FORT JACKSON, S.C. -- As you know, for the past eight months, the Army has been observing the Year of the NCO. There have been a number of historic news events across the Army during the course of the year, dealing directly with NCO accomplishments.

Highlighting the list of significant events this year was the change of leadership at the U.S. Army Sergeants Major Academy, in which a command sergeant major assumed the commandant post, a position that had been always held by an officer.

Here at home, Fort Jackson has received a lot of attention with our selection of the first female commandant of the Drill Sergeant School. Both of these milestones certainly convey a message to the general public about the high level of trust and responsibility the Army puts in its NCOs.

On Fort Jackson, NCOs carry tremendous responsibilities that continue to increase. Consider that Fort Jackson is the Army's single source trainer for drill sergeants at the Drill Sergeant School and will soon be the single source trainer for Advanced Individual Training platoon sergeants.

Think about the future impact of that for a second. That means that every Soldier who goes through Basic Combat Training or AIT will be exposed to and likely influenced by the teachings at Fort Jackson.

I take great comfort in that thought, because - as we all know - our drill sergeants here at Fort Jackson show our Soldiers what right looks like - as our cadre like to point out - the moment the Soldiers get off the bus.

As I have said in the past, I fall way short on accolades when I talk about our drill sergeants, AIT platoon sergeants and all of the other great NCOs. I am so proud of our NCOs, and I am continually amazed at the dedication and devotion they have for their important mission as well as for their families.

Rest assured, I will continue to have these feelings long after the Year of the NCO passes. Perhaps that's the all-important point that should be made as we head down the backstretch of the Army's toast to NCOs: We should not just let the Year of the NCO pass or fade away, but rather use it as a template or springboard for the next decade.

The Year of the NCO is a one-year campaign, comparable to what sports fans might view as the full-court press in basketball. Strategic initiatives get turned up a notch or two. We launch pride in service initiatives. We look at ways to enhance NCO leadership skills, bolster educational opportunities and methods to improve and expand fitness training.

Summed up, we do a lot of things, but there will always be room for improvement. They should not be front and center one year, and forgotten the next. I would like to view this Year of the NCO as a foundation - strong building blocks for the future.

We have seen many NCOs showcased this year, with many of Fort Jackson's NCOs profiled in this newspaper. We have also seen major improvements in programs and fitness - a prime example being the way we have stepped up resiliency training and begun focusing on comprehensive Soldier fitness.

I have no doubt that the future will hold additional enhancements. Nevertheless, one thing will remain constant: NCOs are the backbone of the Army regardless of the year.

As you know, that thought didn't originate with me, nor was it crafted specifically to promote the Year of the NCO. No, that thought has been around a long, long time.
For NCOs, it's part of their creed. For officers, it's part of our common knowledge.

Army Strong!