KANDAHAR AIRFIELD, Afghanistan – The thundering sound of Soldiers’ voices echo as they file two-by-two into the room. Their voices end abruptly as they face the crowd. Over the speakers, a voice says “welcome to the 25th Combat Aviation Brigade NCO Induction Ceremony where we recognize the passing of the group before you into the ranks of the time-honored United States Army Noncommissioned Officer Corps.”
The 25th CAB followed the tradition of the NCO Induction Ceremony as a rite of passage symbolizing the transition from Soldier to leader on Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan, Dec. 3.
“It is important for NCOs to partake in this tradition because NCOs are responsible for teaching Soldiers the history of the U.S. Army to include military customs, courtesies and traditions,” said Command Sergeant Major Jesus Ruiz, 25th CAB Command Sgt. Maj., originally from Gilroy, Calif.
The ceremony started by providing a brief history of the Noncommissioned Officer. The history of the Noncommissioned Officer began with the birth of the Continental Army in 1775. The NCO was a blend of traditions from the British, French and Prussian armies. In 1778 at Valley Forge, Inspector General Friedrich von Steuben standardized NCO duties and responsibilities for corporals, sergeants, first sergeants, and sergeants major.
Sergeants and corporals were expected to instruct recruits in all manners of military training. NCOs of today retain many of the duties and responsibilities from 1778.
“Our NCO Corps is unlike any other NCO Corps in the world,” said Ruiz. “Our NCOs lead and conduct several tasks, often without officers present. As an NCO, you train Soldiers on individual skills day in and day out. That is the building blocks for an organization to conduct collective training.”
NCOs are referred to as the “backbone of the Army” because they are the primary trainers of Soldiers, standard bearers, and are closely associated with the welfare of the troops and discipline in the ranks.
“Being an NCO means that I am no longer responsible for me,” conveyed Ruiz. “Now I am responsible for my Soldiers. Their issues and problems are now mine. Everything I do as a leader is for the good of the Army, the organization, and my Soldiers.”
Noncommissioned officers are often revered as role models for younger Soldiers.
“I look up to Command Sgt. Maj. [Keith] Cooper,” said Jessica Eggleston, a paralegal NCO with Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 1st Battalion, 2nd Aviation Regiment, 25th CAB, originally from Columbia, S.C. “NCOs have to show, not just tell, Soldiers what right and wrong looks like because younger Soldiers are always watching them.”
After the brief history of the Corps, 1st Sgt. Lester Day, Company B First Sergeant, 209th Aviation Support Battalion, 1st Sgt. Jason Lamb, Company A First Sergeant, 3rd Battalion, 25th Aviation Regiment, and 1st Sgt. Jon Griswold, Company A First Sergeant, 2nd Battalion, 25th Aviation Regiment, each lit a candle and led the NCOs in reciting the Creed of the Noncommissioned Officer. The creed was developed to give NCOs a “yard stick by which to measure themselves.”
The room filled with the thunderous voices of the NCOs again as they recited the creed in unison. After reciting the creed, the NCOs proceeded to sign the charge of the NCO and passed through an arch symbolizing their entry into the NCO Corps. Recognizing the newly inducted Noncommissioned Officers was Command Sgt. Maj. Thomas Capel, International Security Assistance Force/United States Forces-Afghanistan Command Sergeant Major, a native of Ellerbe, N.C.
“It is very significant that a 4-star command sergeant major took the time to come here just for this ceremony to induct our NCOs,” Ruiz said. “Our Soldiers will be proud that someone of his stature would come here to take care of them.”
After all inductees passed through the arch, Command Sgt. Maj. Ruiz continued the ceremony by leading the NCOs in reciting the NCO Charge. More than 70 Noncommissioned Officers were inducted into the NCO Corps during the ceremony.
“The ceremony made me feel a part of the NCO Corps,” said Eggleston. “It was great to see the support of all the senior leaders. I took what Command Sgt. Maj. Capel said about how we need to know the creed and live by it seriously.”
Inducting the young NCOs caused Command Sgt. Maj. Ruiz to recall his own induction ceremony.
“I was inducted into the NCO Corps in 1984,” Ruiz recalled. “Seeing these young NCOs today reminded me of myself. All of these NCOs can be successful and excel, and I know they will.”