"Army NCOs trace their roots to the beginnings of American military history. They helped Washington preserve the Continental Army at Valley Forge, stood with Winfield Scott at Chippewa, and directed Zachary Taylor's guns at Palo Alto.
They carried the Nation's colors at Gettysburg and Vicksburg, fought yellow fever in Cuba with Walter Reed, and led Pershing's and Eisenhower's legions into Germany. Whether helping local populations build a village in Southeast Asia or teaching young Iraqi soldiers to conduct operations, American NCOs are leading from the front and are some of our nation's best ambassadors.
Over time, through various changes in tactics and technology, Army NCOs have emerged as the Army's small-unit leaders, trainers and guardians of standards.
Our NCO Corps is unrivaled by any Army in the world, envied by our allies and feared by our enemies.
Throughout the Army's history, the NCO has been a pivotal figure, but never more so than today with our full spectrum of operations -- tank-on-tank fighting as during the invasion of Iraq; the guerrilla/insurgency war ongoing in Iraq and Afghanistan; and peacekeeping operations in Kosovo.
As NCOs embrace their ever-growing responsibilities in the 21st Century, help them remember how they came to be the "backbone of our Army."

Kenneth O. Preston
Sergeant Major of the Army

Preston's words mark 2009 as the Year of the NCO, a Department of the Army initiative to publicly acknowledge the quality of service of the Army's NCO Corps.

The goal of the Year of the NCO is to educate Americans on who NCOs are and what they do, said Command Sgt. Maj. Christopher Greca, installation command sergeant major.

"IAca,!E+want the community to understand that NCOs are absolutely critical to the success of our Army. In today's Army, our NCOs are educated, articulate, values-based professionals who lead and assist commissioned officers with our nation's most valuable assett -- their young men and women,"Aca,!E+he said.

Throughout this, the Year of the NCO, the Guardian will feature stories about the installation's NCO Corps. The Guardian initiative begins with some Polk Soldiers remembering the NCO who most impacted their careers:

Command Sgt. Maj. Christopher Greca says:
"As a new Soldier, I was greatly influenced by then-Sgt. Stanley Salas. To this day, I remember that I wanted to be him: mentally, physically, technically and tactically. He was -- and remains -- my role model. He had the ability to talk to us, and not down at us, as young men and as Soldiers. He placed it on us to be responsible for our actions, but he simultaneously helped us when needed."

Staff Sgt. Brian Boyt says:
"Sgt. 1st Class Mark Hopkins was my first platoon sergeant. He was like a father to me. He groomed me to be a good Soldier and pinned my E-5 stripes on when I got promoted. He's serving in Iraq with Headquarters, 10th Mountain Division. I was able to visit with him a couple of times while I was there. He's meant more to me than any other NCO I've ever worked for."

Sgt. Ricky Elias says:
"Sgt. 1st Class Brooks, one of my drill sergeants, has had the most profound effect on me. He always kept things on a professional level, but knew how and when to lighten up. Every one in our platoon respected him."

Pvt. Chelsie Spangenberger says:
"I haven't been in the Army but a year, but Sgt. 1st Class Harold Flory has had a big impact on me as a Soldier. He has a lot of experience, always answers my questions and taught me a lot about how to do my job. If you need something, you never have to ask him more than once. He's my platoon sergeant and he loves all of his Soldiers."

1st Sgt. Marvin Lewis says:
"The one NCO who has meant the most to me is Master Sgt. Kendall Davis. He was selected for sergeant major with just 14 years in the Army. I was a reclassified Soldier and fell behind the promotion curve. He sat me down and told me what I needed to do to get caught up and be successful. He laid out a plan for me, I followed it and good things have happened. He is still a mentor to me today. He's stationed at Fort Bliss and if he hears something that he thinks is important for the NCO Corps to know, he'll call me and tell me to pass the word on to my Soldiers. He never fails to give back to the Army."

Pfc. Michael Adams
"Staff Sgt. Hawkins goes the extra mile to take care of his Soldiers. He never asked you to do anything he wouldn't do. He was always there when you needed him. He was my NCO at Fort Bliss. There were a lot of issues going on and he gave us a very emotional speech in full battle rattle that motivated everyone. I also had my house broken into and he was the first one to show up and lend a hand, asking us if there was anything we needed. He was the best."

Spc. Melinda Jennings says:
"Staff Sgt. Gregory Freshour and Staff Sgt. Stephen Hedge were my favorite NCOs. These were my NCOs when we deployed to Afghanistan. They both knew how to lead. They taught us how to do our job, be better Soldiers and set an example on how to be an effective leader. They took care of us. We went through so much and they were the reason we got through it."