FORT BLISS, Texas (Army News Service, Jan. 6, 2009) -- The Army's most senior leaders officially kicked off the service's year-long focus on the noncommissioned officer corps during a media event here Jan. 5.

While at Fort Bliss, home of the Army's Sergeants Major Academy, Secretary of the Army Pete Geren, Chief of Staff of the Army George W. Casey Jr., and Sergeant Major of the Army Kenneth O. Preston revealed a letter the three had signed that announced the "Year of the NCO" -- year-long set of initiatives designed to focus on better developing the service's noncommissioned officer corps.

"With our effort -- the year of the NCO -- we have many things we want to accomplish," Geren said. "One is to just recognize the contributions that our NCOs make -- past and present -- and recognize them for internal and external audiences. We want to inform the country, inform the Congress, and also inform young people about what NCOs do for our Army and help them better understand what an exciting opportunity and a career the choice of being an NCO in the United States Army is.

The secretary also said the Army has planned to initiate programs over the course of the year to help improve the professional development of our NCO corps.

General Casey said the year-long recognition would focus on making enhancements to areas like NCO education, fitness and leadership. The recognition is also meant to foster pride in service amongst NCOs and let the American public know what a "national asset" they have in the NCO Corps, the general said.

"We're taking this year and making it the Year of the Noncommissioned Officer, so we can recognize their courage, their commitment, their competence, and their contribution to this war," Casey said.

According to the Year of the NCO Web site, the Army will implement several education initiatives to include the Army Career Tracker pilot and Phase 1 of Structured and Guided Self Development. The Army will also launch the Warrior University Web site, including the "College of the American Soldier" and will begin transformation of the NCO Education System.

Additional education initiatives during the Year of the NCO include expanding the number of online colleges under Servicemembers Opportunity Colleges Army Degrees, and digitizing the Learning Resource Center at the U.S. Army Sergeants Major Academy.

"There is no doubt in my mind that our noncommissioned officer corps is the glue that holds this Army together and allows us to accomplish the impossible," said Casey. "We wouldn't be the Army we are today without our noncommissioned officer corps, and I would not be the officer I am today without the noncommissioned officers who trained and mentored me throughout the years."