FORT DRUM, N.Y. -- The Fort Drum community honored 91 Soldiers who graduated Oct. 25 from the Warrior Leader Course - a mandatory two-week program that teaches Soldiers the military skills they will need as noncommissioned officers to lead their troops.

Guest speaker Command Sgt. Maj. Byron Larsen, 4th Battalion, 25th Field Artillery Regiment command sergeant major, praised Soldiers for persevering to the finish line and explained to graduates that the WLC is a decisive rite of passage in every Soldier's military career.

"Let me begin by congratulating each of you on your accomplishment," Larsen said. "You may not appreciate now how important it is, but I will tell you that this should be one of the most profound days in your Army career. By successfully completing the Warrior Leader Course, you have made the fundamental transformation from Soldier to leader.

"When you leave here," he added, "you will still have a lifetime of learning ahead. But we have to mark the road somehow, and the mark for today's accomplishment is a bold asterisk."

Larsen told graduates that as noncommissioned officers, they are a part of a corps known and envied around the world for its ability to train and groom generations of Soldiers and leaders.

He then emphasized three keys that should top an NCO's list of priorities.

"They are accomplishing the mission, taking care of Soldiers and teamwork," he said. "At the end of the day, our purpose for being is to accomplish the mission. Our nation depends on us, and that cannot be overstated.

"If you take care of your Soldiers, you will take care of the mission every time, without fail," he said of his second point. "I know it sounds clichAfA, but I'm telling you from experience that the young men and women you will lead want to serve and will perform well when led by NCOs who care. As leaders, we must know our Soldiers and their Families. Soldiers will appreciate your genuine concern, and they will be motivated and proud to be a part of such a team.

"Which brings me to my third point," he continued. "Each of us serves as part of a team. Each (member) of our team is a part of a larger team, and we cannot be successful if any of our teams fail. We all strive for a higher goal.

"Always strive to be the best two levels up," he said. "As a squad leader, strive to be the best squad leader in the company. But never cheat or undermine your peers, and never denigrate a member of a higher element on your team."

Larsen finished his remarks by drawing the graduating class's attention to the NCO Creed.

"As I grew and developed as a leader, I came to realize that everything I needed to know was right there (in the NCO Creed)," he said. "Look it over, and throughout the day, as you need to make decisions, or when some Soldier is testing you, or as you have to recommend reward or punishment, run your thoughts through the NCO Creed.

"In other words, use it as a filter," he said. "You can never go wrong. Its principles cover every possible situation.

"Train your Soldiers hard to accomplish the mission," he concluded. "Take care of them and treat them as you expect to be treated. Be a champion of the team, and know and live the Army values, the Warrior Ethos and the NCO Creed."

After his speech, Larsen handed out awards and helped recognize each WLC graduate.

Sgt. David J. Plumley, 1st Squadron, 89th Cavalry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, was named Distinguished Honor Graduate for superior academic achievement.

Sgt. Aaron K. Shugard, 2nd Battalion, 15th Field Artillery Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, received the John D. Magrath Leadership Award.

The Commandant's Inspection winner was Spc. Agnes G. Yim, 10th Brigade Special Troops Battalion, 10th Sustainment Brigade.

Instructor of the Cycle was presented to Staff Sgt. Rafael J. Fernandez.

The following Soldiers performed above course standards and were named to the Commandant's List: Sgt. Jason T. Atkins, Sgt. Matthew E. Bembenek, Sgt. Alyssa M. Charlton, Sgt. Julia L. Chisolm, Sgt. Tray C. Edwards, Sgt. Shaun M. Hendricks, Sgt. Sean M. Joubert, Sgt. Fredis R. Kindelan, Sgt. Miguel C. Medina, Sgt. Billy J. Miller, Sgt. Andrew L. Montgomery, Sgt. Bryan J. Powers, Sgt. Timothy C. Sethman, Sgt. Edward S. Waterhouse, Sgt. Matthew L. Winje, Sgt. Cory M. Wrieden, Sgt. Anthony M. Zegarelli and Spc. John T. Carlson.

Other WLC graduates were as follows: Staff Sgt. Joshua D. Mills, Sgt. Justin J. Adams, Sgt. Lance Adams, Sgt. Erik A. Berg, Sgt. Kenyaro P. Boyd, Sgt. Anthony M. Brandt, Sgt. Joshua R. Brandt, Sgt. Shawn M. Brown, Sgt. Eric W. Budinger, Sgt. Catherine J. Camacho, Sgt. Arlene E. Caudillo, Sgt. Michael L. Clark, Sgt. Ryan A. Dado, Sgt. Timothy R. Doland, Sgt. Eric J. Dollarhide, Sgt. Richard M. Estrada, Sgt. Jordon M. Ferrell, Sgt. Joshua W. Foit and Sgt. Richard J. Fritz.

Also, Sgt. Scott G. Gebelein, Sgt. Matthew T. Goduco, Sgt. Eddie Goines, Sgt. Jason Gray, Sgt. Latifa Harris, Sgt. Alexander D. Harvey, Sgt. Matthew W. Haynes, Sgt. Christopher M. Hodges, Sgt. Phillip S. Hunt, Sgt. Jayson L. Julaton, Sgt. Sean M. Kelly, Sgt. Allan C. Knavel, Sgt. Jonathan E. Latta, Sgt. Trevor M. Levesque, Sgt. Kim L. Linton, Sgt. Shay C. Lomas, Sgt. Jenson C. Mariur, Sgt. Jacob A. Marshall, Sgt. Glenn A. McClinton and Sgt. Henry L. Moore.

Also, Sgt. Matthew A. Parsons, Sgt. Paul D. Pennell and Sgt. Austin P. Pierce, Sgt. David A. Rogers, Sgt. Ryan J. Roux, Sgt. Viscount A. Stewart, Sgt. Brian J. Tanney, Sgt. Matthew J. Troiano, Sgt. Justin M. Vanzant, Sgt. Luis A. Vargas, Sgt. Christopher M. Weakley and Cpl. Saul N. Morales.

Also, Spc. Tomee L. Bradberry, Spc. Nikolai S. Camarato, Spc. Joseph L. Diaz Jr., Spc. Kevin A. Harris, Spc. Gary L. Hunt, Spc. Michael A. Kell, Spc. Nigel J. Lewis, Spc. Michael S. Lounsbury, Spc. Shane A. McCarty, Spc. Patrick C. McNamee, Spc. William D. Moski, Spc. Jeffrey A. Nowell, Spc. Patrick W. Oliver, Spc. Joshua T. Philippy, Spc. Marcos A. Rodriguez, Spc. Joseph F. Rush, Spc. Michael A. Sabo, Spc. Kyle L. Steven and Spc. Takeisha Y. Taylor.