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NEWS | Sept. 27, 2022

Virginia Guard SGM completes master's with USASMA Fellowship Program

By Sgt. 1st Class Terra C. Gatti | Virginia National Guard Public Affairs Office

In 2021, Sgt. Maj. Jon Whaley was selected for the U.S. Army Sergeant Major Academy Fellowship Program. Now, he’s partway through the program, and holds a Master of Science degree in Instructional Design, Development and Evaluation from Syracuse University’s School of Education.

“My favorite part of the program was working on projects that identified real world problems in the Army that could be addressed through education and designing some of those products,” Whaley said. “This required extensive research and significant opportunities to collaborate with peers and classmates, and that collaboration was another highlight of the program.”

Whaley first learned of the program when he attended Class 44 of the USASMA. He attended the non-resident course, but came together with his peers for two weeks at the academy at Fort Bliss, Texas. There, he met two sergeants major who were in the fellowship program at the time. Participating in the program, he felt, would provide an opportunity to expand knowledge about the National Guard with his peers from the other components.

“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 explained.
Along with Whaley, his cohort included several other National Guard sergeants major from Alaska, California, Iowa and Guam, all who were Active Guard/Reserve, or AGR, sergeants major from their respective states. He explained the options for the masters’ programs include the one he completed at Syracuse, as well as a Continuing Adult Education program from Penn State University.

With their degrees complete, Whaley said he and the rest of his cohort will spend the next two years as instructors at the USASMA for resident and non-resident courses.
“As we know, the NCO Corps is largely responsible for teaching and educating our Soldiers,” Whaley said. “With an opportunity like the fellowship program at the Sergeants Major Academy, we are afforded the opportunity to continue our own education to contribute to the development of other senior noncommissioned officers who will go back out into the force and spread their knowledge about developing leaders formed here at the academy.”

Whaley hopes the lessons he learns at the USASMA and the relationships he builds during his time there can be leveraged into helping further the careers and endeavors of  Virginia National Guard NCOs.

“I believe I can provide insight and perspective to Soldiers about some of the things that will make them successful, not just at the USASMA, but in their careers and professional education in general,” Whaley said.

Whaley has served 30 years in the Virginia National Guard and was thankful for the support he received from leaders and peers within the organization to participate in the fellowship program.

“That support reflects the investment our organization is willing to make in the continuing education of its Soldiers and the commitment it consistently shows toward broadening our force’s educational and professional horizons,” Whaley said. “In order to remain one of the best military organizations in our nation, it is vital to take our place in national level institutions, and this is one small way in which the Virginia Guard is making that commitment to the development of its Soldiers.”

For more information on the Sergeants Major Academy Fellowship Program, visit:

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