FORT GEORGE G. MEADE, Md. - Seven Army National Guard (ARNG) Soldiers were welcomed into the Army's noncommissioned officer ranks in a ceremony at the post theater here, Sept. 18.

Task Force Echo, an ARNG cyberspace operations formation, hosted the Noncommissioned Officer (NCO) Induction Ceremony, an event steeped in tradition during which the new NCOs were inducted into the Army NCO Corps. Two of the participants were promoted to sergeant during the ceremony.

The newly inducted NCOs are: Sgt. Jessica Atkinson, Cyber Protection Team (CPT) 173, N.Y. ARNG; Sgt. Chrisshawna Byers, 125th Cyber Protection Battalion (CPB), S.C. ARNG; Sgt. Roderick Gaskins, 125th CPB, S.C. ARNG; Sgt. Todd Marino, CPT 173, N.J. ARNG; Sgt. Michael McNamee, 125th CPB, S.C. ARNG; Sgt. Antwan Reed, 125th CPB, S.C. ARNG; and Sgt. Christopher Reyes, CPT 173, N.J. ARNG.

Guest speaker Sgt. Maj. of the Army (Ret.) Kenneth O. Preston, who served as the 13th Sergeant Major of the Army (SMA) had advice for the newly inducted NCOs and the event's audience. Speaking first to the inductees, he told the story of a private first class who asked him what he had to do to become the Sergeant Major of the Army.

"To get promoted, to be successful in your occupational specialty, to move up through the ranks to take on positions of increased responsibility: first thing, you've got to be a good Soldier," said Preston. "Be on time for formations, be in the right uniform, be STRAC (strictly according to regulations and policies); also be respectful, treat people with decency and respect, treat them as you'd want to be treated. And the last thing I told him was: be a subject-matter expert...excellence in your profession"

"And then as you become an expert, when it comes time to be a noncommissioned officer, it becomes very easy, because at that point you really become a teacher, and what you want to do is take that piece of the Army that you've been entrusted with, those two or three Soldiers, and take everything that you've learned on this journey and teach your Soldiers to be as good as you were," advised Preston.

His parting words were a challenge for the more senior NCOs and leaders in the theater.

"It was interesting. In this morning's (Association of the United States Army) newsletter there was a quote that I'd written a number of years back. ... The quote says, 'The solution for many of the challenges leaders face in their units today is the simple sharing of knowledge and experience'", said Preston. "Teach your junior NCOs what right looks like. So I share that with everyone here in the audience because we now take on the responsibility for this new group of noncommissioned officers that are stepping forward to be the future leaders of our Army."

Reyes, who hails from New York City, New Jersey ARNG, was one of the two sergeants promoted during the ceremony. He said his new role is "... no longer about getting the job done at a lower level. It's making sure you are good to go as well as the Soldiers around you."

Reyes said his role as an Army cyber professional is fulfilling both his military and civilian goals.

"My goal is to stay in the National Guard and do good things not only for the state but also the country," said Reyes. "I also want to leverage that with my civilian career, as cyber is the new up-and-coming hot thing right now."

As the 13th Sergeant Major of the Army stated in his remarks, Reyes will not embark on his journey alone. Each of the newly inducted NCOs can lean on each other, as well as the other senior NCOs in the Task Force, as well as throughout the Army.

Task Force Echo consists of ARNG Soldiers assigned to the 125th Cyber Protection Battalion (CPB) who hail from Louisiana, Mississippi, New Jersey, New York, South Carolina, Texas and Utah. The Task Force is commanded by Lt. Col. Linda Riedel with Command Sgt. Maj. William Kyzer as the command sergeant major. Since April, the task force is aligned under the active Army's 780th Military Intelligence Brigade, and has been conducting cyberspace operations in support of U.S. Cyber Command and the Cyber National Mission Force.