"I encourage leaders at all levels to support us in this important work. Our NCOs are an integral link in the chain of command and leadership in NATO. They are ambassadors for their nations. They are helping us transform the Alliance. We cannot succeed without them."
- Gen. Bants J. Craddock
Supreme Allied Commander Europe

What makes a noncommissioned officer'

There are many regulations that define what is required and expected of an NCO, but knowing the path and walking the path are often two different things.

Through dedication to mentoring, guiding and instructing one can truly become a great NCO. And it is excellence, or the potential to excel, in all these areas of responsibility that identify Solders as future noncommissioned officers. The transition can be daunting, stressful and even intimidating, but it is never-the-less what Soldiers strive for.

Recently, Soldiers from Multi-National Task Force-East participated in an induction ceremony that marked their transition into the NCO corps, and celebrated their accomplishments; past, present and future.

"The purpose of the NCO induction ceremony is that of tradition," said Command Sgt. Mike Lederle, Multi-National Task Force East command sergeant major. "The NCO induction ceremony is the first step in the new NCO understanding the awesome responsibility he or she has just gained."

To properly illustrate the ceremony\'s importance, Lederle suggested to the other senior NCOs and command sergeants major that MNTF-E bring in U.S. Army, Europe (UASREUR) Command Sgt. Maj. Ralph Beam to speak. Unanimously, the other NCOs felt that Beam would be an ideal guest speaker; embodying great success and accomplishment, as well as a wealth of experience and wisdom.

Beam said he was glad to get the opportunity to speak at such a momentous event.

Throughout his speech, Beam emphasized the importance of leading from the front and doing the right thing, despite possible opposition.

"If you took finger printing dust and sprinkled it all over a Soldier that wasn't doing the right thing, you wouldn't find too many finger prints on him or her," said Beam. "But, if you sprinkle that same finger printing dust all over the Soldier of the Quarter or Soldier of the Year, you would find NCOs' fingerprints all over that Soldier."

He said that usually when a Soldier isn't doing what he or she is suppose to be doing, or when they're doing something they shouldn't be doing, it's not because they are trying to be defiant or insubordinate, but because they saw a sergeant doing the very same thing.

It is because of this tremendous influence that all NCOs have over their subordinates, and even peers, that Beam felt it so important to attend the event. However, arranging for Beam's presence took some doing; the ceremony had to be postponed more than three weeks in order to accommodate his hectic schedule.

Despite the delay, Lederle and other command sergeants majors and senior NCOs command sergeants major decided Beam's presence was necessary and was much too important in emphasizing to those recently promoted how vital their role as noncommissioned officers officers is - from the very top echelons, down to their individual task forces.

"I recall when I was promoted to sergeant how proud I was," said Lederle.

"I was also intimidated about the new responsibilities that I had just obtained. I remember distinctly thinking that I was now in charge of four or five Soldiers, where before I was being lead. That was very intimidating to me. It seemed I had an almost insurmountable climb - in gaining their trust."

He did make the climb though, all the way to command sergeant major. Looking back, Lederle reflected on some of the lessons he has learned and said he hopes these young NCOs can gain from his own experiences.

"There have been many times in my career when I wasn't quite sure I was making the right decisions or that I knew which path to go down," he said. "As NCOs, I feel that we're all mentors to our Soldiers. We can always train them and mentor them; that is our responsibility. But even as a senior NCO, today, I have mentors that I call upon when I have questions or I'm unsure.

Lederle went on to explain that leadership development isn't something that one masters, but a life-long process.

"I've learned from my failures as well as my successes. I've tried to leave that information with my subordinates to ensure that they understand the lessons learned," Lederle said. "Always learn from your mistakes and train your Soldiers every opportunity you get."

After the ceremony all participants were encouraged to take advantage of the refreshments, as well as the opportunity to speak in a relaxed environment to many of the senior ranking NCOs in the task force; an opportunity that might just lead to these newly appointed mentors discovering mentors of their very own.