CAMP ZAMA, Japan – Nearly 20 noncommissioned officers completed a rite of passage Wednesday as they were officially inducted into the NCO corps during a ceremony here.
The ceremony, hosted by the 78th Signal Battalion and U.S. Army Aviation Battalion Japan, highlighted the importance of NCOs, known as the backbone of the Army, with short presentations on all the ranks and their duties.
Each inductee, ranging from corporal to sergeant first class, then walked under a wooden arch adorned with every NCO rank, followed by a pair of sabers that symbolized their entry into the corps, which dates back to 1775 with the birth of the Continental Army.
“We have to ensure that we carry on our traditions,” Command Sgt. Maj. Marcell Scott, senior enlisted leader of USAABJ, said about the ceremony, which was held at the Camp Zama Community Club. “If we don’t carry on traditions, we're going to lose them."
Sgt. Braulio Gonzalez-Hernandez, a network communication systems specialist with 78th Sig. Bn., was the first inductee to walk under the arch and be congratulated by a line of senior NCOs.
“I can definitely say my heart was pounding," he said, smiling. “I don’t usually try to be the front face for something, but it was an honor.”
Gonzalez-Hernandez, who was promoted to sergeant last June, said he was proud to be an NCO and strives to be an example of what right looks like.
“I will never ask a Soldier to do something that I wouldn’t do myself,” he said, later adding, “I just want to make sure that [my Soldiers] are always prepared for any situation.”
As a young NCO, he said he still gleans advice from the more experienced NCOs.
“At least for me, they're a lifeline where, if I don't know something, I can reach out to them and they can help me with guidance,” he said.
Scott said NCOs also provide guidance to officers in their leadership roles, from platoon leader to the chief of staff of the Army.
“At every officer level, they have a noncommissioned officer,” the sergeant major said. “And we want to show our new NCOs the importance of our position in the Army.”
Sgt. Jeymi Rodriquez-Sanchez, a helicopter mechanic with USAABJ, found the formality of the ceremony, which had inductees recite an oath and included music performed by members of the U.S. Army Japan Band, to be impressive.
“I’m proud of being inducted into the corps,” she said. “It means being part of something bigger.”
Junior enlisted Soldiers, she said, normally learn how to do their job and work as a team. But once they become an NCO, their role changes to include more responsibility.
“You have to set an example for them,” she said. “Even when no one is watching, you still have to remember that you’re an NCO.”
Cpl. Brant Hourigan, a fellow helicopter mechanic, said he soon plans to be promoted to sergeant, which he hopes will open up new opportunities for him to be a better leader.
“It shows that I’ve been trusted with the responsibility of being able to train and mentor junior enlisted Soldiers,” he said.
During the ceremony, Sgt. Maj. Terri Clavon, chief of the sergeants major branch at U.S. Army Human Resources Command, provided remarks as the guest speaker.
Before the inductees ceremoniously walked under the arch to become a member of the NCO corps, he asked them to remember two things in their careers: Train, and be ready.
“Training has to be tough and realistic,” he said. “If you don’t learn something new while you’re out training, then your time was wasted.”
He encouraged the NCOs to not be afraid to reach out to other units and even the sister services to accomplish multiple tasks during a single training event.
He also advised them to train how they would fight by doing the small things like applying camouflage correctly to themselves and their equipment as well as to avoid using GPS devices or computers to simulate a degraded operating environment.
“Training should incorporate your actions in a combat environment, not just those in a garrison environment,” Clavon said. “Distributed mission command at the lowest level is how we will survive in the future.”
The sergeant major said that while the inductees have reached a great milestone, he reminded them to continue representing the corps as professionals.
“You are responsible and accountable for the development and the welfare of your subordinates,” he said. “You teach, coach and mentor and, as a steward of the institution, you enforce its standards and are an ambassador to the world.”