'The Year of the NCO'

Fort Sill_Non-Commissioned Officers (NCO) are enlisted soldiers who earn the rank of Sergeant or higher, and are called the 'backbone of the Army.'  The Secretary of the Army has named 2009 'The Year of the NCO.'  "When he honored us as being the year of the NCO, they are telling us that they appreciate all the hard work that the Non-Commissioned Officers have done in the past wars, the present war, and the future that is coming up," said NCO Command Master Sergeant Robert White.

But, what exactly does an NCO do?  7News went to an artillery live fire exercise with Sergeant Major White.  Commissioned Officers receive training in leadership and management through the Military Academy, ROTC programs, or an Officer Candidate School.  They devise plans and strategies through the programs, but without the NCOs they might not be implemented.

It takes seven crew members to fire a single shell from an M119 Howitzer.  If you look at this scenario as if it is in a business setting, or scenario, the NCO would be the regional manager.  "He's responsible to make sure that the crew is well-trained, especially for the artillery," said White.  "Artillery is very crucial.  We are more accurate fire, so we have to make sure that wherever we fire, it gets to the point and the target."

The NCO takes instructions from the 'corporate director' - the Commissioned Officer (CO)- and gets soldiers to execute out in the field.  "We have a great working relationship, and I depend on him very much," said CO First Lieutenant Josh McCaskill.  McCaskill is a West Point graduate who hasn't even been alive as long as White has been in the Army.  "He has a lot more experience than I do, and he does an excellent job of showing me the ropes, so to speak - responsibilities as far as counseling goes, how to write up the proper forms, how to operate the guns the right way," he said.

While White shows McCaskill the ropes, he influences dozens of other soldiers who someday may follow in his stripes.  "One of my NCOs has done a lot in teaching me what it is to become an NCO, what it is to become a sergeant, what it is to lead soldiers, and how to do that," said Private First Class H. Verastegui.  "He's always got my back, and he shows me the right way how to do things, and corrects me when I'm wrong."

The Army will honor NCOs throughout the year, and you can count on 7News to bring you Fort Sill's continuing recognition of these hardworking soldiers.