WASHINGTON (Army News Service, Oct. 21, 2013) -- Vice Chief of Staff of the Army Gen. John F. Campbell says non-commissioned officers remain the backbone of the force, and are especially critical as the Army downsizes and the world becomes more dangerous.

The Army will have to make some "very tough decisions" as it downsizes, Campbell told non-commissioned officers at the Sergeant Major of the Army Recognition Luncheon during the Association of the United States Army Annual Meeting and Exposition, Oct. 21.

Non-commissioned leaders, however, need to continue their focus on training their Soldiers and expanding the Army's professionalism to preserve the nation's trust and prepare for the next war, he said.

"In order to remain the backbone of our Army, a non-commissioned officer must be flexible, agile, adaptive and able to think quickly," he said. "We're seeing this more and more every single day."

Another critical aspect, he said, is for non-commissioned officers to learn, adopt and understand all the elements of the Ready and Resilient Campaign.

"The purpose of this campaign is to establish an enduring cultural change that integrates resilience in how we build, how we train, how we strengthen, how we maintain fitness, individual performance and unit readiness," he said.

The Army must overcome the stigma associated with seeking help for behavioral health, he said.

Another area of concern, he said, is sexual assault and sexual harassment, which must be treated like an "insider threat."

"We cannot tolerate that in our force," he said.

Campbell said he wanted non-commissioned officers not to worry about the budget crisis and political deadlock in Washington -- he said that is his job -- and for them to instead keep their focus on their Soldiers.

Campbell paid tribute to wounded warriors, Gold Star families, and those currently serving in harm's way.

"Our nation continues to be a nation at war," he said, saying that may be easy for Americans to forget, as the war in Afghanistan doesn't always make the news.

"We have 50,000 Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Marines in Afghanistan today," he said. "I really try to remind people about that. Since July, we've had 474 casualties in Afghanistan. That includes all of our wounded and our killed in action."

At the luncheon, Sgt. Maj. of the Army Raymond F. Chandler III recognized the winners of prestigious Army awards.

"They have done something to demonstrate what is best about our non-commissioned officers and Soldiers -- that's excellence in what they do, their commitment to their profession, their commitment, their character and their confidence," said Chandler.

Chandler recognized the following non-commissioned officers:

Sgt. 1st Class Krystal Jarret, Army Recruiter of the Year
Sgt. 1st Class Mariela Richardson, Army Reserve Recruiter of the Year
Sgt. 1st Class Joshua Mannel, Army National Guard Recruiter of the Year
Sgt. 1st Class David Stover, Army Drill Sergeant of the Year
Sgt. 1st Class Ryan McCaffrey, Army Reserve Drill Sergeant of the Year
Sgt. 1st Class Rodney Harris, Strickland Award Winner
Command Sgt. Maj. Ronald Johnson, Strickland Award Winner
Sgt. Maj. (retired) Andrew McFowler, Bainbridge Award winner

Chandler said the Best Warrior Competition that was scheduled for last week, but postponed because of the budget crisis, will be held Nov. 19-22, with the award ceremony for Nov. 22.

In years past, the winners of the Best Warrior Competition were announced at the sergeant major's luncheon at the AUSA annual meeting.