A former Army chief of staff has just been named the service's very first honorary sergeant major of the Army.

Retired Gen. Gordon Sullivan was honored this week by Sergeant Major of the Army Dan Dailey and five of his predecessors at Fort Bliss, Texas. The ceremony took place Tuesday during the first International Training and Leader Development Symposium, which brought together American noncommissioned officers and senior enlisted leaders from about 55 countries.

Sullivan served as the Army's top general from 1991 to 1995. Since 1998, he has been the president of the Association of the United States Army, advocating for soldiers and the Army.

"I'm kind of speechless, to tell you the truth," Sullivan said about the award, according to the NCO Journal. "A sergeant major of the United States Army? Are you kidding me? I wasn't always a four-star, and some of the best [mentors] I ever had were noncommissioned officers in the United States Army in some really bad places."

Pfc. Wesley Adams, Spc. Michael Adams, Spc. Grant Vonmoss, and Sgt. 1st Class Marc Westenbarger, an armor tank crew from C Company, 1st Battalion, 77th Armor Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division, pose for a photograph with (ret.) Gen. Gordon R. Sullivan, the 32nd Chief of Staff, during the inaugural Sullivan Cup precision tank gunnery competition May 10 held at Fort Benning, Ga. The competition, named after the 36-year armor veteran, gathered 15 of the Army's top tank crews for a four-day tank competition that included tank and weapon maintenance, simulators, and live-fire engagements.
Pfc. Wesley Adams, Spc. Michael Adams, Spc. Grant Vonmoss, and Sgt. 1st Class Marc Westenbarger, an armor tank crew from C Company, 1st Battalion, 77th Armor Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division, pose for a photograph with (ret.) Gen. Gordon R. Sullivan, the 32nd Chief of Staff, during the inaugural Sullivan Cup precision tank gunnery competition May 10 held at Fort Benning, Ga. The competition, named after the 36-year armor veteran, gathered 15 of the Army's top tank crews for a four-day tank competition that included tank and weapon maintenance, simulators, and live-fire engagements.

Retired Gen. Gordon R. Sullivan, the 32nd Chief of Staff, has been honored for his long history of supporting NCOs.

Photo Credit: Sgt. Brandon Bednarek/Army

Sullivan's selection, which had been announced during the AUSA annual meeting in October but hadn't been formally recognized until this week, was a no-brainer and a unanimous decision, Dailey said.

Sullivan is "a great mentor, a great leader and a great soldier," Dailey said, according to NCO Journal.

In addition, Sullivan "has spent nearly four decades in service to the Army and has always gone above and beyond to advance the NCO corps," Dailey said in an e-mailed statement to Army Times.

The honorary SMA title was born when Dailey wanted to honor an individual who had demonstrated lifelong support and commitment to the NCO corps, the Army, soldiers and their families, according to information from Dailey's office.

The honorary title will be bestowed once a year and only with the approval of three acting or former SMAs.

U.S. Army Ret. Gen. Gordon R. Sullivan hugs Sgt. Maj. of the Army Daniel A. Dailey after being inducted as an honorary sergeant major during the 2016 International Training and Leader Development Symposium at Fort Bliss, TX on April 12, 2016. Sullivan has dedicated more than 61 years of service to the United States Army and currently serves as the president and chief executive officer of the Association of the U.S. Army. (Army photo by Sgt. Jessica R. Littlejohn/ 24th Press Camp Headquarters)
U.S. Army Ret. Gen. Gordon R. Sullivan hugs Sgt. Maj. of the Army Daniel A. Dailey after being inducted as an honorary sergeant major during the 2016 International Training and Leader Development Symposium at Fort Bliss, TX on April 12, 2016. Sullivan has dedicated more than 61 years of service to the United States Army and currently serves as the president and chief executive officer of the Association of the U.S. Army. (Army photo by Sgt. Jessica R. Littlejohn/ 24th Press Camp Headquarters)

Retired Gen. Gordon Sullivan hugs Sergeant Major of the Army Dan Dailey after being inducted as an honorary sergeant major during the 2016 International Training and Leader Development Symposium at Fort Bliss, TX on April 12.

Photo Credit: Sgt. Jessica Littlejohn/Army

"Not only is it important to recognize those who support and advance the [NCO] corps, I hope to bring awareness to the power of a professional NCO corps in the success of an Army and, in essence, of a nation," Dailey said.

As Army chief of staff, Sullivan's contributions to the NCO education system include overseeing the establishment of the Battle Staff NCO Course in 1991 and taking the Sergeants Major Course from six months to nine months, according to NCO Journal.

The ceremony honoring Sullivan was just one of many events that took place during the International Training and Leader Development Symposium, which was born out of a conversation between Dailey and his senior enlisted counterparts from New Zealand, Australia and Canada.

The goal is to bring together an international coalition of senior enlisted partners at least once a year and build upon those relationships.

"This was the largest gathering of senior enlisted NCOs in the world," Dailey said in his statement to Army Times. "Officers collaborate regularly, but we had never done it."

More than 150 sergeants major from the U.S. Army and around the world attended the symposium, which ran April 11-14 at and around Fort Bliss. The group included the senior enlisted soldiers for the Army Reserve and Army National Guard, sergeants major from almost every combatant command and the 54 states and territories, two senior enlisted advisers to the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and five former sergeants major of the Army.

"The experience and knowledge being shared was unmatched," Dailey said. "The true benefit of the symposium was the collaboration and sharing of knowledge between nations from around the world. It was just amazing to see the most senior enlisted soldiers from every corner of the globe working out problems like how to develop or strengthen the training and education of their enlisted force and how to legitimize and demonstrate the worth of the NCO corps."

Army Vice Chief of Staff Gen. Dan Allyn spoke during the conference,

"It's an incredible honor to have 55 countries joining us here today," Allyn said during his speech, according to NCO Journal. "As I have served around the globe, and particularly in combat environments over this last 20 years, it has been our teammates, our partners and our allies that have stuck with us through some pretty tough times. Their nations have signed on and committed with us."

Dailey echoed Allyn's thoughts in his e-mailed statement to Army Times.

"With this event we are building a world-class team of coalition partners ready to work together to tackle whatever this complex and dangerous world has in store for us," Dailey said. "We don't fight by ourselves anymore. In fact, we haven't since the Civil War. We have to rely on our partners to deter, shape and win together."