WIESBADEN, Germany - It was a year of persistent conflict and startling statistics on suicide.
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It was a year of guest speakers, recognitions and calls for strong leadership.
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It was another year of sacrifice.
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It was the Army's Year of the NCO.
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Looking back on 2009, noncommissioned officers throughout the U.S. Army garrisons of Wiesbaden and Baumholder shrug their shoulders at the year that carried their title.
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"When you're an NCO, every year is the Year of the NCO," said Staff Sgt. Timothy Wise with 102nd Signal Battalion in Wiesbaden.
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"It was nice to gain that recognition for being an NCO, but regardless of the title of the year, we are always NCOs."
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The NCO Corps has been "the glue that has held the organization together," said Sgt. Maj. of the Army Kenneth Preston during a stop in Wiesbaden in June 2009.
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Tracing its roots back 234 years, the NCO Corps has emerged as "the Army's small-unit leaders, trainers' and guardians," Preston wrote on the Year of the NCO website.
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For Sgt. Alexis Madrigal, NCO of the Year for the 66th Military Intelligence Brigade in Wiesbaden, being an NCO has meant always doing the right thing.
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"If your Soldiers are out doing something and getting dirty, make sure you're dirtier than they are," she said. "Make sure you're out there doing the same thing they are. Set the example."
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Being an NCO means playing "the parts of leaders, counselors and financial planners," said Command Sgt. Maj. Darieus ZaGara with the Joint Multinational Training Command during the 102nd Signal Battalion's NCO forum in July.
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For Staff Sgt. Danny Lundberg, with Company A, 2nd Battalion, 18th Infantry Regiment, in Baumholder, being a leader is everything to him.
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"Some people get their stripes and think they do not have to do as much work. But it is more," Lundberg said for an article on NCOs published in the Aug. 27 Herald Union.
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And being an NCO in 2009 also meant stepping up as a front line defense against the Army's alarming suicide rate.
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"It's up to you, it's up to us to identify the warning signs," said Gen. Carter Ham, U.S. Army Europe and 7th Army commander, during an NCO Suicide Prevention Training program held in Wiesbaden in September 2009.
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"Encourage Soldiers that they won't be treated differently, but (that they will be) treated with dignity and respect if they ask for help."
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As a recruiter Sgt. 1st Class Lawrence Spady had his best experience as an NCO, enlisting a young woman with dreams of working her way up to work with the Army's CID.
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She's well on her way, said Spady who's now stationed in Wiesbaden with the 146th Signal Company with 1st Armored Division Rear Detachment.
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"With everything that's going on in the Army, to recognize NCOs as important as we are, it expands our view and our leadership's view of what we really are," said Spady.
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On Dec. 18, 38 Iron Soldiers joined the "backbone of the U.S. Army."
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The induction ceremony for the newest members of the Army's NCO Corps was one of the last functions to commemorate the Year of the NCO.
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And the greatest challenge the new NCOs will have, said Maj. Gen. Terry Wolff, "is to leave it better than you found it."
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"Conditions will be different, but the task is always the same," said 1st AD's commanding general and the ceremony's keynote speaker. "Leave it better than you found it."

Page last updated Wed January 20th, 2010 at 07:13