FORT GORDON, Ga. (April 10, 2009) -- In his April 10 visit to Fort Gordon, Ga., Sgt. Maj. of the Army Kenneth Preston highlighted key points in the Year of the NCO at a town hall meeting.

"We celebrate the year of the NCO with three objectives: to recognize, inform and enhance," said Preston.

The year is designed to recognize the contributions of former and current NCOs, inform the public of the work of the NCOs and enhance the training of NCOs.

Changes are coming this year to courses for NCOs, he said.

The Basic Noncommissioned Officer's Course will become the advanced leader course, and the Advanced Noncommissioned Officer's Course will become the senior leader course.

In his more than 90-minute presentation, the sergeant major of the Army outlined many topics. He also discussed the Army's transformation and what changes have taken place since the war on terror began.

"If you look at our Army, we are a busy organization," Preston said. "We have 280,000 Soldiers currently deployed to 80 countries."

The active-duty force had 482,400 Soldiers in January 2004 and has grown to about 547,500. The Army National Guard has grown by 8,200 and the Army Reserves have grown by about 1,000. The additional numbers have been needed to change from the old way of business to the brigade combat teams.

Preston fielded questions on subjects such as the Army's Defense Integrated Human Resources System.

"The concepts behind it are good. It was supposed to come online March 2009, but it's probably going to be at least another year," he said.

The Department of the Army needs to work out a few bugs in the system first, he said.

Other questions such as keeping social security numbers safe and the Directed Automatic Promotion List Integration and how it works are tied in with DIMHRS and its getting off the ground, he said.

He also touched on the discussions between the Army and universities to allow Army courses to be translated into college degree credits.

"We're working on it," he said.

During his visit, Preston also went to the Charlie Norwood VA Medical Center.

(Charmain Brackett writes for the Fort Gordon Signal newspaper.)