JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD, Wash. – Entrance into the Corps of the Noncommissioned Officer is not always formal or convenient.
In January of 1993, a complete stranger handed Command Sgt. Maj. D. Brett Waterhouse a packet while Waterhouse attended training in Germany and told him he had made the cut-off for sergeant. Twenty years later, Sgt. Joseph Miller received his promotion during his deployment to Afghanistan.
At the time, neither promotion was recognized with a formal ceremony.
However, Miller, a squad leader with the 45th Military Intelligence Company, 2nd Squadron, 1st Cavalry Regiment, and 24 fellow sergeants were formally welcomed into the NCO Corps during an induction ceremony Nov. 22 at Evergreen Theater, Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash.
During the ceremony, each new sergeant stepped though an archway that read “leaders” across the top with every NCO rank embossed on the sides.
As they took the small but symbolic step through the archway, Waterhouse, the senior-enlisted member of the squadron, welcomed them into the Corps of the Noncommissioned Officer.
“That’s the hardest transition in the Army, so there should be something to signify that,” Waterhouse said.
After all 25 NCOs walked through the archway, each signed a copy of the Charge to the Noncommissioned Officer, which lists the core responsibilities of sergeants and emphasizes the command sergeant major’s expectations for them.
“For a lot of guys, (their promotion) happened during the deployment,” said Waterhouse. “They get promoted and now they’re in charge of the same guys they were peers with the day before and we try to move those guys, but its not always possible.”
During deployment, Miller, a Youngstown, Ohio, native, saw the struggle Waterhouse mentioned.
It was hard being newly-promoted at first, because I went through the schoolhouse with many soldiers from my platoon, so it was sometimes hard to step away from them as a peer and become a leader and enforce the standard, Miller explained.
He said his promotion motivated him through the second half of his deployment, especially when he trained soldiers.
“It’s always good (when) you’re teaching someone something and you see their facial expression change and it’s like that light bulb clicked on,” said Miller. “It was a gratifying feeling every time that would happen.”
NCOs of all ranks attended the ceremony to show their support and recognize the importance of the induction.
“Even though we had command sergeants major and first sergeants there, it made me realize that collectively, no matter what rank, (sergeant through command sergeant major), we’re all noncommissioned officers and we all pretty much have the same job, just on a different level,” Miller said.
In the early stages of planning for the ceremony, Waterhouse asked around the squadron and found that the unit had never held a formal NCO induction ceremony.
“It makes me know that my leaders really do care and they want to continue to bring back some of the customs and courtesies and traditions that have been forgotten while we’ve been constantly in combat for the past 12 years,” Miller said.
For Miller, it was good having his girlfriend there to witness the ceremony and understand the magnitude of being a leader.
“(NCO induction ceremonies) help other people see that it’s not all about the individual anymore, you have soldiers to look out for,” Miller added. “The hours aren’t set … anything can pop up and it’s your responsibility to know how to take care of it.”
The ceremony also became an opportunity for leader development, said Waterhouse.
Two NCOs from Troop C, 2nd Squadron, 1st Cavalry Regiment, 4-2 Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 7th Infantry Division, Sgt. 1st Class Ernie Casiano and Sgt. Jeremiah Henderson, planned the majority of the ceremony, said Waterhouse.
It was important to Waterhouse that even the junior NCOs understand the main elements of an induction ceremony and the work it takes to plan one, so that one day they may plan one for their sergeants, he said.