201110-A-LS252-020.jpegFirst sergeants from Headquarters, Headquarters Battalion, each light a candle as the officiant reads the meaning of the NCO creed during the NCO induction ceremony Nov. 10. (Josephine Carlson)

By Josie Carlson                                                                                                                                                                                                       Fort Jackson Public Affairs

If you’ve ever been to an Army ceremony, you may be familiar with the pomp and circumstance accompanying many of them. The noncommissioned officer induction ceremony holds to that tradition of rituals and formality, with its professional celebration of the passing of Soldiers into the ranks of the time-honored NCO Corps.

It is said that the tradition of commemorating the passing of a Soldier to an NCO can be traced to the army of Fredrick the Great (Prussian King and military leader) where before one could be recognized in the full status of an NCO, they were required to stand four watches, one every four days. After three watches of presenting gifts to soldiers, NCOs and finally the first sergeant, it was during the fourth watch that the NCO figuratively crossed the time-honored line and joined the corps.

Today, the ceremony is to commemorate the ranks of a professional NCO Corps, and build on the pride members share. It also serves to honor the memory of those men and women of the noncommissioned officers corps who have served with pride and distinction.

But what does it mean to be an NCO? To cross that figurative line?

Post Command Sgt. Maj. Philson Tavernier believes that to be a NCO is to be a leader of Soldiers.

“As noncommissioned officers we are charged with setting, meeting, and enforcing the highest standards,” he said. “We must always lead from the front and lead by example, in both words and deeds. If it is hard and dirty we must be prepared to sweat and get dirty, if it is risky and or dangerous, we lead from the front.”

Tavernier also said NCOs must be physically and mentally tough so that they can withstand deprivation while leading their Soldiers and able to remain flexible and unaffected by chaos.

“We must be responsible and accountable at all times,” Tavernier said. “For our own decisions, for our Soldiers, for our actions, and our equipment. We must never walk past a mistake, and we should always issue instructions in our name.”

Tavernier said, “as noncommissioned officers we should always take care of our Soldiers and their Families. With all the technology and weapons we have at our disposal, it is the Soldiers and their Families that continue to be the most valuable asset to the security of our nation and way of life.”

Garrison Command Sgt. Maj. Algrish Williams echoed the sentiment that NCOs are servant leaders who must lead by example.

“I have served our Army for over 25 years and I have been an NCO for 21 of those years,” Williams said. “Being an NCO is one of the greatest honors for me as a Soldier. Being charged with the responsibility of caring for, training, and developing Soldiers into leaders in the greatest Army in the world since the revolutionary era is a tremendous responsibility and honor.”

“NCO's are coaches, mentors, force multipliers, and leaders that enable commanders to make decisions to execute our Army's mission at all levels of this strategic enterprise,” he added, saying NCOs are truly the backbone of the Army and live up to the NCO creed.

Williams said being an NCO is not just words on a paper it means something.

“We must Be – a leader of character living up to the Army values and exercise presence, Know – possess the intellect expertise and Do – lead others through trust and by example, developing others to steward the profession of arms, and achieves results,” he said.

Sgt. Joana Hemsath, one of the Soldiers being recognized during this week’s induction ceremony for Headquarters and Headquarters Battalion, describes the ceremony as a rite of passage. “Once you cross under the arch you’re agreeing that you’re going to help your Soldiers,” she said.

Hemsath looks up to her current NCOs as models of what NCOs should be. “My current NCOs, (Master Sgt. Michael Cody and Sgt. 1st Class Christopher Koeppen), push me out of my comfort zone when they know I’m able to do something, for instance competing for NCO of the Year or going for my Expert Soldier Badge…they’re constantly motivating me.”