MONS, Belgium — Allied Forces North Battalion of the U.S. Army NATO Brigade recently hosted a Junior Noncommissioned Officer Symposium June 27-29. The symposium culminated in an NCO Induction Ceremony on June 30 at the Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe Event Centre.
The purpose of the event was to “deliberately invest time in developing the newest corporals and sergeants to the Noncommissioned Officer Corps in order to prepare them for their role as NCOs,” said Command Sgt. Maj. Julie R. Steward, Allied Forces North Battalion.
The curriculum of the symposium included classes on the 8-Step Training Model, This Is My Squad, risk management, talent management and leadership and ended with an open panel discussion with Steward and three of the battalion’s first sergeants.
“Not only has it been a year in the making because this was something we really wanted to do within our organization to stress the importance of NCOs and the NCO Corps, but it’s also been generations in the making when you look at the history of our Army going back to 1775,” said Steward.
“We have passed knowledge, traditions, standards and discipline on,” she said. “That’s what we do. As you become senior, you pass it on to the juniors, and you groom that next generation sitting before us today.”
The guest speaker for the induction ceremony was Command Sgt. Maj. Gary E. Yurgans, U.S. Army Garrison Benelux.
Speaking directly to the newly inducted noncommissioned officers, Yurgans said, “Your success will be measured by your actions, how you conduct yourself when you walk out these doors at the end of this ceremony. Know that upon your exit from this ceremony the expectations of you by your chain of command and your Soldiers have changed.”
“You must now operate on a higher level. All eyes will be on you. Your Soldiers will expect you to set the standard and be the constant example of what right is and looks like,” said Yurgans. “Every day is an opportunity. Take advantage of it.”
Behind the scenes, dozens of noncommissioned officers worked to make the life-changing event a success.
Staff Sgt. Matthew Wright, a medical and operations sergeant from Ogden, Utah, was one of those NCOs.
“The ceremony was a chance for us to recognize that inducting newly promoted NCOs into the Corps of Noncommissioned Officers is a rite of passage,” said Wright. “During that rite of passage, it puts an emphasis on the responsibility that the Soldier is assuming.
“They have this creed that they have to know and they also have the NCO charge that is given by the senior NCO. As they go through the rite of passage, they are recognizing not only that their responsibilities are increasing as a leader, but also the units are recognizing the young Soldiers are taking that step into leadership.”
Wright said he has participated in NCO induction ceremonies in the past, but this was the first time the ceremony was associated with a leadership development training event prior to the ceremony.
“It was, in my experience, unique that [Allied Forces North] had a symposium before the induction ceremony,” said Wright. “Typically, units have only an induction ceremony where we recognize the new NCOs, but they often lack that leadership professional development time.
“When I saw the command sergeant major’s vision for this event, I thought it was amazing. We hit on some of the basic soldiering skills, but we also hit on the basic leadership skills that will help them be better leaders going forward.
“They learn a lot of things during Sergeant’s Time and leadership training that they will need in their careers, but to have the symposium as a culminating event where they have senior leadership talking to them about the skills they will need to succeed will have a greater impact on them and a greater impact on their future as leaders.”
Not only was this event valuable to the individual NCOs inducted into the NCO Corps, it was also valuable to the units that participated.
“Bringing all the units together like this instills a unity of effort, especially in the NATO environment where we are all spread out,” said Wright. “These types of time-honored traditions such as the induction ceremony bring units together and help keep us rooted in our traditions.”
Sgt. Brent Cushing, from Cache, Oklahoma, was one of the nine NCOs inducted into the NCO Corps during the ceremony.
“The symposium represents literally centuries of collected combat and peacetime experiences passed down to the next generation of the Army’s backbone,” said Cushing, a military police officer assigned to the Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe. "I value the mentoring provided by senior NCOs who have already faced all of the challenges that I soon will have as an Army noncommissioned officer.”