BAGHDAD- In keeping with a long-standing Army tradition, 21 Soldiers from I Corps\' Special Troops Battalion, Task Force Courage, were inducted into the noncommissioned officers corps Jan. 23, joining an elite group of Soldiers who are known as the backbone of the Army.

Tradition, traced back to the Army of Fredrick the Great, required Soldiers to stand watch for four nights before achieving full NCO status. On the first night, the inductees offered a gift of brandy and bread to junior Soldiers. The second night, the company's NCOs were offered beer and tobacco. Inductees offered the first sergeant a glass of wine and a piece of tobacco on a tin plate during the third night of watch.

Since General Order No. 1 prohibits alcohol in theater, Soldiers used a bit of creativity, replicating the brandy and wine with cranberry juice on nights one and three and non-alcoholic beer on night two.

"I think the history behind it is something that all Soldiers and NCOs should at least be aware of," said Sgt. Danielle Wright, a Sandwich, Ill. native, and chaplain assistant with the United States Forces-Iraq chaplain's office. "The history of the United States Soldier is part of what makes us who we are as Soldiers and noncommissioned officers today. Following in the footsteps of the Soldiers of yesterday and 100 years ago should make us just as proud as standing next to the ones we stand next to today."

The final watch was the ceremony hosted by the TF Courage command sergeant major, Command Sgt. Maj. Elmo Leichenauer.

Leichenauer thanked the crowd of senior leaders, NCOs and junior Soldiers that had packed into Camp Victory's Hope Chapel to show support for the Army's newest leaders.

During the ceremony, Leichenauer called upon the NCOs one at a time. They stood and responded with "Here, Sergeant Major". Each NCO's sponsor, a senior leader in their respective sections, told the command sergeant major a little about the Soldier before they walked under an arch topped with crossed rifles. The arch symbolized the Soldier stepping into their new role as a NCO.

After each Soldier passed under the arch, Leichenauer and Command Sgt. Maj. Janell Word, the ceremony's guest speaker, presented them with a certificate and Field Manual 7-22.7, the Army Noncommissioned Officer Guide.

"We look to you now, as Soldiers, professionals and noncommissioned officers," said Word, Provost Marshall Office command sergeant major with the 393rd Military Police Bn. Criminal Investigation Command of Bell, California. "You are a leader of Soldiers and are held to the highest of standards."

Since joining the Army, the inductees have been members of a team. They will represent the Soldiers beneath them and must always think about their needs, said Word.

"I really think if more NCOs knew the history, maybe it would be another reminder to live as an example to those Soldiers whom we lead and to follow the example of those good leaders who led us," Wright said.

Word told the Soldiers it is a historic time to be inducted into the NCO corps, serving in a combat zone, and that while it may be a difficult time to be an NCO it is a rewarding one.

"Being inducted into the NCO corps while in Iraq has definitely made (the experience) more memorable. It reminds you of why you are a Soldier and why you worked so hard to become an NCO," Wright said.

"You should be proud. Puff your chest out," Word said, "When you leave here, you should still be proud but humble yourself."

Word ended the ceremony with what she said is the most important thing to remember as a NCO, "Take care of your Soldiers. Take care of your team."

Page last updated Thu January 28th, 2010 at 06:43