ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md. -- Command Sgt. Maj. Robert Austin accepted the noncommissioned officers' sword as he assumed responsibility for the duties of command sergeant major for the U.S. Army Evaluation Center.

AEC Director David Jimenez, and Sgt. 1st Class Joseph Conway, military evaluator, AEC, passed the sword during an assumption of responsibility ceremony at AEC headquarters Aug. 14 at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Md.

Jimenez welcomed Austin's wife, Elada and his son Isaiah to the installation and the AEC family. During his opening remarks, he honored the long-standing tradition of the U.S. Army's NCO standard of professionalism.

"For more than 200 years of service, Army's noncommissioned officer corps has been considered the 'Backbone of the Army,' and I have no doubt Command Sgt. Maj. Austin will be just that to the AEC family," said Jimenez. "Though small in numbers, our AEC NCOs bring first-hand, end-user experience that others just can't bring, and we value the NCO perspective," said Jimenez.

A New Orleans native, Austin found himself much farther north at Fort Dix, New Jersey when he enlisted to join the ranks of the United States Army in 1984. Beginning his career as a wheeled vehicle mechanic, with the Army's Ordnance Corps, he arrived to Aberdeen Proving Ground from his most recent assignment at the 19th Expeditionary Sustainment Command in Daegu, Korea. Much closer to home, he expressed his optimism as he looks forward to joining the AEC team.

"It gives me great pleasure to be afforded the opportunity to serve alongside a great group of people, Soldiers, and Department of the Army Civilians," said Austin.

A decorated NCO, Austin's awards and decorations include the Legion of Merit Medal, the Bronze Star, and the Meritorious Service Medal, Army Commendation Medal, with seven oak leaf clusters and a host of achievements and good conduct medals and other decorations.

"At AEC our NCOs make a direct impact on what we provide the Soldiers helping us in our planning and evaluating mission," said Jimenez. "Austin is someone who has the energy, the drive, the perspective, which is exactly what we require here."

"In order for us to continue to do great things in our Army, and for our Army […] we have to continue to put the 'P' in 'People,' and ensure we continue to treat people with the upmost dignity and respect," said Austin.