ANCHORAGE, Alaska (Army News Service, June 10, 2009) Aca,!" Alaska Soldiers celebrated the Army's 234th birthday in style June 5, while recognizing its past and present noncommissioned officers, who are considered to be the backbone of the nation's largest and oldest force.

Nearly 350 people attended the 2009 Army Birthday All-Ranks Ball at the Sheraton Anchorage Hotel in Anchorage. The ball, co-hosted by U.S. Army Alaska and the Association of the United States Army Last Frontier Chapter, put the spotlight firmly on the Army's Year of the Noncommissioned Officer and the young leader representing the command at the U.S. Army, Pacific Noncommissioned Officer of the Year competition.

AUSA Last Frontier Chapter president Rundy Galles said this is the chapter's first ball to celebrate the Army's founding. Being that it coincides with the Year of the NCO, it was fitting to have a primary role for USARAK's NCO of the Year.

"In the end, being selected as the USARAK NCO of the Year has been the biggest achievement yet in my Army career," said Staff Sgt. Neftali Bonilla, who was the event's main speaker. "I have gained the knowledge and hardened my skills that will help me overcome any obstacles that may lie ahead."

Bonilla, of C Company, 123rd Aviation Intermediate Maintenance, earned the title of USARAK NCO of the Year in a multi-event contest May 3 through May 7 at Fort Richardson. He left for Hawaii following the ball to compete in the USARPAC Warrior Challenge '09 Competition, which started June 8 and ends June 14.

Reminders of the impacts of NCOs were presented throughout the event, to include mentions of outstanding leadership on the battlefield and a Sergeant Audie Murphy Club presentation of "I am The Sergeant," which extolled their vital role and responsibilities throughout history.

The ball is one of the capstone Year of the NCO events being offered in USARAK and across the Army.