Just weeks after graduating from the Sergeants Major Academy Fellowship Program, all 19 noncommissioned officers from the program are already back in the classroom.

This time, however, armed with master’s degrees in adult education from Pennsylvania State University, they’re in the front of the class as instructors.

"The quality of education at [the academy] will improve because of us attending such a quality school and bringing it forward to the academy," said Sgt. Maj. Manuel Atencio, one of the graduates. "It’s a great opportunity to train, coach and mentor the future sergeants major we’re going to have. If we want a quality force, we have to have the best instructors."

The Sergeants Major Academy Fellowship Program is a merit-based program that allows qualified sergeants major to compete for scholarships to earn a master’s degree in adult education through Penn State.

The program offers up to 20 scholarships a year. Each scholarship is worth $27,900.

Successful applicants will complete the one-year program while stationed at the Sergeants Major Academy at Fort Bliss, Texas. They will then spend three years as instructors at the academy.

The fellowship program will better prepare soon-to-be instructors at the academy, and it is part of the Army’s overall commitment to improving its education courses.

As the program matures, the goal is to eventually replace the instructors at the Sergeants Major Academy with fellowship graduates.

The first group of fellows graduated Aug. 22 with an average grade-point average of 3.88 out of 4.0, said Command Sgt. Maj. Dennis Defreese, commandant of the Sergeants Major Academy.

The second class is already underway.


Graduates of the Sergeants Major Academy Fellowship Program will share their knowledge by becoming instructors at the Sergeants Major Academy. Applications for the next class of students are being accepted through Oct. 30.
Photo Credit: Army

Not only will fellows be teaching the Sergeants Major Course, they also will be tapped to help develop curriculum and design coursework for other NCO education courses, Defreese said.

The fellows are a "uniquely educated and trained group that can definitely benefit the Army in multiple ways," he said.

Sgt. Maj. Feliece Murrell said the fellowship program gave her "a great perspective" for her follow-on assignment as an instructor for the Sergeants Major Course.

"It was a very rigorous course, it required a lot of critical thinking, a lot of reading, a lot of writing," she said. "But we could really see the improvement in our learning strategies and our writing, and it’s something we can transfer to the students here at the Sergeants Major Academy."

Both Atencio and Murrell said they would recommend the fellowship program to others.

"It’s personally beneficial for us all, [and] it’s a quality education that they will have for the rest of their lives," Murrell said. "But most importantly, it’s the transfer of learning that we will have once we become instructors here at the academy."


The Sergeants Major Academy is already seeking applicants for the third iteration of the fellowship program, which will begin in summer 2017.

Sergeants major from all components who have completed the Sergeants Major Course can apply. Applicants must have a bachelor’s degree with a GPA of 3.0 or higher from a regionally accredited university. They also must be able to pass the Army Physical Fitness Test and be U.S. citizens.

Applicants must include:

  • A completed Department of the Army Form 4187 (Personnel Action).
  • Their most recent APFT score card.
  • Their DA Form 1059 showing that they’ve completed the Sergeants Major Course.
  • A statement of purpose addressed to the Sergeants Major Academy commandant outlining why they are applying for the fellowship program.
  • At least two but no more than three letters of recommendation. One letter must be from the soldier’s chain of command. Another must be from the first nominative command sergeant major in the soldier’s chain of command.

Applications must be received by Oct. 30.

The selection panel will convene Nov. 15 at Human Resources Command. The list of finalists will be presented to the commandant of the Sergeants Major Academy, in this case Defreese, for final selection.

Successful applicants will receive notification letters sometime in January.

Full details on how to apply can be found in

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