By Staff Sgt. Jermaine Betton, Army Center of Excellence, SubsistenceApril 30, 2009
I remember sitting in my living room watching "Sports Center" on a Thursday evening when Sgt. Major (L'Tanya) Williams called me.
Now in this particular phone conversation she did not ask how I was doing or render any of the traditional salutations. The very first thing I heard was "Sergeant Betton ... Do you know the NCO Creed'"
Still trying to figure out what direction the conversation was headed, I replied, "Of course, Sergeant Major, I thought I was supposed to know it."
"Great" was her only response before telling me to be ready to recite it for her in the morning. Well, after reciting it to myself at least 25 times the next morning, she finally came in my office and with total authority in her voice said, "Let me hear it."
I rose from my seat and assumed the appropriate position and did as I was instructed. Sgt. Maj. Williams smiled, and once again said "Great." She has left me with a suspenseful state of mind before, but nothing of this magnitude.
One week later, I arrived in Atlanta, Ga., to prepare for the Department of the Army Philip A. Connelly Awards presentation. Sgt. Maj. Williams pulled me to the side and explained in detail there would be a slide presentation shown during the ceremony. The slide show would pay tribute to the noncommissioned officer since 2009 has been declared "The Year Of the NCO."
Then it came. "Sergeant Betton, I want you to recite the NCO Creed at the conclusion of the presentation."
My immediate response to her without even thinking was: "In front of everybody'"
Now it is the night of the ceremony. I am standing behind the curtains and the slide presentation is almost at its conclusion. My palms were sweating and I felt my body heat rising when I heard my cue. I marched across the stage while at the same time reciting the first stanza of the NCO Creed...
"No one is more professional than I."
I then executed a "right face," centering myself on the stage and facing the audience. At this time the stage was still dark and attention was focused on the projector screens to my left and right. Out of nowhere the spotlights hit me from every angle directing the audience's attention on me.
The spotlight blinded me, but I lost all the fear and anxiety that just moments ago overwhelmed me. It was as if the uniform shielded me from anything negative.
I never felt this before, as if I were the highest ranking person - not only in the room - but in the entire building.
I continued on with the reciting of the creed: "I am a Noncommissioned Officer, a Leader of Soldiers..."
At that moment I began to simultaneously reflect on all the Soldiers who have been under my direct leadership, and then continued with the creed.
"As a noncommissioned officer, I realize that I am a member of a time-honored Corps, known as "The Backbone of the Army."
By the time I reached the second paragraph, the creed was no longer being recited but spoken as a testimony because I could not stop thinking about how these words apply to me.
To this very moment, I honestly do not know exactly how I looked or sounded to that particular audience. But I do know this. I had to dig deep within myself and apply a key Army value called personal courage which enabled me to march across that stage in front of more than 700 people and open my mouth. I told myself that I would never simply recite the NCO Creed again because I must speak it from my personal experience.
I sincerely appreciate my leadership for being able to see something in me which I had not. If I have made anyone proud it is only because, while standing on that stage, I reflected on the many Soldiers who have made me proud. Leaders, let's continue to put Soldiers first.
This is still the "Year of the NCO" - Train to Lead, Lead to Train, NCOs Make it Happen.