NEWS | Feb. 3, 2021

Virginia Guard SGM chosen for U.S. Army Sergeant Major Academy Fellowship Program

By A.J. Coyne JFHQ Public Affairs

RICHMOND, Virginia - A Virginia Army National Guard sergeant major has been selected for the U.S. Army Sergeant Major Academy Fellowship Program and will spend two years as an instructor at the USASMA in Fort Bliss, Texas.

“I am very humbled to have been selected,” said Command Sgt. Maj. Jon Whaley, who is currently serving as the NCOIC for Task Force Dogwood, the Virginia National Guard team supporting the state’s COVID-19 response. “I honestly thought it was a long-shot, and I greatly appreciate the support and guidance from everyone in the Virginia Army National Guard.”

“We are extremely proud of Command Sgt. Maj. Whaley's selection for the U.S. Army Sergeant Major Academy Fellowship Program,” said Command Sgt. Maj. Ronald L. Smith, the Virginia Army National Guard Command Sergeant Major. “His hard work, intelligence and leadership make him an outstanding choice for this assignment.”
Whaley, who has served in the Virginia Army National Guard for 29 years, will spend three years at Fort Bliss. He will spend the first year in a distance-learning program studying for a master’s degree from Syracuse University while working with current instructors at the academy. The next two years he will serve as an instructor for the resident and non-resident courses for the academy.

According to the USASMA website, the USASMA Fellowship Program is a merit-based scholarship program where select sergeants major compete for up to 30 scholarships per year for a master’s degree in Adult Education through Penn State University or a master’s degree in Instructional Design, Development and Evaluation from Syracuse University.

“I liked the Syracuse program because it focuses on designing and building programs of instruction, and then identifying how best to evaluate their effectiveness,” Whaley said of his selection. “To me, those goals align well with the military framework we use to educate our Soldiers.”

While he is excited for the opportunity, Whaley said his selection to the program is bittersweet.

“While I look forward to the opportunity to help educate senior NCOs, the fellowship will mean time spent away from my unit, and the organization that has been a central part of my life for almost three decades,” he said. “My hope is that, in some small way, I can affect the development of sergeants major who will serve throughout the force and then I very much look forward to coming back to the Virginia Guard to share my experiences at the academy.”

Whaley attended Class 44 of the USASMA. Although it was a non-resident course, it culminated with two weeks at the academy at Fort Bliss in May 2019, which is when he was introduced to the fellowship program.

“There were two active component sergeants major who had been selected for the fellowship program there observing our class,” he explained. “At that time, we were made aware of the program and encouraged to apply if the cadre at the academy thought we had aptitude for teaching there.”

Having gone through the academy himself, he saw an opportunity for Army National Guard sergeants major to broaden other components’ understanding of the capabilities and strengths of the National Guard.

“I observed some fundamental knowledge gaps and misunderstandings about the Guard, and hoped I could be an ambassador for the Guard and help to make the experience better for reserve component sergeants major in the course, and also better inform active component sergeants major about the Guard,” Whaley said. “If other components have not worked closely with Guard units yet, it is probably just a matter of time until they do. I also want to communicate to students in the academy some of the lessons I've learned and things I wish someone had told me while going through the course.”

While he is looking forward to sharing his knowledge, he will continue to learn and increase his own knowledge.

“I hope to gain a better understanding from the ‘inside’ of how our top levels of NCOES are taught,” Whaley said. “I also hope to refine my skills as an educator. Being an NCO is very much about teaching, and I hope the academy experience will help me refine my teaching abilities, and provide me with techniques and procedures I can bring back to Virginia; hopefully making our team even stronger.”