GRAFENWOEHR, Germany (February 26, 2009) - "No one is more professional than I. I am a Noncommissioned Officer, a leader of soldiers. As a Noncommissioned Officer, I realize that I am a member of a time honored corps, which is known as "The Backbone of the Army"'.

These words from the NCO Creed rang out across the auditorium of the Grafenwoehr Fitness Center as more than 100 active and retired Soldiers gathered Thursday to recognize the accomplishments of the Noncommissioned officer during the 7th Army Joint Multinational Training Commands' kick-off ceremony for the Year of the NCO.

Secretary of the Army Pete Geren announced last year that 2009 would be "the Year Of The Noncommissioned Officer." During 2009 the Army will celebrate the achievements of the NCO by showcasing the NCO story and honoring the sacrifices and achievements of the NCO Corps.

During the ceremony JMTC Command Sgt. Major Darius A. ZaGara gave a brief history of the transformation of NCO from its conception during the Revolutionary War to the present.
ZaGara commended the NCO Corps for the level of professionalism it has displayed.

"Our NCOs today, from Command Sergeants Major on down have consistently proven themselves both within the Garrison environment and on the field of battle," he said. "You have earned the respect of your leaders, the nation you support and have won the respect and admiration of the citizens of the United States."

Highlighting the event was a parade of Soldiers chosen to wear period military uniforms, from the Revolutionary War to the present. Two of the NCOs chosen for this honor found the experience to be one they won't soon forget.

Leading the parade was Sgt. Kenneth Adams of the 7th Army JMTC Staff Judge Advocates office, who wore the uniform of an NCO from 1776. To Adams the role of the NCO is a dual-sided one. The NCO is both a servant and a leader.

"We serve our country, our commanders and we also serve our Soldiers," Adams explained. "At the same time we are called to be the leaders of our Soldiers as well as trainers for the Army."
To Adams, being an NCO is an honor and something he has strived for since he enlisted six years ago.

"I grew up in the Infantry where being an NCO is a big deal," Adams said. "I really appreciate the opportunity I have had to lead Soldiers."

Adams said that the one thing he hopes his Soldiers have learned from him is to value integrity and take responsibility for everything that happens on their watch.
Staff Sgt. Anthony Vernon from JMTC Range Control portrayed a Civil War Soldier during the event.

"Celebrating the Year of the NCO basically honors the way we do things," he said. "We are always interacting with the Soldier on a hand-to-hand basis."

"This celebration shows us that they appreciate everything we have done and will continue to do in the future," Vernon said.

Both Adams and Vernon agreed that being an NCO is all about taking care of the Soldier.

"The Soldier is the number one priority to me," Vernon said. "Whether it is a pay issue or training them up to come back safe from a deployment."

"If we look at the NCO Creed," he said, "and live that on a daily basis, we can strive on to do bigger and better things."