Anyone who's been in the Army for more than five minutes has heard the expression, "NCOs are the backbone of the Army."

The Department of the Army has pronounced 2009 as the Year of the NCO and Friday, Fort Knox kicked-off its observance of the theme with a ceremony honoring local NCOs from every noncommissioned rank.

Co-hosted by Fort Knox Commander Maj. Gen. Don Campbell and post Command Sgt. Maj. John Troxell, the ceremony was a standing-room-only event that saw Waybur Theater at peak capacity. While the majority of the audience was comprised of NCOs, many officers also attended to pay tribute.

Campbell told the packed house, "NCOs are the leaders of our young people as well as role models. They enforce standards and discipline."

He also told the audience that the Year of the NCO was to highlight the accomplishments of NCOs. According to Campbell, service members - officers and NCOs - should be talking about the accomplishments of NCOs to anyone who will listen because the public needs to hear it.

"We need to thank them every day for their service. They embody Army Values every day; they live them every day."

Troxell went on to explain to the audience why the general public needs to be educated about the role of NCOs. Most do not recognize NCOs, even in uniform, and know even less about their mission. To underscore the public's general ignorance about Army ranks, he related an incident wherein he and his wife encountered some young civilian men just after a formal affair. Even though Troxell was dressed in his Army blues, the men could only grasp that he was in the active duty Army, saluted him, and referred to him as a captain.

While the incident was innocuous, Troxell said he knew even in his own hometown in Iowa, that people would fare no better. Those meeting him on the street would only be able to identify the information that is plainly spelled out on military uniforms - his name and "U.S. Army. " His hash marks, representing years of service and achievements, along with his medals and unit patches, would all be lost on civilians.

Troxell told the officers in his audience, "Expect the world from your NCOs and they will deliver it."

Illustrating the history of the NCO, Soldiers from the Audie Murphy Club took the stage in period uniforms symbolizing the many combat actions in which American NCOs have participated.

Finally, certificates of excellence were presented to six NCOs as sponsors read the narratives highlighting their accomplishments. All of the NCOs so honored had served in Iraq or Afghanistan, and many had been recipients of DA awards such as Silver Stars, Bronze Stars, or Purple Hearts.

Those honored included Cpl. Jose Rodriguez of 1st Squadron, 16th Cavalry; Sgt. Shawn Watkins from the Medical Command; Staff Sgt. Shawn Priet, assigned to the NCO Academy; Sgt. 1st Class Allen Moeller from the 4th Cavalry Brigade; 1st Sgt. Kenneth Franco, of the NCO Academy; and Sgt. Maj. Jerold Pyle from the 5th Squadron, 15th Cavalry.