NEWPORT NEWS, Va. (TRADOC News Service, March 19, 2009) -- The Sergeant Major of the Army Kenneth O. Preston was the keynote speaker March 10 at the 8th Annual Army Training Support Center Distributed Learning Workshop, March 9 through 12, at the Marriot at City Center in Newport News.

Before beginning his program, Preston asked all veterans and Reserve and Guard members in attendance to stand up and lead the group in a round of applause.

"I did that for a reason," Preston said. "I just want to say thanks for your service. For all of us that wear the uniform, we stand on your shoulders and your legacy, those things that you put into place that allows us to do all the things that we're called to do today."

Preston went on to describe the challenges facing the Army today.

"I've got more than 247,000 Soldiers currently deployed in 80 countries and 22,000 Army National Guard and 28,000 Army Reserve Soldiers mobilized and serving around the world.

"It's no secret we're a little bit busy, but I know that everyone that's serving today is serving because they want to be here; they believe in what we're doing."

Preston spoke not only of the service of noncommissioned officers, but their dedication to staying the course, evident by high retention rates in the senior ranks as well as the junior.

"I've got more sergeants major right now with more than 30 years of service than we've ever had in our history," he said.

Preston related a recent conversation with President Barrack Obama in which he praised the service and dedication of Soldiers and their families.

"I told him that Soldiers and their families wouldn't take the career risks to stay with us [the Army] if they didn't believe in what they're doing and wanting to be part of something bigger than themselves," he said.

The SMA stated that with more ongoing conflicts throughout the globe than any other time in history, he believes in today's NCOs and their leadership in facing those challenges.

"I believe that we could not do what we do today without these Army warriors."