Leavenworth Indonesia's president, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, has been honored at Fort Leavenworth, becoming the first sitting head of state inducted into the International Hall of Fame at the Command and General Staff College.
Besides providing advance schooling for American military leaders, the college brings in a contingent of officers from foreign countries for schooling every year. As a major in the Indonesian army, Yudhoyono spent a year studying at the U.S. Army post in northeast Kansas, graduating in 1991.
At Monday's ceremony, Yudhoyono praised the rigorous training at the college for "making me a better leader," and said he cherished the friendship he made with American and international officers.
"Each one of us would say this is the best year of my life," he said.
The president called to mind personal friendships he made during his stay in Kansas with area families that served as sponsors under the international program.
"He was the very same gracious person that I remember from 1991, very sincere and not at all ostentatious," said one of them, Dave Winans. Although Winans had lost touch over the years, he said he had followed Yudhoyono's career through news accounts.
Yudhoyono, who had an entourage of Cabinet members and reporters with him on his trip to the United States, also received an honorary doctorate from Webster University in St. Louis.
Yudhoyno, whose nation was hardest hit among those devastated by the tsunami that killed or left missing an estimated 230,000 people last December, expressed condolences to victims of Hurricane Katrina that battered the Gulf Coast of the United States.
Yudhoyono, who retired from military service in 2000, had been referred to by the Indonesian media as "the thinking general" because of his extensive education.
He later became minister of security and political affairs, overseeing the arrest of terrorists connected to the 2002 Bali nightclub bombing.