Madigan Healthcare System recognized the contributions and dedication of Noncommissioned officers throughout the Army's history as part of the "Year of the NCO" celebration. The year-long awareness brought attention to the mid-level and senior leaders within the NCO Corps who are strengthening the Army through pride of service, said Madigan's senior enlisted leader Sgt. Maj. Michael Kurtz.

Former Secretary of the Army Pete Geren dedicated 2009 as the "Year of the NCO" to reintroduce the NCO Corps as the "backbone of the Army" to America and the world, and U.S. Army Medical Command Command Sgt. Maj. Althea Dixon directed all Military Treatment Facilities to establish events highlighting the "Year of the NCO". In accordance with this directive, Madigan's Troop Command and Department of Radiology created a "Year of the NCO" wall showcasing famous NCOs in American history, and integrated speeches about the legendary NCOs into NCO and Soldier of the Quarter recognition ceremonies.

The decorated wall had a prominent location to highlight the best NCO each quarter at Madigan. Troop Command Command Sgt. Maj. Matthew Shepardson said that along with the presidents, celebrities and statesmen who were Army NCOs at one time, Madigan put up a picture of the NCO of the Quarter winner to make people become familiar with the contributions the enlisted leaders were making at the hospital every day. "The idea was to have a celebration every quarter and bring attention to our young Soldiers in how they are willing to go above and beyond and always be the best," Shepardson said.

Madigan's NCO and Soldier of the Quarter competitions were designed to be tough and would challenge any NCO, no matter when they served, Shepardson said. Each quarter, NCOs and Soldiers assigned to Madigan competed in a series of events lasting up to a week, including a road march, a combatives tournament, essay writing, urban orienteering, an Army Physical Fitness Test, weapons qualifications out on the range and the "bread and butter" of a Soldier-medic - Army Warrior Tasks and medic-specific tasks.

The "Year of the NCO" events culminated with the 4th Quarter NCO and Soldier of the Quarter ceremony, which gave special meaning to those in attendance, as Civil War re-enactors from the Washington Civil War Association mustered at Madigan to present the evolution of the NCO Corps from the Revolutionary War to now. John Persinger, the Civil War group leader and also an employee in Radiology, explained that during the Revolutionary War, corporals stood together at the edges of each formed flank with the sergeant directly behind the formation, barking orders to maintain the line of battle, especially with an enemy no less than a few hundred yards away.
Shepardson contrasted how the Army used to fight to today's wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, where there is no standing enemy army on a battlefield, but hidden insurgents within civilian communities requiring NCOs to make split-second decisions on engagement. "In Iraq, there are young sergeants on the ground leading fire teams and squads, rolling out to communities, gathering information that is being crunched into actionable intelligence from which future operations can be developed - that's how the war is being won, and that's the role of the NCO today," he said. "That's what makes us special."

The "Year of the NCO" is more than just celebrations and events - NCOs are the very fabric that makes the Army the best in the world, Shepardson added. "It's a Noncommissioned officer who recruits you, an NCO who trains you, an NCO who has the most influence over you, an NCO who plans your day, an NCO who counsels and advises commanders, and to really break it down, every Soldier has a sergeant."

Madigan Healthcare System 2009 NCO and Soldier of the Quarter winners
1st Quarter: Staff Sgt. Jared Lawson and Sgt. Anuj Kainth
2nd Quarter: Sgt. Brian Threatt and Cpl. Justin Thompson
3rd Quarter: Sgt. Thomas Blaine and Spc. Robert Fields
4th Quarter: Sgt. John Ahern and Spc. Brian Eklund