The first decentralized Basic Leader Course in U.S. Army history exceeded expectations and allowed 43 future non-commissioned officers (NCO) to move one step closer to promotion following a graduation ceremony at the Camp Henry theater, March 31.
“I told you all on day one you were making history, and here we are,” said the 19th Expeditionary Sustainment Command’s Senior Enlisted Advisor Command Sgt. Maj. Laderek Green. “From this moment forward, every other BLC iteration across the Army will use this class and what you’ve done as the benchmark for success.”
As the COVID-19 environment evolved, U.S. Army leaders had to make difficult decisions to reinforce the need to keep health and safety as the top priority. Unfortunately, one of the decisions included travel restrictions impacting Soldiers on the Korean Peninsula.
Prior to the COVID-19 outbreak, all BLC students attended the Eighth Army’s Wightman NCO Academy at Camp Humphreys.
Green and other senior enlisted leaders said they were relieved that the 19th ESC was afforded the opportunity to allow Area IV Soldiers the chance to complete their Professional Military Education requirements through a virtual teleconference course hosted by Eighth Army.
Onsite, students received support from senior NCOs who all possessed the Additional Skill Identifier for instructor.
“Being an alternate instructor ignited a spark in me and made me realize that this is why I love the Army,” said Sgt. 1st Class Honeymae Weaver. “I had so much fun being part of each Soldier’s development, and watching them grow from day zero motivated me.”
The students in Daegu joined those at Camp Humphreys, and in Japan to collectively form Class 05-20. Leaders in Area IV were well aware that all eyes were on them, and they did not disappoint.
“Numbers don’t lie,” said Sgt. Maj. Fred Mendoza, the BLC class senior enlisted advisor for Area IV. “We had the top four Soldiers throughout this process. You set the bar!”
One of the individuals who set the standard academically was Spc. John Long.
“Knowing the importance of having a strong foundation as we progress through our military career was one of the top lessons I learned from this class,” said Long. The petroleum supply specialist who currently serves as the 19th ESC commanding general’s driver, bested the class with a 3.97 GPA to earn distinguished honor graduate.
Long was followed closely by Spc. Lamont Shavers, a mass communications specialist assigned the American Forces Network–Daegu, who narrowly missed the top spot and finished .05 points behind Long to earn honor graduate.
“The key component for me is that no matter what’s going on, the Army is still going to train its leaders,” said Shavers.
Cpl. Daniel Huggard from 188th Military Police Company, 94th Military Police Battalion and Spc. Alexus Lawson, 25th Transportation Company, 498th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion earned physical fitness recognition as the top male and female Iron Soldiers.
Mendoza informed the graduates that senior Army leaders were made aware of their efforts and between now and July, all BLC courses will be distance learning.
“You started this, and you should be proud,” said Mendoza. “Your charge is to take what you’ve learned here, go back to your units, and ask yourself, ‘what can I do to make my organization better?’”