LACKLAND AIR FORCE BASE, Texas (Jan. 27, 2010) -- In a ceremony here steeped in military tradition, 15 Soldiers were formally inducted into the Army's noncommissioned officer corps.

The ceremony took place in the Skylark Recreation Center Jan. 22 with family members, senior NCOs and other Soldiers from the battalion witnessing the induction. Ten of the inductees belonged to the 717th Military Intelligence (MI) Battalion, based on Lackland; one from the 470th MI Brigade Headquarters and Headquarters Company, and four from the 401st MI Company, both based on Fort Sam Houston.

In relating the history of the ceremony, Sgt. 1st Class Timothy Davis explained that this rite of passage traces its roots to the army of Frederick the Great in the 18th century. He said that before a Soldier could be recognized as an NCO, he had to stand four watches, and on the third watch he received a glass of wine. Consequently, "raising a glass" has become a key element in the symbolic crossing of a Soldier into the NCO ranks.

But before the ceremonial toasts, Battalion Command Sgt. Maj. Matildo Coppi addressed the inductees and the others assembled.

"These noncommissioned officers will continue to carry the long lineage of honorable service," said Coppi, an 18-year veteran of the Army. "They have been selected to lead, to coach, and mentor their Soldiers while continuing to secure the liberties all Americans cherish and possess today."

Coppi said an NCO should lead by example, train from experience, maintain and enforce standards, adapt to a changing world, and take care of Soldiers.

"An NCO is grounded in heritage, values, and tradition, which embody the Warrior Ethos," Coppi continued. "NCOs value perpetual learning and are capable of leading, training and motivating Soldiers."

Coppi gave the new NCOs some advice, briefly discussing the topics of selfless service, mentoring, responsibility and adaptive leadership. He said the essential elements of an adaptive leader are training, education and drills.

After welcoming the inductees into the NCO corps, Coppi added, "Truth be told, the Army continues to 'roll along' because of our superb noncommissioned officer corps."

Subordinate to the 470th MI Brigade, headquartered on Fort Sam Houston, the battalion executes its intelligence mission as part of the National Security Agency/Central Security Service, Texas, on Lackland's Medina Annex.

Lt. Col. James Royse, battalion commander, later noted the NCO corps was "a key and frequently unspoken element" of U.S. engagement with its allies in security cooperation.

"The example of NCOs who plan, prepare, execute, and assess everything the Army does from training to combat operations is the envy of many of the foreign militaries with whom we partner," said Royse. "Even those [militaries] who have established a strong NCO Corps in terms of career opportunities are usually interested in adapting to a closer model of our Noncommissioned Officer professional development and education system -- our NCO academies and leadership courses.

"The [induction] ceremony ... marks the time in the career of those Soldiers when they will be expected to demonstrate this central strength of our Army in every situation, but especially when working with allied and partner nations."