"No one is more professional than I."
The Creed of the Non-Commissioned Officer echoed off the walls as soldiers, non-commissioned officers and officers of the 1st Squadron "Tiger," 3rd Cavalry Regiment "Brave Rifles," gathered to induct newly promoted sergeants into the corps of the non-commissioned officer.
Brave Rifles troopers are deployed to Iraq in support of Combined Joint Task Force Operation Inherent Resolve, working by, with and through the Iraqi Security Forces and coalition partners to defeat ISIS in Iraq and Syria.
"Just because we're forward deployed we can't forget about our heritage and where we came from," said Command Sgt. Maj. Kim Mendez, the senior ranking NCO in Tiger Squadron.
"It shows pride and honor back to the non-commissioned officer corps for these young and upcoming non-commissioned officers being inducted today," said Mendez.
NCOs in the induction ceremony were all newly promoted sergeants, the most recent of whom received their rank or "stripes" August 1 while deployed to Iraq where NCOs are responsible for both the welfare of the soldiers under their leadership and the accomplishment of the diverse mission set they own.
"Here in Iraq, they are constantly doing all the guard mounts, the patrols," said Mendez. "Without the NCOs we would not be able to accomplish the mission set that we're given here."
The induction ceremony is a rite of passage for new NCOs that stretches back to the time of the American Revolution, and the U.S. Army's first drill master, Baron Friedrich von Steuben.
Steuben wrote his instructions for the NCOs of the fledgling U.S. Army in his "Regulations for the Order and Discipline of the Troops of the United States," also known as the Blue Book.
"Each Sergeant and Corporal will be answerable for the squad committed to his care. He must pay particular attention to their conduct in every respect and that they keep themselves and their arms always clean," wrote Steuben.
While times have changed, the basic responsibilities of NCOs in the Army have not.
"You help create the Army and you make the Army stronger by preparing soldiers and teaching them," said Sgt. Daniel Chavez, new inductee.
"The big deal about being an NCO is that it's not just about you anymore," said Sgt. Justina Nelson, new inductee.
"You now have soldiers that you have to account for and take care of," said Nelson.
Nelson was promoted to sergeant in June, and said she looks forward to the new challenges her rank brings and will try her best "to take them on and conquer them."
"You have people that look up to you and you want to be that leader that people look up to," said Nelson. "Taking on new soldiers, it's not just about me anymore. I gotta look out for my soldiers and make sure they're good."
Inductees were introduced by their sponsors before they signed the NCO charge welcoming them into the corps of non-commissioned officers and affirming their new responsibilities as leaders.
"It's one step after getting promoted, you finally become a real NCO," said Chavez. "To become a real NCO to me it means you get to not only care about yourself, but you get to care about other soldiers, you get to lead soldiers, you get to shape soldiers."
The ceremony reminded new and old NCOs alike of their obligation to train the current and next generation of soldiers and leaders.
"You can get this one soldier who's curious to learn and you teach him everything you know so that way in the future they can teach other people more and more things," said Chavez. "You just build people's lives in the Army."
Each new NCO stepped through an arch emblazoned with NCO ranks, symbolizing their entry into the NCO corps and their departure from their previous role.
"You have three chevrons on your chest or shoulders and it's not about you any longer," said Mendez. "It's about your soldiers, training them, leading them into combat."
Brave Rifles troopers officially assumed responsibility for their mission in Iraq May 28, and conduct a variety of missions to support the Iraqi Security Forces in the fight against ISIS while balancing the need to maintain their training and readiness.
NCOs in Tiger Squadron are responsible for conducting weapons familiarization and marksmanship training, security force exercises, medical aide and response drills, and other types of training to develop and grow their troopers. They're also responsible for organizing the security that protects U.S. and coalition troops.
"Tiger Squadron NCOs are more adaptable to hardships from the past training they experienced that we all just went through prior to deploying to Iraq," said Mendez.
"It really brought the team together. I'm so proud of them. The audacity that they have, the courage, they're just more of a team member here in Tiger Squadron," said Mendez.
The ceremony concluded with the reciting of the Creed of the Non-Commissioned Officer, an oath that lays out the roles and responsibilities of the NCO.
"The most important thing about the NCO corps is that you are the backbone of the army," said Chavez. "Everybody looks up to you and asks you for the answers, asks you for help."
"Basically, the hardest job in the Army is to take care of soldiers and that's what you got. From the bottom all the way to the top, from team leader all the way to sergeant major, you have to take care of soldiers," said Chavez.