FORT STEWART, Ga. - Officers and noncommissioned officers alike attended the Year of the NCO kickoff at Club Stewart, Feb. 27. The event, which included NCOs of all jobs but the same creed, began with a keynote speech by 3rd Infantry Division Commander, Maj. Gen. Tony Cucolo and Division Command Sgt. Major Jesse Andrews, who outlined the Chief of Staff's plan to highlight the NCO throughout this year.

Rocky, the 3rd ID mascot, was also at the event and received his sergeant rank by Cucolo and Andrews.

"Rocky is properly attired except for one thing," said Cucolo, with a grin. "For as long as I've seen Rocky, he hasn't had any rank. And Sergeant Major and I said, 'Well, that's because he hasn't had time in service yet.' He does have teeth, and is capable of biting, which is what I want all my NCOs to do when they enforce standards."

The honorary promotion of Rocky to sergeant was meant to represent the tireless efforts and motivation of NCOs that do their best everyday to get the job done, whatever it may be. Traci Wheeler, Rocky's owner and Family Readiness Support Assistant for 4th Brigade Combat Team, was excited for Rocky's promotion.

"Having him promoted today is very important to us," she said. "It shows the dedication of our Soldiers and NCOs."

However, this year being the year of the NCO, she was more excited for what it meant for her for husband, an NCO in 4th BCT.

"It means that there's extra support out there for our NCOs," she said. "Our junior enlisted and our senior enlisted need the recognition for the struggles and different wars we've had lately."

Cucolo was quick to point out the motivation, selfless-service and tireless efforts of not only the NCOs of 3rd ID, but those that fight for NCOs everyday, such as Hinesville Mayor James Thomas.

"We have a fine mayor in Hinesville. He's really fighting for us," said Cucolo. "Most recently, Mayor James Thomas went up to D.C. to break loose funding for housing in the Hinesville area, among other reasons. So we told the mayor, 'how about we send a couple of NCOs with you'' Let me give you a quick visual: the mayor goes in with these two sharp NCOs, everyone is staring at these two NCOs, but they continue. Then Mayor Thomas makes his point and the senator looks at one of the NCOs and asks, 'what do you think'' The NCO stands up and delivers a soliloquy about the need for high-quality, safe off-post housing, and the NCO carried the day. A staff sergeant carried the day in the halls of Congress."

The event really highlighted exactly how the NCO is the backbone of the entire Army.

"Worldwide, all countries and all armies know we have the best NCO Corps," said Command Sgt. Major Edd Watson, 1st Heavy Brigade Combat Team sergeant major after the event. "Whether it be here or in countries abroad, we do what has to be done in a professional manner that all can look at and be proud of."

But the NCO isn't merely the job-doer, Watson said. "We also take care of Soldiers spiritually, mentally and socially to make sure they are confident to do their job."

Although there were more NCOs at the event, officers also showed up in full force to "support their right arm," as Cucolo said.

Colonel Roger Cloutier, 1st HBCT commander, also had a great deal to say about the importance of the NCO and how they fit into the everyday functions of the Army.

"A heavy brigade combat team is a large organization," Cloutier said. "With over 4,000 Soldiers operating over a large area, you just couldn't make it happen without those NCOs, those small unit leaders that are out on the battlefield supervising and enforcing standards and making sure everything is going according to plan. So they allow a commander to plan and gather resources because they know the day-to-day activities and missions will be accomplished by those NCOs."

Cloutier also had some final advice for all leaders and those aspiring to be NCOs.

"You guys are the keepers of the standards," he said. "You guys put the stake in the ground and say, 'this is the standard and I will set the example and lead from the front.' And I don't want anyone to forget the first stanza of the NCO Creed: 'No one is more professional than I.'"