In this Year of the Noncommissioned Officer, you might wonder what NCOs do for the Army.

NCOs do it all. These leaders have their hands in every aspect of the Army from the simplest daily activities to the most complicated strategic planning. Let's get reacquainted with the "backbone of the Army."

NCOs are responsible for the daily activities of the Army. These sergeants are the first-line supervisors for the majority of the work completed by Soldiers. These actions can be as simple as physical training or motor pool maintenance on vehicles or as complicated as leading a combat patrol in war.

Chances are high that every activity from processing pay documents to medical services at the hospital are being executed and supervised by sergeants. They touch every aspect of our Soldiers and our Families' lives.

Need an MP for an emergency' Here comes a sergeant. Who is teaching at the Warrior Leader Course' A sergeant is instructing right now. Our sergeants find us before we are in the Army: recruiters.

NCOs -- drill sergeants -- mold us from civilians into Soldiers. Career counselor NCOs keep us in the Army. Sergeants teach us at advance individual training, airborne course, Ranger course and other specialty courses. It is sergeants who develop the future NCOs in the Noncommissioned Officer Educational System. From WLC to the Sergeant Major course, NCOs are developing the next generation. And guess who executes large portions of Officer Candidate School' NCOs do!

Sergeants enforce the rules, regulations, and policies of the Army. NCOs don't make policy, they enforce them. Many have heard me say, "I don't make the rules; I get paid handsomely to enforce them!" The Army says what is proper and then empowers sergeants to enforce it.

So the key aspect to this notion is not the rule, but rather the discipline to enforce the standard. NCOs have the discipline to do the right thing and set the example.

So, Sergeant Major, what is the big deal about wearing my patrol cap to the PX' It is quite simple. A commissioned officer wrote the rule making it a legal order -- a simple and minor one some could argue. I support the officers, therefore I support their rules and sergeants enforce both simple and complicated ones.

Convenience and comfort have never been military priorities. If a Soldier or leader cannot enforce the simple rules, how will they tackle the complicated ones' It is a slippery slope of selective enforcement when individuals only correct the regulations they agree with.

What makes our Army different from others' The NCO! Armies from around the world send their officers to visit the United States to see how we run our Army. No one argues the commissioned officers are in charge. A recurring theme comes up, though, when foreign officers see our NCOs doing so much. The comments sound something like this, "How can you trust these sergeants to do so much'" Or, "only our officers do that!" And it is this decentralized implicit trust of our NCOs that creates a huge advantage over other Armies. Decisions and therefore actions take place where no officer is present. NCOs are combat multipliers.

Our Army learned years ago that NCOs can be trusted to execute tasks that might have been historically linked to officers. And historically, NCOs are officers.

Sergeants are officers without a commission. There are several sources to refer to this topic and I won't give a history lesson here. Read "Guardians of the Republic" by Earnest F. Fisher Jr. for a detailed narrative on the history of the NCO. For here and now, we need to know that the NCO is more "bang for the buck" for our Army than anyone else.

Sergeants train individuals, teams and crews. NCOs focus on all the single and small unit requirements that support the collective tasks of platoons and companies.

Sergeants ensure Soldiers are physically fit to arrive at the leading edge of battle. These same sergeants teach Soldiers how to shoot their weapons effectively. NCOs teach our Soldiers when not to shoot, which is sometimes more important than shooting. Sergeants take the theory of being a Soldier and apply it to people to make them Soldiers.

NCOs advise and mentor officers. Starting at the platoon level, our Army "marries" an officer and a seasoned NCO to accomplish missions. And it works. The combination of commission and noncommissioned officer is powerful and a critical difference in our Army. Senior NCOs advise senior officers about all enlisted issues and concerns. Officers count on NCOs for recommendations on their most critical decisions. Want the truth, ask an NCO.

NCOs preserve the traditions, customs and courtesies of the Army. From standing at attention or parade rest to drill and ceremonies, NCOs must preserve these "lost arts" of a war-time Army. Respecting the flag at retreat is an NCO function.

Politeness, respect and courtesy are historic indicators of discipline in our service. Who is preserving this tradition of the Army' The NCO must! When an NCO sees an infraction and makes no correction, a new standard has been set.

So if NCOs follow their creed, they will do two things. Sergeants will accomplish their mission. Not only the ones they choose, but the ones the Army gives them. NCOs enforce all of them. And they must ensure the welfare of their Soldiers.

Soldiers are a valuable commodity to be protected. To send untrained, undisciplined Soldiers to war is to kill them. NCOs save lives! They do all the dirty work and are quiet professionals who seek no reward other than the satisfaction of making a difference.

They are the working class of the Army and the unsung heroes of our nation.

In this year of the NCO, have you thanked a sergeant today'