Looking Back on the Year of the NCO  



Command Sgt. Maj. Jimmie W. Spencer, USA, Ret.
Director, Noncommissioned Officer and Soldier Programs

During the 2008 AUSA Annual Meeting and Exposition, the secretary of the Army announced that 2009 would be designated as "the Year of the NCO."

The year 2009 was also the 20 year anniversary of the first "Year of the NCO," but this time there was a difference. Unlike the 1989 "Year of the NCO," there was an external component to the theme.

Twenty years ago we focused internally.

We did a comprehensive review, established a committee and made recommendations that, once adopted, improved the way we train, educate, and develop noncommissioned officers.

We helped transform and equip the NCO Corps to face the challenges of the 21st century. And it was a huge success.

The year 2009 saw the same level of importance placed on updating and improving how we train today’s noncommissioned officers, but unlike 20 years ago, we made an effort to publicly recognize the many contributions of the NCO Corps to the Army and this great nation.

We wanted to inform the American people of just how vital noncommissioned officers are to the success of the Army and its missions.

The important role of noncommissioned officers is and has always been well understood within America’s Army.

 Pre-combat check

Staff Sgt. Aroon Revilla, the supply NCO in charge for 40th Transportation Company, participates in pre-combat checks and pre-combat inspections before going on a convoy mission from Contingency Operating Location Q-West, Iraq, in December. For the Year of the NCO, AUSA embraced the Army’s approach to publicly recognizing the contributions of the NCO Corps.

So much so that the NCO Corps has earned the well deserved reputation as the "Backbone of the Army."

I would suggest, however, that NCOs are more than that. They are the heart and soul of the United States Army.

Every day NCOs train, lead, mentor and care for our most precious asset – the American soldier.

And after 40-plus years of our all volunteer force, the United States Army has become an isolated sub-set of American society. Military service is no longer part of the American experience.

And as a result, most Americans know very little about the Army. Therefore, it’s time to educate the post draft generation of the fact that NCOs are and always have been a national treasure.

And that is where AUSA fits in.

For 60 years, Association of the U.S. Army has been the "Voice for the Army."

One of our most important missions is to help tell the Army’s story to the American people. And it is a great story – the history of the United States Army and America are one and the same. They can not be separated.

AUSA’s mission in 2009 was to focus on the incredible legacy of the Noncommissioned Officer Corps – to tell their story, and that’s the external component of the "Year of the NCO."

We started the year off by attending and participating in monthly Army G-1 "Year of the NCO" meetings; helping the Army plan and execute Year of the NCO events.

And at AUSA national during the "Year of the NCO" we:

  • Placed "Faces of NCOs" articles in every issue of AUSA NEWS highlighting the selfless service of many of our serving distinguished noncommissioned officers.
  • The Bainbridge Medal, AUSA’s highest NCO award, was presented to the "Army NCO Corps" at the 2009 Annual Meeting.
  • AUSA streamers were awarded to chapters for conducting ceremonies and activities honoring the NCO Corps.
  • We published a "Year of the NCO" poster and highlighted the "Year of the NCO" with banners, posters, etc., at all AUSA symposia throughout the year.
  • Republished the "SMA Quote" and "Army Campaign Streamers" books and distributed them to Army NCOs, active and reserve component.
  • Designed and cast a limited number of "Year of the NCO" belt buckles for presentation to outstanding NCOs.
  • Senior AUSA national staff participated as keynote speakers at numerous events honoring NCOs.
  • NCOs served as lecturers on contemporary military issue panels at the Annual Meeting and at AUSA symposia throughout the year.
  • During the AUSA Annual Meeting, an NCO Muster honoring the Noncommissioned Officer Corps was conducted and the 2009 Annual Meeting coin was dedicated to NCO Corps.
  • A "Year of the NCO" painting was commissioned and presented to the sergeant major of the Army during the AUSA Annual Meeting.
  • At the AUSA chapter level we conducted and sponsored "Year of the NCO" events including:
  • A "Year of the NCO" essay contest.
  • A golf tournament in honor of the Year of the NCO. (Omar Bradley Chapter)
  • Minted and issued "Year of the NCO" coins. (Greater Kansas City Chapter)
  • Donated thousands of dollars to Army birthday balls in honor of the
    "Year of the NCO."
  • Conducted a NCO luncheon in honor of the NCO Corps. (Fort Huachuca – Sierra Vista Chapter)
  • Sponsored a reception following Sgt. Audie Murphy induction ceremony. (Central Texas – Fort Hood Chapter)
  • Funded breakfast and refreshment after post NCO-led run; 5,500 soldiers participated. (Omar Bradley Chapter)
  • Initiated a chapter NCO of the Year competition. (North Texas Chapter)
  • NCOs honored at El Paso, Texas, Diablo semi pro baseball game. (Omar Bradley Chapter)
  • NCO presentation at region meeting. (6th Region)
  • Selected an NCO as the honorary "Police Chief for a Day." (Aberdeen Chapter)
  • Reading of the Creed of the NCO at chapter events.
  • Senior noncommissioned officers, both active and retired spoke at important AUSA events throughout the year.
  • Senior AUSA national leaders were keynote speakers at Fort Benning NCO Symposium.
  • Sgt. Maj. of the Army Kenneth Preston received the CINC Award on behalf of the NCO Corps from AUSA’s George Washington Chapter.

These events conducted by AUSA during the "Year of the NCO" were designed to support the United States Army in its effort to honor the NCO Corps.

The list is far from complete and does not account for the time, energy and just plain hard work AUSA volunteers devoted to the project during the year.

But success should not be measured by the length of our list of accomplishments. Success should be measured by how much of the "Year of the NCO" initiatives became permanent and how we changed the American public’s view of the Noncommissioned Officer Corps.

I would suggest that the "Year of the NCO" continues, if not formally then in spirit.

We will continue to honor the selfless service of our noncommissioned officers. We will continue to fine tune the Noncommissioned Officer Educational system.

And, we will continue to rely on the NCOs to "make it happen."

I will continue to refer to this and every year as the "Year of the NCO."

I, therefore, declare 2010 as the "Year of the NCO – Plus One!"

Still Serving!