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Paratroopers talk about the Year of the NCO

By Sgt. Warren W. Wright Jr.
5th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment

FORWARD OPERATING BASE GARDEZ, Afghanistan The Army has designated 2009 as the Year of the Noncommissioned Officer, a time to officially recognize the backbone of the Army and inform Soldiers and the public about the roles, responsibilities and history of the NCO Corps, which dates back over 200 years.

The Army is using the Year of the NCO to highlight the importance of NCOs and to also implement programs to help them assist other Soldiers and progress in their careers and as leaders, said Sgt. 1st Class Alejandro Navarro, from Sunnyside, Wash., the squadron communications chief for 1st Squadron (Airborne), 40th Cavalry Regiment.

Having a way to recognize NCOs is important because in the Army, it all starts and ends with NCOs, said Navarro. The Year of the NCO is a way for senior leaders to look at the current Army and decide the best way the Army can modify the way NCOs work in a constantly changing world.

Probably one of the most challenging aspects of being an NCO is having to work with the various issues that subordinate Soldiers have, said Staff Sgt. Mackenzie Gustave, a native of New York City with the 425th Brigade Special Troops Battalion. 

Everyone's problems are different and an NCO must be sensitive to the assortment of issues each Soldier has, Gustave said.

The Army NCO Corps is often referred to as the backbone of the Army, but what does being the backbone of the Army mean?

Being the backbone of the Army means that the Army does not run without the NCO corps, said Staff Sgt. Christopher R. Hatch a heavy construction equipment supervisor with 425th Brigade Special Troops Battalion. 

"NCOs are the ones responsible for the daily tasking and duties of the Army," he explained.  "Where officers are responsible for the direction in which the Army goes, NCOs are responsible for getting us there."

The role of an NCO is not an easy one. With the rank comes a lot of responsibility that new NCOs must embody in order to become successful.

It's important that a new sergeant does not just obtain the rank; he needs obtain the rank and become a leader and an NCO, said Sgt. 1st Class Neil Duchesneau, the Distribution Platoon sergeant for D Troop, 1-40th Cav., from Killingly, Conn.

New NCOs need to lead from the front, they need to live the Army values, and it needs to be apparent to all other Soldiers that they are confident, and that they are committed, he said. 

It is important for junior NCOs to maintain the Army's standards and enforce the standards, Duchesneau said. It's important for NCOs to keep Soldiers on track to ensure that the mission is completed. 

It is not just junior NCOs that have the responsibility of mentoring soldiers; senior NCOs have the responsibility of shaping junior Soldiers and NCOs to grow into the future leaders of the Army, Navarro said.

It is important for senior NCOs to mentor and inspire junior NCOs to encourage Soldiers to have the will to win and the will to do better for themselves as well as for their fellow Soldiers, he explained.

"Whereever you go, inspire leadership, inspire the people that you work with to become better then they think they are," Navarro advised fellow Soldiers. "If everyone has that same outlook in life and in the Army, it would make it a better world."