Leading by example - it's what a noncommissioned officer is committed to do from the first day they are promoted to a leadership position.

NCOs live the Army values. They are known as "The Backbone of the Army" and the professional trainers of the Soldier force. Their mission and the welfare of their Soldiers always come first. Their professionalism and care for Soldiers in their charge has ensured Army success both on and off the battlefield during a time of persistent and extended conflict.

The Army is recognizing the efforts, dedication and exemplary performance of its NCOs by proclaiming 2009 the Year of the Noncommissioned Officer. Secretary of the Army Pete Geren announced the year's special designation at the opening of the annual Association of the U.S. Army meeting in Washington, D.C. in October 2008.

In support of that acknowledgement, the Redstone-Huntsville Chapter of AUSA kicked off the community's recognition of the "Year of the NCO" at its annual Soldiers Breakfast on March 11 at the Officers and Civilians Club. And, with more than 200 young Soldiers from the 832nd Ordnance Battalion and NCO Academy in the audience, the AUSA chapter wanted to set an example by introducing them to one of the Army's most successful NCOs.

The Soldiers heard what the Army's values are all about and the importance of NCOs to the Army mission from Command Sgt. Maj. Larry Taylor of the Joint Munitions and Lethality Life Cycle Management Command at Picatinny Arsenal, N.J.

The gratitude and support Geren expressed toward NCOs with the year's designation meant a lot to all Army NCOs, Taylor said. He added that AUSA has been especially effective in supporting the mission of the NCO and all Soldiers.

"You are leading the way in recognizing Soldiers," he said. "The Army is based on values. When we talk about values, Soldiers mean them from the heart. You also show those values.

"It is especially amazing and gratifying that organizations like the American Legion, AUSA and Veterans of Foreign Wars show honor and appreciation and support of the Soldier. In these days of high tempo and constant deployment, Soldiers truly deserve it."

Taylor said the support of the military is the highest it has been in 60 years. Huntsville is a community that leads by example in showing its support for Soldiers, he said.

The year's recognition of NCOs is being emphasized, Taylor said, for three reasons - to sustain and grow the NCO corps, to recognize the professionalism and dedication of the NCO corps, and to inform and educate the public on the NCO corps.

"It is a national treasure," Taylor said.

"The Secretary of the Army Pete Geren called NCOs the Army's heart and soul. Those are strong words of praise. They are words that are tough to live by. But I know the Army Chief of Staff Gen. George Casey will keep us the best corps in the world."

While NCOs are dedicated to the care of Soldiers, Taylor said it is the Soldiers who have earned the positive recognition from American citizens and citizens worldwide.

"You are the large reason why men and women hold the Army in such high regard," he told the Soldiers at the breakfast, many who receive their advanced individual training at Redstone.