MADIGAN ARMY MEDICAL CENTER, Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash. – A commander and their senior enlisted advisor often refer to each other as battle buddies as they share important duties in leading a military unit. Madigan Army Medical Center on Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash., took its change of responsibility ceremony indoors on June 20 to avoid the rain and offered a fond farewell to Command Sgt. Maj. Albert Harris and a warm welcome to Command Sgt. Maj. Gilberto Colon.
Narrator Sgt. 1st Class Corey Fowler informed the audience of some of the history of the noncommissioned officer and their importance to the Army.
“The history of the noncommissioned officer dates as far back as the Roman Empire. They were referred to as principales or optios, and usually collected double or triple the pay of a Roman legionnaire soldier. They were very experienced veterans who trained Roman legionnaires and maintained their discipline while providing a great source of insight and advice to Roman officers called centurions,” he said.
When Gen. George Washington brought Friedrich von Steuben, the Prussian baron and officer, into the ranks as inspector general at Valley Forge in 1778 to aid the struggling Continental Army, it was the NCO ranks he sets his sights on for reform.
“Von Steuben wrote, ‘The choice of noncommissioned officers is an object of greatest importance. The order and discipline of a regiment depends so much upon their behavior that too much care cannot be taken in preferring none to that trust, but those who by merit and good conduct are entitled to it.’” Fowler quoted.
From the time when von Steuben first referred to the NCO as the “backbone of the Army” to the many challenges that face that role today, using the term responsibility in relation to the top NCO of a unit is always appropriate.
“Our NCOs are shaping generation upon generation of citizens to be stewards of our freedom and liberty. We can be at ease knowing that the NCO Corps will shepherd our institution and our heritage, retaining the very best of who we are while recognizing what needs to change to make us ever greater moving forward,” said Madigan Commander Col. Jonathan Craig Taylor of the enduring impact of the NCO.
The change of responsibility ceremony came on the heels of a retirement ceremony and farewell dinner for Harris who steps away from a 26-year-long career that started when the Modesto, Calif., native decided that the Army was for him.
In the years since, he has trained, worked and led as a combat medic and organizational NCO. He has deployed to Iraq, Afghanistan and Kosovo for combat and peacekeeping operations. His awards and memberships are numerous to include the Order of Military Medical Merit.
“From the very moments that you arrived in November 2020 until the moment now, your leadership, your sacrifice, your contributions – they've been without equal. Your knowledge and problem-solving skills are unmatched and have transformed the delivery of the care here, and the readiness of Madigan during one of its most challenging times,” said Taylor. “Last week at your farewell, what was amazing to me is your profound and personal impact on each and every member of this organization as members filled that venue and spoke of just your ability to always put them at ease. For this and so much more we will forever be grateful.”
During challenging times, Harris has displayed a good-natured and accessible demeanor.
“You know, as I thought about what I wanted to say today, an old adage came to mind which states, “If you find a job that you love, you will never work a day in your life.” And I absolutely feel that way about my time here at Madigan. There was never a day that I dreaded coming to work. In fact, the opposite was true in that I genuinely looked forward to coming into this place every single day. Just like any other great organization, it's the people that makes it good. I have had the opportunity to work with some of the most talented people in the world,” said Harris.
Stepping into the role as Madigan’s top NCO is a native of the Bronx, N.Y., who entered service in the Puerto Rico National Guard.
Colon started his Army career as a dental laboratory specialist before reclassifying as a healthcare specialist. He deployed to Iraq assigned to a field artillery unit and then as a medical advisor to a military transition team. He has been assigned all around the country and Korea. He and his family came to JBLM from San Antonio, Texas.
He expressed appreciation for the way his time at JBLM has unfolded so far.
“I want to actually thank the JBLM family – this is a big family right here – because this is the first time in 27 years that I have gone to the installation and my family has been welcomed in a way that is unbelievable,” said Colon.
Colon’s biography reads like a listing of training/education and awards/decorations making him well-prepared and clearly capable for any task. Or, as he put it, “I'm ready to work.”
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