Some enlisted Soldiers with the 25th Combat Aviation Brigade, Task Force Wings, 25th Infantry Division, pace nervously, some recite answers to anticipated questions, others work on facing movements and weapons drills. They all try to control their nerves.

At any moment, one could be called to enter the boardroom and face six senior noncommissioned officers. The senior NCOs - with more than a century of military experience among them -- test each Soldier to determine if they are truly ready for promotion.

Refusing to allow war to derail their professional careers, every month Soldiers of the 25th CAB appear before enlisted promotion selection boards as part of the process for becoming a sergeant or staff sergeant at Contingency Operating Base Speicher, near Tikrit, Iraq, and Contingency Operating Site Warrior in Kirkuk, Iraq.

Since the brigade deployed to Iraq in September 2009, more than 200 Soldiers with the 25th CAB have competed for promotion. Not everyone is recommended.

Two Soldiers who did, earned their "promotable" status, are Specialists Katherine Gutierrez and Aaron Rickert, both human resource specialists with Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 25th CAB, TF Wings. Both Soldiers appeared before "mock" boards called Soldier of the Month boards hosted by their company leadership prior to appearing before a battalion-level promotion board. They both learned valuable lessons from attending Soldier of the Month boards.

"One of the biggest challenges was maintaining the motivation and self-discipline to continue preparing when I didn't get recommended to go to the promotion board after the Soldier of the Month board," said Spc. Rickert, a native of San Antonio. "But, I didn't let the setback discourage me. It's in the Soldier's Creed to never quit, and I knew that I wouldn't be the kind of leader others look up to if I refused to continue trying to get promoted."

"Nerves were my biggest challenge, but having gone to two Soldier of the Month boards helped me relax," added Spc. Gutierrez, a native of Corpus Christi, Texas. "The pre-boards were very valuable," she continued. "I would recommend that Soldiers take those seriously. I would also recommend that to pass the promotion board Soldiers not get discouraged if they miss a question. That will happen. Be resilient and stay confident."

Command Sergeant Major Necati Akpinar, a native of Ankara, Turkey, and command sergeant major, 2nd Battalion, 25th Aviation Regiment, TF Diamond Head, serves as the president of the board for TF Diamond Head, and has evaluated hundreds of Soldiers for promotion in his career.

According to Command Sgt. Maj. Akpinar, war is no reason to postpone NCO development. Every Soldier has a specific military occupational specialty, but each is a Soldier first. As such, each must maintain the necessary level of substantive knowledge, technical and tactical proficiency, and the confidence to lead others.

"Professional development continues no matter the environment," explained Command Sgt. Maj. Akpinar. "And our promotion boards are always tough. When we recommend a Soldier for promotion, we look at that Soldier as our replacement. They must, of course, possess a certain level of knowledge, but each must also be able to express themselves confidently and in clear language," he said.

"The Soldiers up for promotion are our Army's future. We pick the best of the best. We will not leave the Army in [the] hands [of someone] that cannot do the job. We will not set our Army up for failure."

Among the best at the TF Diamond Head promotion board June 1 was Sergeant Christopher Elder, UH-60 Black Hawk crew chief and company standardization instructor, Company C, 2nd Bn., 25th Avn. Regt., TF Diamond Head. Sergeant Elder not only participated in the board, but also sponsored and prepared three of his own Soldiers to attend the June 1 board.

Sergeant Elder agreed with Command Sgt. Maj. Akpinar that because a Soldier is deployed is no excuse to suspend professional development.

"You should never put your development on hold," said Sgt. Elder, a native of Rockland, Calif. "As important as it was for me to further my goals and get promoted to staff sergeant, it's equally important for me as an NCO to help my Soldiers further their professional goals. That's really what being an NCO all is about. I look at my Soldiers as our future enlisted leaders, and my job is to train them to replace me."