Fort Benning honored the "backbone of the Army" when more than 60 newly promoted sergeants and corporals were inducted into the NCO Corps during a ceremony that kicked off the designation of 2009 as the Year of the NCO Tuesday at Marshall Auditorium.

"In every aspect of the Army, it's really NCOs making it happen," said CSM William Ulibarri. "We hold it together through training, and also operationally."

The Year of the NCO has four major objectives: enhance the education of the NCO Corps, enhance NCOs' physical and mental fitness, encourage leadership skills, and launch several "pride in service" initiatives that acknowledge the value of the NCO Corps to the Army and to the nation.

Dedicating an entire year to NCOs is important because they do not always receive recognition for their contributions, Ulibarri said. "A lot of times, we get caught up with what we're doing in our units, and (honoring NCOs) falls by the wayside," he said. "Having a lot of people from the community at ceremonies like these enhances NCOs' pride.

As for civilians, many of them who work here are prior military, but whether they know much about the military or not, this ceremony should give them a little more information on what it is that NCOs do. And if we can take a whole year to inform the public on what the NCO Corps is and does, we will have come a long way in educating the American public."

In remarks during the ceremony, Ulibarri reminded NCOs of their responsibilities to their Soldiers and urged them to be proactive in taking charge of training.

Following Ulibarri's remarks, SPC Kristen Kelley, Soldier of the first quarter for the 203rd Brigade Support Battalion, recited A Soldier's Request, a poem written by SGM Frank McMahon in which a junior enlisted Soldier outlines his expectations of his NCO.

For SGT James Beyer, 3rd Brigade Special Troops Battalion, being inducted into the NCO Corps meant acknowledging his responsibility to his junior Soldiers. "I treat all my Soldiers ... with compassion, caring, understanding and also responsibility for their well-being," he said. "Everything I teach them, they're going to teach others in the future."

SGT Ritasha Pugh, 1st Battalion, 50th Infantry Regiment, said becoming an NCO meant mentoring junior Soldiers. "One of my ways of interacting with them as an NCO is by giving them that extra encouragement and guidance," she said. "Their drill sergeants are trained to (test Soldiers' limits) so they'll be prepared when they deploy, but for me it's just the opposite. I give them that comfort zone and that extra person to talk to."

Before the ceremony concluded, SFC Namu K. Keys, president of the Fort Benning chapter of the Sergeant Audie Murphy Club, led NCOs in the NCO Creed. "I think it really means something to the Soldiers to be able to stand up and say, 'I am an NCO,'" Ulibarri said. "I hope the Year of the NCO will enhance their pride in service."