Welcome to the NCO Corps
April 8, 2013
BAGRAM AIR FIELD, Afghanistan - It was not something you see regularly, but a simple and meaningful ceremony took place in the Grady dining facility, as 50 noncommissioned officers from Task Force Shadow, 6th Battalion, 101st Combat Aviation Brigade, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), were officially welcomed into the ranks of the NCO Corps.
For many soldiers, their entrance into the NCO ranks consists of a ceremony with a few words, some handshakes and their rank being 'pinned on'. It usually takes no more than a few minutes. This took approximately one hour.
This simple ceremony consisted of an archway reading 'NCOs Lead the Way' across the top and pillars emblazoned with images of sergeants stripes, from sergeant to command sergeant major on the sides, the American flag on one side and the battalion colors on the other, a podium and chairs for the inductees, speakers and other Soldiers from the battalion.
What made it meaningful was what was said.
"The tradition of the passing of a Soldier to a NCO can be traced to the army of Fredrick the Great. [At that time] before one could be recognized in the full status of the NCO, he was required to stand four watches ... one every four days," said Staff Sgt. Ryan Monroe, a CH47 helicopter repairer, 6th Bn., 101st CAB, 101st Abn. Div., "Today we celebrate this rite of passage as the newly promoted join the ranks of the professional NCO corps and emphasize and build on the pride we all share as members of an elite corps."
It was emphasized to the new sergeants, that being a NCO was much more than a new title and a bigger paycheck.
"Since the earliest days of our army, the NCO has been recognized as one who instills discipline and order within a unit. Before a young leader was promoted, he or she was required to possess the attributes and characteristics of leadership," said Monroe, the master of ceremonies for the proceedings, "Soldiers of that time wanted no greater glory than to defend their country and their way of life against all enemies, foreign and domestic; be proficient in such rudimentary tasks, such as saddling and riding a horse, weapons drills, compass tests, fundamental drill and ceremonies and the daily care of Soldiers in his or her ranks."
While the majority of today's Soldiers have traded their horses for armored chariots made of steel, the basic responsibilities - taking care of Soldiers and making sure they are proficient in their skills - remains the same.
"There's no tougher job in our army than that of a sergeant," said Command Sgt. Maj. Alonzo Smith, senior enlisted advisor, Combined Joint Task Force - 101, 101st Abn. Div., "You have to keep faith in yourself and your abilities, never short change yourself, regardless of what capacity in which you serve."
Duty, character, commitment, competence, discipline and professionalism are some of the necessary traits, the speakers said a NCO must embody.
Throughout it all, the 50 inductees sat and listened, never seeming bored or restless, and absorbed the knowledge that was being shared.
Then, by units, the inductees rose and filed to the right as each of their senior NCO's stood up and publically announced that they recommend that their Soldiers be inducted into the NCO corps.
With their fellow NCO's watching, each of the inductees crossed under the archway as their name was called. Smith handed each inductee a folder containing the Oath of Induction, the Creed of the NCO and the NCO Guide and then he, Command Sgt. Maj. Harold Plattenberg, senior enlisted advisor, 101st CAB and Command Sgt. Maj. Galu Satele, senior enlisted advisor, Task Force Shadow, shook each sergeants' hand.
"It's very important that units hold these NCO induction ceremonies," said Smith, "It sets the conditions for the thought process of a NCO ... on how he or she should carry themselves ... build on their character, their commitment and their service; versus just having a formation and having someone put some rank on them. You're not just setting the conditions [of being a NCO]; you're showing them what right looks like. It's not a small step ... going to the ranks of the NCO."
Smith wasn't alone in stressing the importance of the NCO Induction Ceremony.
"It's about the heritage and traditions of the NCO Corps," said Sgt. 1st Class Anthony Adkison, platoon sergeant, D Company, 6th Bn., 101st CAB, " We take the newly promoted sergeants and bring them into the ranks and make them part of the corps. We let them celebrate. We tell them their duties, charge them with their creed and let them step over into the ranks of the NCO."
It is the sense of tradition that is one of the pillars of the NCO Corps.
"You never have enough time to sit back and honor those who've come before you and where you're stepping into. The tradition is there. The tradition is for them and to honor those who came before them," said Adkison, a native of Middleburg, Fla., "One day these NCO's are not going be in the Army and the junior Soldiers are going to have to take charge; and to take charge they are going to have to know where they are going. If they can see that ... see that induction [ceremony], the pride and the professionalism in becoming a NCO, they take more ownership of it."
This small simple ceremony had the desired effect.
"It's not every day you get to be a part of a NCO Induction [Ceremony], I've been to one," said Sgt. Charmarletta Mapp, who serves as a supply sgt., D company, 6th Bn., 101st CAB, "To actually be a part of a NCO Induction [Ceremony] ... it felt wonderful."
And their pride in being part of the NCO corps was evident.
"I am now a NCO, I have earned the respect of my peers, my seniors and my subordinates," said Sgt. Steven Easter, a native of Greensboro, N.C., who serves as an aircraft structural repairer, D company, 6th Bn., 101st CAB, " It gives me the opportunity to make things happen for my soldiers, when given the opportunity. It feels good to make strides in my career; to have the capability to train soldiers to one day fill my shoes."
Nor were they taking their duties lightly.
"Being a NCO means not just putting on the stripes ... it's going the extra mile that some people just won't go," said Mapp, a native of Norfolk, Va., "It means getting up at 4 a.m. with Soldiers, when [another Soldier] won't get up at 4 a.m., with their battle buddy, ... to go do p.t. and make sure they do the right thing."
It is exactly the sense of history, tradition and pride in being a NCO, training and taking care of soldiers that the NCO Induction Ceremony seeks to reinforce.
"Recognizing these NCO's, in this forum, officially bringing them within the ranks of the NCO, setting the conditions; what it means to be a NCO," said Smith, "I guarantee, what happened here today will influence these NCOs' thought process, decision making process ... their morals and values throughout their military career and carry over into their normal everyday life."