FORT LEAVENWORTH, Kan. (Oct. 15, 2009) - Combined Arms Center Command Sgt. Major Philip Johndrow spoke to more than 300 Association of the United States Army members during a combined regional breakfast Oct. 7 at the annual AUSA Fall Exposition in Washington, D.C.

With 2009 designated as the Year of the Noncommissioned Officer, it was fitting that a senior noncommissioned officer delivered the keynote address to a distinguished group consisting of three AUSA Regions, 39 chapters and 20 states. Johndrow talked passionately about the importance of AUSA to the Army.

"You are the voice for America's Army and your initiatives for forging professional education and support to Army families are unparalleled," Johndrow said. "There is no better way to thank an organization that gives so freely of their time and efforts to the people that are so close to our heart - the American Soldier."

Johndrow discussed the NCO Corps and the expanding leadership role NCOs are embracing. He noted during his 42 months deployed to Iraq, one particular moment helped him realize the importance he and his fellow NCOs play on the strategic leadership landscape.

"As a squadron command sergeant major, we worked with an Iraqi intelligence captain," Johndrow said. "He told me, 'I always knew you guys would beat us because of your technological advantage. But after working with you and learning how strong your NCO Corps and Soldiers are, I realize now that we could have switched equipment and you still would have beaten us.'"

The difference between our Army leaders from others is a very broad-based and comprehensive reworking of the Army Leader Development Strategy across all ranks, including Department of the Army civilians, Johndrow said. He cited the growing need for agile and adaptive leaders to succeed in today's complex and ambiguous environment.

"What prepares leaders to make decisions in a complex uncertain environment is the combination of education, experience, and training," Johndrow said.

Training and experience are recognized as the basis for NCO development, but we also recognize the need for an increased emphasis on education and a life-long learning mindset to help grow the already broad-skilled NCO Corps, he continued.

An agile, adaptive, creative and critical thinker was a constant theme Johndrow emphasized to those attending the breakfast. He shared an insight with the group that resonated with everyone from private to retired general officer. He recently attended an event that included Iraq and Afghanistan veterans, along with Vietnam, Korea and World War II veterans. He witnessed the interactions between the old and new Soldiers.

At the surface they appeared to be completely dissimilar - different types of wars, different weapons and different battlefield complexities.

"You would hear the 'old vets' saying they could not fight the way the 'modern' Soldier fights on the current and complex battlefield, while the 'young vets' would say they could not have fought under the conditions that the 'old vets' fought under," Johndrow said.

It didn't take long for Johndrow to realize the commonalities these two distant yet similar groups possessed.

"No matter the circumstances, no matter the equipment, no matter the conditions, each group found a way to adapt, overcome, and to ultimately accomplish the mission," Johndrow explained. "It's that camaraderie born of shared experiences and hardships that ties all generations of Soldiers together."

With less than half of 1 percent of Americans serving in the military, we have forged a legacy second to none. Soldiers past and present can rest assured that a more exciting future lies ahead for an Army determined to produce 21st century leaders out of every Soldier who dons the uniform from private to general to Army civilian, right down to our family members. What could be more Army strong than that'

Editor's note: Lt. Col. Robert Whetstone is director of Strategic Communication for the Combined Arms Center.