented to the student who has stood out among his peers with respect to leadership qualities and in turn has achieved high academic and physical performance during the course. Their selection is made by voting among the students of the course.

U.S. Army Major David Ortiz is the 2021 GEN Ridway awardee. He also completed a Master’s in Operational Studies and the Strategy Special Experience Identifier-6Z.

The Best Team member award, General John Pershing is presented to the student who has clearly and visibly demonstrated the spirit of cooperation, understanding and brotherhood. The selection is made by voting among the students of the course.

Guatemalan Army Major Evelyn Vázquez is the 2021 recipient of the Gen. Pershing distinction. She also attained a Master Military Arts & Science degree.

The Iron Major Award recognizes physical fitness excellence amongst the CGSOC student body. It is presented in two categories; male and female categories. Winners are selected based on the best time after completing a 10-event course.

U.S. Army Major Darlene Akom is the female category recipient of the Iron Major Award. She also completed a Master in Operational Studies and the Strategy Special Experience Identifier-6Z.

U.S. Army Major John Cappiello is the male category winner. He also completed a Master in Operational Studies and the Technology and Automation Staff Officer Training (TASO).

General(RET) Luis Altamirano Junqueira, former commanding general of the Ecuadorian Army was the guest speaker at the graduation.

Altamirano commented, “In the book, Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, the author talks about “Sharpening the Saw.” To be effective, we must devote the time to renewing ourselves physically, spiritually, mentally, and socially. Continuous renewal allows us to synergistically increase our ability to practice each habit. Habit 7 is focused around renewal, or taking time to “sharpen the saw.” It surrounds all of the other habits and makes each one possible by preserving and enhancing your greatest asset — yourself.”

He also talked about key moments in your military careers. Those moments that are ingrained on your memories, and will always push us to improve ourselves.

“When we commissioned and when we swore loyalty to our Nations are never forgotten. Always remember those moments, and never shy away from your mission and from regulations. Never forget before taking a decision, you must consider that above our military responsibilities is our God. Hope that the course that today comes to a conclusion for the 2020 – 2021 class, has been a sharpening the saw moment, as well as one of the memorable moments in your military life. My hope is that is becomes a defining factor so you are ready for any future challenge, future responsibility.”

The ceremony marked the last graduation ceremony for Dr. James Martin, Dean of Army University to the Army, CGSC; and particularly his relationship with WHINSEC. For almost 2 decades, he has been a coach, a mentor, and a friend to WHINSEC; and particularly to SPME and the CGSOC course. Under Martin’s tutelage, he led the initiative that resulted in the Higher Learning Commission recognizing SPME as a regional campus of the Command and General Staff College. This resulted in CGSOC graduates at WHINSEC now being eligible to receive the Fort Leavenworth CGSC Diplomas and Transcripts. This initiative also allowed CGSOC-WHINSEC students (and returning faculty/PNI CGSOC graduates) to participate in the CGSC Master’s degree program. CGSC’s Master of Military Art and Science and Master of Operational Studies would not be a reality today at WHINSEC if not for Dr. Martin.