KANDAHAR, Afghanistan – Twenty-three sergeants from 4th Brigade Support Battalion, (Task Force ‘Packhorse’), 1st Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, were inducted into the noncommissioned officer corps during a ceremony held May 14, at Forward Operating Base Walton in Kandahar City.
The induction ceremony is a rite of passage that symbolizes each soldier transitioning from being part of a closely supervised team, to becoming a leader of Soldiers within the Army ranks.
“Noncommissioned officers play a very vital role in the continued defense of our nation,” said Command Sgt. Maj. Albert V. Nelson, guest speaker for the induction ceremony, assigned to 504th Military Police Battalion, currently attached to 1st Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division.
“As a military force that is at war, we are growing a more experienced leader than ever before,” he said. “Even knowing that the stakes are impossibly high, our noncommissioned officers continue to lead from the front during this fight.”
“It is because we are at war and because the stakes are so high, that we must take the time to recognize an important rite of passage like the noncommissioned officer induction ceremony,” said Command Sgt. Maj. Kevin Tatem, 4BSB command sergeant major.
“These men and women give everything they have to serve their country and their fellow soldiers; the noncommissioned officers corps induction ceremony is a way to recognize them for all they have accomplished, as well as to remind them of all they have yet to accomplish as this deployment comes to an end.”
Sergeants who were inducted during the ceremony had their own thoughts on the significance of completing the time-honored ritual while in the midst of a combat deployment.
“This ceremony is incredibly meaningful to me,” said Sgt. Kiana Brash, mortuary affairs specialist assigned to Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 4BSB. “It makes me feel proud that our chain of command took the time to not only make sure we were welcomed into the noncommissioned officer corps, but to remind us of our charge as we near the end of our deployment.”
The actual ceremony began with the ritual of lighting three colored candles. Each of the candles symbolizes a different aspect of becoming a noncommissioned officer.
The red candle symbolizes the past, and the blood of soldiers who have died for their country. The white candle symbolizes the present, and the purity of the noncommissioned officer, and the blue candle symbolizes the future, and the loyalty sergeants have for their country.
Once the candles were lit, Sgt. 1st Class Robert Trice, treatment platoon sergeant, 4BSB, read the history of the NCO Corps, after which the ritual ‘Soldier’s request to the squad leader’ was recited by a team of lower-enlisted soldiers.
“’The Soldier’s request to the squad leader is a reminder to the sergeants of their newly required responsibilities,” said Trice. “It is a request that is being answered by a charge of noncommissioned officers around the world.”
Tatem included each of the sergeants being inducted as part of the charge that has been answered by noncommissioned officers around the world.
“During our time in Afghanistan, you have accomplished and achieved many great things,” he said. “Today is just one more milestone from a long list of wonderful things all of you have achieved, as you make the transformation from the rank of soldier, to the role of a noncommissioned officer.”
The charge both Tatem and Trice spoke of, is ‘the charge of the noncommissioned officer, which is read during each and every noncommissioned officers corps induction ceremony.
“It is a reminder to each sergeant, of the oath they took upon being promoted,” said Trice. “An oath to train, provide guidance for, and take care of each and every soldier.”
But the charge of the noncommissioned officer isn’t the only significant piece that was read during the induction ceremony.
The last ritual reading was a piece called ‘Boots of the NCO,’ which was a reminder to each sergeant in attendance, that many have traveled the path of the noncommissioned officer and persevered through impossible odds, to meet the charge.
“Boots have marched, paced, sloshed, trampled, jumped, and charged over or through dirt, mud snow, brush, rock, sand and water,” reads ‘Boots of the NCO.’ “In peace and war, boots of the American Soldier have left their prints in many places.
The piece goes on to list many of the places boots of the American soldier have left their prints, including Panama City, Baghdad, and of course, Kandahar City.
As ‘Boots of the NCO’ was read, Brash said everyone in attendance took a moment to reflect on the significance of the words, especially as they pertain to the 23 newly promoted and currently deployed sergeants of TF Packhorse.
“The pieces that were read during the ceremony were a reminder to me, that we are all essential components of a much larger mission,” said Brash. “The overall mission is like a symphony that can only come together if each note and bar is perfectly executed.”
As the ceremony concluded, each newly inducted sergeant was presented to Tatem, and brought to the front of the room to sign the official ledger of the noncommissioned officers corps.
After signing the ledger, the ceremony ended with each sergeant walking through the ‘Arch of the NCO,’ which signified the beginning of his or her journey as a noncommissioned officer.
“This is a very important step for each and every one of you,” said Nelson. “It officially recognizes your transition from the led, to the leaders.”
“As you go forth, it is now your charge to take care of soldiers,” he said. “It is now your charge to receive the mission and to lead by example, from the front.”