ARLINGTON, VA - As a way to highlight the role and accomplishments of its NCOs, the Army has designated 2009 as the "Year of the NCO."
The leadership of the Army National Guard has also embraced the yearlong celebration of the NCO corps, which has many events and initiatives planned throughout the year to showcase the role of NCOs.
"For 372 years, our noncommissioned officers have been the backbone of the Army National Guard," said Command Sgt. Maj. John D. Gipe in a letter announcing support of the Year of the NCO. "Since 9/11 though, they have particularly proven to be its very heart and soul."
Being the heart and soul of the organization is something that others have recognized about the NCO corps.
Gen. George Casey Jr., the chief of staff of the Army, expressed a similar sentiment. "As the secretary (of the Army) and I looked around the Army, it was clear to us that the noncommissioned officer is the glue that is holding this Army together at a critical time and many accomplish the near-impossible everyday."
And that glue comes as at time that finds the military in protracted overseas operations to include combat duty in Iraq and Afghanistan. After more than seven years of combat operations, many feel that the NCOs of the Army Guard are among the best in the Guard's history.
"Our ranks consist of the most talented pool of professional NCOs ever to muster," said Gipe. "Their unique depths and talents, forged in their communities, bring to the force the ability to operate, maintain, administer, manage, train, lead, fight, dominate and win on today's battlefield."
And the "Year of the NCO" comes with a special significance for the Guard with the naming of Staff Sgt. Michael Noyce-Merino of the Montana Army National Guard as the U.S. Army's NCO of the Year.
"(Staff) Sgt. Merino exemplifies the professionalism, skill and knowledge that are the hallmarks of National Guard NCOs and we are immensely proud of this great American," said Air Force Gen. Craig McKinley, chief of the National Guard Bureau.
As part of the celebration, the Army Guard has several events planned for the year to highlight the contributions of the NCO, including many events that will feature Noyce-Merino. Each month is scheduled to focus on the achievements and contributions in everything from combat operations to daily training activities.