By Will King, Fort Leavenworth LampMarch 19, 2009
FORT LEAVENWORTH, Kan. (March 19, 2009) - Sgt. Maj. of the Army Kenneth Preston shared his thoughts about being a noncommissioned officer during his visit to Fort Leavenworth March 17 for the post's official kick-off event for the Year of the NCO.
Preston enlisted in 1975 and attended Basic Combat Training and Armor Advanced Individual Training at Fort Knox, Ky. He was inducted into the NCO Corps in July 1977 while assigned to 2nd Battalion, 8th Cavalry Regiment at Fort Hood, Texas.
"I was the battalion commander's gunner, and my promotion was done in the motor pool in front of a battalion formation, which was a big deal," he said.
Since becoming an NCO, Preston has held leadership positions at all levels of the Army. As a senior NCO he has served as a command sergeant major at battalion, brigade, division and corps levels, and before becoming the Army's top NCO served as command sergeant major for Combined Joint Task Force 7 in Baghdad, Iraq.
Preston said it was important for NCOs not only to be leaders, but also trainers.
"We want the sergeants to train their Soldiers, to teach from experience," he said. "The time that you spend in a leadership position ... that's experience that nobody can take away."
Preston said the training Soldiers receive should not only teach them how to do their job, but also prepare them to be leaders and NCOs.
"I'm proud of them (Soldiers) that they want to aspire to be a Solider, but I want them to look beyond that. I want them to aspire to be a noncommissioned officer," he said.
Preston offered advice about how young NCOs can succeed, be an asset to their command and an example for Soldiers.
"You want to do those things that demonstrate excellence in your profession. Be a subject matter expert," he said.
Preston said one of his role models was Dale Stark, the first NCO he worked for in the Army.
"He was a mentor. Everything I learned about tanks, I learned from him," he said.
Preston said he had several other NCO role models who helped guide and shape his career during the last 33 years.
"As I look back, it's been all about leaders, both noncommissioned officer and officer leadership," he said.