It's often been called the "backbone of the American Army."

And on Friday afternoon, 10 Soldiers officially marked the beginning of new roles and new responsibilities as they said goodbye to the junior enlisted ranks and hello to the Noncommissioned Officer Corps.

The 704th Military Intelligence Brigade held an NCO Induction Ceremony at McGill Training Center to welcome and honor the newly promoted sergeants and to remind them that they are now the keepers of the standard.

"There is definitely going to be the challenge of no longer being one of the guys," said inductee Sgt. Peter Price, "and now having to uphold the standard in addition to all of the other things that I am normally expected to do. I am a little happy and a little daunted, I guess, at what might be coming next."

The ceremony kicked off with the playing of the Army Strong video, which shows hard-hitting, hard-core training and Soldiers with boots on the ground. As the music began, the motivation level in the room went up a couple of notches. At the conclusion of the video, Command Sgt. Maj. Gordon Cross, of the 742nd MI Battalion, stood up and shouted, "Hooah!" The room full of NCOs responded with a resounding, "Hooah!"

Cross then went on to relate a personal story of his deployment, and how he and his fellow Soldiers would play that video to get "pumped, energized and motivated." The event proceeded with an explanation that the NCO Induction Ceremony is a tradition commemorating the passing of a Soldier to a noncommissioned officer and can be traced back to the army of Frederick the Great. Today, the ceremony commemorates this rite of passage as a celebration of the newly promoted joining the ranks of a professional Noncommissioned Officer Corps.

"I am very proud today," said Staff Sgt. Daniel Taveras, 742nd MI. "I am very proud of these Soldiers coming in, not only to see them begin to mentor others, but for me to be able to mentor them in the same way." The 10 Soldiers were called forward one at a time to receive a copy of the NCO Creed, their charge of orders, a CD full of Army regulations and a field manual to assist them with their new role as NCOs.

As the 10 new NCOs stood front and center, four junior enlisted Soldiers entered the room adorned with ruck sacks and M-16s. They posted in front of the NCOs and performed "A Soldiers Request." Each junior enlisted Soldier told the NCOs what was expected of them and that they are now leaders and are entrusted with taking care of, preparing and training Soldiers.

"Treat me with respect, sergeant," said Spc. Nathaniel Bracken, 742nd MI Battalion. "For no heart in all the world is more loyal than the heart of an American Soldier." The ceremony concluded with the playing of the Army Song and for one Soldier, the beginning of looking toward the future.

"The biggest challenge I have now is for me to take the next step and become an E-6, to be a staff sergeant," said Sgt. George Williamson, an inductee.

"That's why I am doing the best job I can do and following through. It's a lot of hard work, but it definitely pays off. It's prideful."

The Department of the Army has designated 2009 as "The Year of the NCO." Events scheduled throughout the year will highlight NCO stories for the American people, honor and celebrate contributions of the NCO Corps, and enhance and accelerate the development of NCOs through education, fitness and leadership development initiatives.

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Editor's note: This is the first in a series of articles highlighting The Year of the NCO on Fort Meade.