Aca,!A"Double-time, march!Aca,!A? And with that command, the entire noncommissioned officer corps of Fort Irwin and the National Training Center trotted off during an Oct. 27 morning run. Leading the group was the senior-ranking Soldier on Fort Irwin and the National Training Center Aca,!" Command Sgt. Maj. Victor Martinez.

The run was the kickoff event for a day which saw NCOAca,!a,,cs gathered at Sandy Basin Community Center for the first Noncommissioned Officer Symposium on post. The symposium was concluded with a visit by Sgt. Maj. of the Army Kenneth O. Preston. He spoke at length to the audience in the standing-room only event. He summarized current Army operations in the war on terror and the future outlook. He also spoke about the importance of NCOAca,!a,,cs in the U.S. Army and in particular the significance of the ArmyAca,!a,,cs Aca,!A"Year of the NCO.Aca,!A? He stressed the value of sergeants as teachers and caretakers of Soldiers.

Aca,!A"All of you are responsible for your piece of the Army, your two or three Soldiers, or however big your formation is,Aca,!A? Sgt. Maj. of the Army Preston told the crowd. Aca,!A"You take that piece of the Army your responsible for, and youAca,!a,,cre taking your Soldiers and growing them to be noncommissioned officers just like you. And thatAca,!a,,cs what NCOAca,!a,,cs do. Noncommissioned officers teach. Noncommissioned officers grow other sergeants.Aca,!A?

Sgt. Maj. of the Army Preston mentioned that NCOAca,!a,,cs on Fort Irwin and the National Training Center serve a specific role to the rest of the Army.

Aca,!A"When you look at the NCOAca,!a,,cs serving here at the NTC, they are the teachers for the Army,Aca,!A? Sgt. Maj. of the Army Preston said. Aca,!A"All those units and organizations that rotate through here in preparation for their upcoming missions, learn from the noncommissioned officers and officer leadership serving here at the National Training Center. ItAca,!a,,cs a very important role and a very important mission.Aca,!A?

Sgt. Maj. of the Army Preston acknowledged and thanked the Army Reserve and National Guard component for their service.

Aca,!A"We could not do it as an Army or a nation if it wasnAca,!a,,ct for all the contributions of our citizen Soldiers,Aca,!A? Sgt. Maj. of the Army Preston said. Aca,!A"So, for all the Army National Guard and Army Reserve Soldiers that are here with us today, give them a big round of applause.Aca,!A?

Before hearing Sgt. Maj. of the Army Preston speak, the NCOAca,!a,,cs in attendance had received professional development presentations on various subjects.

Presentations at the conference covered nutrition, Fitness Trainer, Veterans Affairs, G.I. Bill benefits and Noncommissioned Officer Education System updates. Carl Arias, NTC G3 school training specialist, spoke to NCOAca,!a,,cs about the U.S. Army Sergeants Major Academy plans to facilitate the process of completing a bachelorAca,!a,,cs degree while serving. Colleges who agree to participate in the transformed education system would offer more credit for points earned through NCOES, said Mr. Arias. The full transformation is still some years away, but it will eventually increase educational advantages to Soldiers.

Aca,!A"At the end of 20 years if you progressed accordingly, say you complete the Senior Leaders Course (formerly known as ANCOC), you will have enough credited education within the NCOES system to obtain a bachelorAca,!a,,cs degree or be very, very close to completing the degree,Aca,!A? Mr. Arias said.

The symposium itself was an educative event that highlighted programs and initiatives, said Command Sgt. Maj. Martinez.

Aca,!A"What they take away here is going to make them better noncommissioned officers and enable them to better take care of their Soldiers,Aca,!A? Command Sgt. Maj. Martinez said.

The NCO corps has been asked to do more than ever, Command Sgt. Maj. Martinez continued. He said that NCOAca,!a,,cs have been tasked with multiple deployments, technological requirements and leadership. Even still, NCOAca,!a,,cs are getting it done.

Aca,!A"Noncommissioned officers are keeping things going,Aca,!A? Command Sgt. Maj. Martinez said, Aca,!A"WeAca,!a,,cre the backbone of the Army and keeping the day-to-day running of the Army going.Aca,!A?

Command Sgt. Maj. Martinez stressed the significance of NCOAca,!a,,cs at a higher level as well.

Aca,!A"Responsibilities have been pushed down to the lowest levels,Aca,!A? Command Sgt. Maj. Martinez said. Aca,!A"You have young sergeants making decisions on the battlefield that have international repercussions if they donAca,!a,,ct make the right decisions. So, we are asking a lot more of them. We are the envy of other armies because of our NCO corps. Here, we have the authority to make things happen and itAca,!a,,cs been like that for many years.Aca,!A?

He also reiterated what Sgt. Maj. of the Army Preston said about NCOAca,!a,,cs at the NTC.

Aca,!A"We have an important mission here to train the force,Aca,!A? Command Sgt. Maj. Martinez said. Aca,!A"Each one of them Aca,!" no matter what they do or their rank Aca,!" are an integral part of the NCO corps. They all can contribute by self improvement, setting goals, and taking care of Soldiers.Aca,!A?