Thirty-six Soldiers made the transition from followers to leaders when they were inducted into the Army Noncommissioned Officer Corps Friday at the Artillery Bowl. Induction into the corps signifies attainment of professional knowledge, the taking on of more responsibilities and assuming leadership roles. It is comprised of Soldiers in the ranks of corporal through sergeant major.

"It's a great honor that I've been working hard for," said Sgt. Benjamin Corey, 23, NCO in charge at the Frontier Chapel Center. "I feel very privileged to be inducted into the 'Backbone of the Army.'"

The NCOs were welcomed into the ranks in front of hundreds of fellow Soldiers, family and friends at the postwide induction ceremony, which was hosted by the Fort Sill NCO Academy.

Each Soldier took center stage and received congratulations and the Fires Center of Excellence command sergeant major's coin from Command Sgt. Maj. Dean Keveles, commandant of the NCO Academy.

They were also presented with framed copies of their charges, which summarizes the duties of an NCO, from 1st Sgt. Stephen Browne, of the NCO Academy; and copies of Field Manual 7-22.7 "The Army NCO Guide" from their respective sponsors, who are similar to mentors.

As a sponsor, Sgt. 1st Class Sandra Dupre, of Reynolds Army Community Hospital, guided Sgt. Steven Sloan, a nutrition care specialist, through the NCO selection process.

"I sponsored him through the Warrior's Leader Course, which is the school to become an NCO, and showed him how to become the NCOIC of a division," Dupre said.

She said Dupre will be a great NCO.

"He's very motivated, he likes to do his job, he likes to stay busy and always takes the initiative for whatever needs to be done," she said.

Corey described the NCO selection process as a learning experience.

"The Army is about learning. You're going to make mistakes" he said. "It's how you learn from them and how you react the next time that makes you who you are."

During the ceremony, three young Soldiers each recited a portion of the poem, "A Soldier's Request" by Sgt. Maj. Frank McMahon and respectively lit red, white and blue candles.

"Train me, Sergeant, that one day, I, too, can be called Sergeant - trainer of Soldiers and Backbone of the Army," recited Spc. Kimberly Archer, of the NCO Academy.

As part of tradition, all the NCOs at the bowl stood and joined the new NCOs in reciting the Creed of the Noncommissioned Officer.

Inductee Sgt. Preston Nicholson, an information security officer at the 1st Battalion, 382nd Logistical Support Battalion, has been an NCO since January, and supervises two Soldiers.
He said that he believes he is a good NCO, who puts the welfare of his Soldiers first.

"I like to get to the know Soldiers and their families," said Nicholson, who is from Emporia, Va.
Guest Speaker Command Sgt. Maj. Ray Mixon Jr., of Reynolds Army Community Hospital, emphasized the traditions and leadership in the Army.

Constantly ask yourself two questions when in charge: How do I gain the trust and confidence of my Soldiers' and What message do I want to send', Mixon said.

Mixon asked the NCOs to use their chevrons to serve their Soldiers.

"View your rank as a badge of responsibility and wear it with pride and dignity," he said.

Nicholson encouraged junior enlisted Soldiers to take advantages of the Army's opportunities to advance themselves.

"Keep your head up ... and just keep moving forward," he said.

Keveles stressed the importance of NCOs to the service.

"Nothing moves without an NCO being there. No decisions and policies are made without the consultation of a noncommissioned officer," he said, after the ceremony.

Keveles said the future of the Army is in the group of Soldiers who were inducted.

"When I am long retired, they will be leading our Army," he said.

After the ceremony, Soldiers and guests congratulated the new NCOs over cake and refreshments at the Patriot Club.