Year of the Noncommissioned Officer - Spotlight NCO

By Courtesy Operation Tribute to FreedomJuly 31, 2009

1st Sgt. Troy Steward
(Photo Credit: U.S. Army) VIEW ORIGINAL

1st Sgt. Troy Steward

Age: 40

Current Unit: 2nd Squadron, 101st Cavalry Regiment, 27th Brigade Combat Team

Current Position: Senior Infantry NCO

Component: New York National Guard

Current Location: Buffalo, N.Y.

Hometown: Amherst, N.Y.

Years of Service: 21

The annual celebration of the Army's Birthday brings about a reflection on the traditions and legacy of service to country. One of the proudest traditions the Army can recognize, is the generations of families that have volunteered to serve over its 234 years. 1st Sgt. Troy Steward is one generation of a family that has answered their call to duty repeatedly.

A 21-year veteran of the Army, Steward is the son of a Green Beret who served three tours in Vietnam. After high school, Steward followed in his father's footsteps and enlisted in the Army. Now an NCO just as his father was, Steward takes his role as a mentor and leader seriously. His example was so strong, that after 9/11, his son, John Aisel, signed up to serve in the same unit of the National Guard as his father, thus adding another chapter to the Steward's legacy of service. The family's call to duty has put each of them in harm's way whether it be in Vietnam, Afghanistan or Iraq, but the common experiences have ultimately strengthened them as a family.

During his own deployment to Afghanistan from May 2006-2007, Steward led a 15-person team of Soldiers embedded with an Afghan battalion. He was responsible for mentoring the Afghan troops and conducting in combat operations. On September 9, 2006, a day which Steward has nicknamed his "Alive Day," an improvised explosive device (IED) went off approximately 25 feet behind his truck, and killed several other American and Afghan troops in his unit. Steward, who later learned that he was the insurgents' target that day, says that it was hard to lose his fellow Soldiers, regardless of their nationality. He had trained and mentored those men, and the loss was personal. For his meritorious service and involvement in more than 100 missions during his year-long deployment, Steward was awarded the Bronze Star Medal.

For Steward, his journey as an NCO and Soldier has been well worth the ride. Even though he has been approached on multiple occasions to attend Officer Candidate School, he says he prefers to be an NCO.

"Being a Noncommissioned Officer means that I have the best job in the military," Steward says. "I have the chance to work closely with younger enlisted Soldiers and mold them into future leaders."

A leader on the battlefield and in his home, Steward never pressured his sons about joining the Army, but was proud his eldest chose to follow in his father's and grandfather's footsteps. Although they never deployed together, Steward still mentored and prepared his son for his deployment. When Steward returned home from Afghanistan in the summer of 2007, he was able to pass on first-hand knowledge to his son, who was preparing to deploy in January 2008. The day before Aisel deployed, Steward was able to pin sergeant stripes on his son thus adding another generation of NCOs to their family line. After six years in the Army, including a year-long deployment, Aisel completed his service and is now pursuing a college degree.

Steward and his wife, Christine, currently reside in Buffalo, N.Y., where they live with their three younger sons. She is a leader with the New York National Guard's Family Readiness Group. As a civilian, Steward works for an information technology company working to prevent identity theft, and plans to retire from the Army in the fall of 2009.