PICATINNY ARSENAL, N.J. - Picatinny Arsenal officials hosted a special ceremony here April 4. The event, which recognized more than 70 area Soldiers, was part of an Army-wide recognition this year of the importance of noncommissioned officers in today's military.

In all, 74 Soldiers from the Garden and Empire states were recognized and inducted into the NCO corps, an elite group of military professionals.

The noncommissioned ranks range from corporal to sergeant major of the Army.

NCOs are often referred to as the "backbone of the Army" because they can be found at the front of every Army mission. They train and lead junior Soldiers in any given mission or military occupational skill. Also, they are often looked upon as "big brothers" by enlisted Soldiers and provide advice and guidance on professional and personal matters.

The event, which was attended by nearly 125 guests, kicked off when Sgt. 1st Class Walter Serra, Company C, 3rd Battalion, 385th Regiment, 98th Division, took the stage to recite the Soldier's Creed. Following Serra was Sgt. 1st Class Jeffrey Newkirk, Company B, 1st Battalion, 1st Training Brigade, U.S. Army Civil Affairs and Physiological Operations Command, Fort Bragg, N.C., who recited the Ranger Creed.

But the next presenter jolted audience members and had them sitting on the edges of their seats. Sgt. 1st Class Alejandro Arroyo, Company A, 3rd Battalion, 385th Regiment, 98th Division, made his presence known by shouting the Drill Sergeant Creed in a voice only a drill sergeant could muster.

In addition to the various creeds, the audience was treated to a video montage that opened with Picatinny Garrison's senior enlisted Soldier, Command Sgt. Maj. Rodney Rhoades, proclaiming "No one is more professional than I" - the opening sentence to the NCO Creed. Then, following a timeline of the evolution of NCOs in the Army, the video turned to 1st Sgt. Paul Wilcock, an Armament Research Development and Engineering Center NCO, who reminded those NCOs in attendance of their duties and responsibilities of mentoring younger Soldiers.

Then the video took a surprising turn as the focus of the film focused on the enlisted audience members themselves as nearly 50 pictures of the Soldiers of the New Jersey National Guard, Soldiers of Picatinny Arsenal and other various units throughout New Jersey and New York were gathered several weeks ago and put to the beat of a song that describes brotherhood.

Finally, the video closed with a message from the Joint Munitions and Lethality Life Cycle Management Command's senior enlisted Soldier, Command Sgt. Maj. Larry Taylor, who said that the responsibilities of an NCO have not changed in the 31 years that he has served in the Army.

One Picatinny leader shared his agreement with Taylor's statement. "The songs in the video could not be more fitting. They talked of sacrifice and being an every-day citizen who wears the uniform of a U.S. Army Soldier," said Lt. Col. John P. Stack, Picatinny Garrison commander.

Then, after the NCOs pledged their allegiance to uphold the charges appointed to them by their superiors, event hosts Taylor and Rhoades congratulated the Soldiers and assisted U.S. Rep. Rodney P. Frelinghuysen in presenting the NCOs with their certificates.

Each NCO also received a copy of the NCO doctrine signed by Sergeant Major of the Army Kenneth O. Preston, a copy of the book "The Strongest Tribe" by Bing West and a military coin commemorating the occasion. Additionally, members of the New Jersey National Guard received personal thank-you letters from New Jersey Governor Jon Corzine.

Several local American Legion and Veterans of Foreign War posts, along with the Fraternal Order of Police and the Picatinny chapter of the Association of the United States Army eagerly helped make the day possible with their contributions.

"It was fantastic to receive so much support from local units of all the Army services," said Wilcock in recognizing the importance of the joint participation. "I am not sure if this is the first of its kind, but ... I have never heard of a combined Army National Guard, Army Reserves and U.S. Army active-duty NCO induction."