FORT CAMPBELL, KY -- FEB. 27, 2009 -- Hundreds of Soldiers gathered at Wilson Theater for the Year of the Noncommissioned Officer kickoff ceremony Friday.

"I want you to know that the whole of Fort Campbell is preparing to reenergize our system to support the noncommissioned officer, the backbone of our Army," said Deputy Commanding General, 101st Airborne Division and Fort Campbell, Brig. Gen. Stephen Townsend.

With more than 200 years of service, the U.S. Army's NCO Corps has distinguished itself as the world's most accomplished group of military professionals. Since 1775, the Army has set apart its NCOs from other enlisted Soldiers by distinctive insignia of grade.

In recognition of their commitment to service and willingness to make great sacrifices on behalf of our Nation, Secretary of the Army established 2009 as "Year of the NCO."

Fort Campbell honored NCOs in the opening ceremony with a retrospective history of the NCO. Soldiers displayed the roles that NCOs continue to fill and the importance of each one.

A video played with captions from the NCO Creed over clips of NCOs in action, from air assaulting out of helicopters to leading inspections, and training Soldiers through obstacle courses.

Townsend spoke to the Soldiers about Fort Campbell's initiatives for the year. "We're going to make sure that those who are selected as noncommissioned officers of the month, of the quarter and of the year are more than just a picture on the wall at the PX," Townsend said.

Townsend noted that installation policies would be taken under review to remove limits to what NCOs can and should be able to do on post.

"Most of all, we're going to find a way to tap into your lessons learned and your vast experiences so we can better utilize your unique perspective of all of the NCOs here on Fort Campbell, our backbone they mean all so much to," Townsend said.

Guest speaker, retired command sergeant major, Charles Fitzpatrick addressed the sea of ACUs with stories of his time as an NCO.

"The bottom line was the Soldiers trusted my judgment and opinion and adopted the same opinion as their own in a very short period of time," he said.

Fitzpatrick read a letter sent to him from a former Soldier under his command as an NCO, who was commending Fitzpatrick for his positive influence in this Soldier's life during his time in the service.
"You motivated me to excel in everything the Army threw at me and in your own way, made me think I was unbeatable," Fitzpatrick read.

Fitzpatrick said that another thing he learned over his years as an NCO was that the most important leader in a normal Soldier's life was his or her first line leader, because all work assignments, and even when to eat and promotions came from that NCO.

"In the big picture the team leader and squad leader have more to do with unit training, unit espirit de corps, unit morale and retention rates than any other leader in the entire chain of command," Fitzpatrick said.

"Everything you do once you become a NCO is very important in the lives of the Soldiers you lead. I challenge each NCO to live up to the NCO Creed, lead from the front in all aspects of your job, and continue to build the legacy of the Non-Commissioned Officer Corps," Fitzpatrick said.

Throughout 2009, the Army will honor NCOs through initiatives and events that enhance awareness and public understanding of the roles and responsibilities of today's NCO, as well as accelerating the development of NCOs through education, fitness and leadership.

Page last updated Fri July 22nd, 2011 at 12:16