FORT MEADE Md -- The Comprehensive Soldier and Family Fitness program takes a holistic approach to fitness, emphasizing the five dimensions of strength: physical, emotional, social, spiritual, and family. A recent prayer breakfast at First Army Division East focused on recognizing the role of noncommissioned officers, their role as shepherds of Soldiers, and showing how a deep-seated faith can increase their spiritual resilience.

"We wanted to do a prayer breakfast focused on our Noncommissioned Officer Corps," explained Chaplain (Lt. Col) Harry Huey, First Army Division East Chaplain. "That's why we focused on our NCOs as spiritual leaders and the role they play. What makes our American Army so magnificent is our NCO corps."

The Army defines spiritual resilience as the purpose, core values, beliefs, identity, and life vision
which defines the essence of a person, enables them to build inner strength and an ethical foundation, and helps increase their resilience when faced with adversity. Huey linked their resilience with the NCO creed.

"One of the lines in the NCO Creed, the line that means the most to me, is 'I know my soldiers and I will always place their needs above my own.' That's an incredible line," Huey told the more than 30 Soldiers, Civilians and Family Members gathered September 26 at the Post Chapel.

Huey used the example of Sgt. Alfredo "Freddy" Gonzales, who was killed in Vietnam, to illustrate both the line from the NCO Creed and resilience. The Army defines resilience as the mental, physical, emotional, and behavioral ability to face and cope with adversity, adapt to change, recover, learn and grow from setbacks.

Freddy Gonzales enlisted in 1965 right out of high school as an infantry man and fought his first tour in Vietnam in 1966-77. While home on leave, he received a letter from a buddy telling him about an ambush of a sister platoon in his old company that was wiped out almost to a man.

"At that point of time Freddy made up his mind that he was returning to Vietnam," Huey said. "Freddy said, 'If I had been there, this wouldn't have happened. I would have taken care of those guys.'"

Several months later, back in Vietnam, he was severely wounded but refused to leave his men. He was killed in action a short time later when his unit became involved in firefight involving RPGs.

"He refused to allow his men to take the shots he was taking." Huey emphasized. "He had them hunker down behind cover, and he moved from window-to-window-to-window, taking shots. He died instead of his men."

For his actions, Gonzales, who was 21 when he died, was awarded the Medal of Honor. Huey explained that he chose Gonzales, a Marine, as his example to emphasize that, "an NCO is an NCO -- regardless of their branch of service."

Forty years later, a then-young riflemen in his platoon now in his mid-60s wrote, 'He was a hero to us all, and he took care of us young guys when we got in country.'

"Think about the extraordinariness of that statement," Huey said. "Forty years later, an old man in his 60's, when he thought back to Freddy Gonzales, he thought not only of his heroism, his refusal to leave the battlefield, his refusal to give up the fight even though he was severely wounded, but also of how he took care of the young guys when we got in country. He was absolutely committed to knowing his Soldiers and always placing their needs above his own."

During the prayer breakfast, Huey said he would argue that the imagery that undergirds the phrase in the NCO Creed is that of a good shepherd.

"NCO's are called to be shepherds of their Soldiers," Huey said. "And they do it well. NCOs are called to know their Soldiers, their personalities, thoughts, hopes, even their failures and to be committed to them anyway."

"NCOs are called to lead in a sacrificial way, to give up their prerogatives and serve your Soldiers by taking care of them," Huey continued. "Over the years, I have seen so many times, in the middle of the night, the squad leader, platoon sergeant, the first sergeant, getting Soldiers… out of trouble, out of places they don't need to be, helping them. That's what being a NCO is all about. And that's absolutely inspiring.

"This (being an NCO) is an exhausting calling," Huey said. "Over the years, I've often wondered how NCOs do it, day in and day out. Constantly giving of themselves, taking care of their Soldiers."

Constantly placing their Soldier's needs above their own can be draining, Huey acknowledged. He said the good news is that NCOs can rely on their spiritual resilience to renew and support them.

"I believe that it's important for NCOs to find a source of spiritual resilience in a personal relationship with God," Huey said.

Master Sgt. Michelle D. Norvell, First Army Division East's Chief Paralegal NCO, agreed.

"I feel that being spiritually resilient makes my job as a senior NCO more fulfilling," she explained. "If you place your faith and belief in a higher being or state of life, then everything else will fall into place. Nothing is easy, and there are some things that you have to work hard at, but that makes the reward so much more worthwhile."

Norvell not only enjoyed the resilience event, she participated.

"By participating, I hope to show Soldiers that we're all more than just our job; we are individuals," she explained. "Participating in events that give us motivation and satisfaction helps us build that resilience we can draw on when times get tough."