A new generation of leaders was welcomed Thursday during the 3rd Sustainment Brigade’s NCO induction ceremony at the Woodruff Theater on Fort Stewart.
The brigade inducted 40 soldiers recently promoted to the rank of sergeant. Ten inductees came from each of the brigade’s four battalions: the 3rd Special Troops Battalion, the 87th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion, the 13thCombat Sustainment Support Battalion and the 260th Quartermaster Battalion.
The ceremony was in recognition of the Year of the Non-Commissioned Officer and to recognize the accomplishments of each inductee.
“This is a great day,” said Command Sgt. Maj. Clifton Johnson of the 3rd Sustainment Brigade. “It’s huge in the enlisted lives of soldiers.”
Johnson, clearly proud of the newly promoted young sergeants, said they are “his” NCOs.
“Most have been to combat with me,” he said.
The 3rd Sustainment Brigade is slated to deploy to Iraq in early spring, according to Johnson. The command sergeant major said the brigade is diverse, and many of its soldiers are now serving in Iraq, such as members of the 396th Transportation Company.
“We’re constantly coming and going,” he said.
Johnson’s last NCO induction ceremony was held in Iraq, which was a unique event to witness in a combat zone, he commented.
“We had people coming in from the east, west, north and south of Iraq,” Johnson said, describing the importance of an NCO induction ceremony.
The command sergeant major explained how experienced NCOs sponsor soldiers that show promise, assisting them to reach their promotion goals. Johnson has himself sponsored many soldiers over his 26 years of Army service.
“One may replace me someday,” he said.
Men and women with brand new sergeant rank patches entered the theater before the start of the ceremony, clearly anticipating the event.
Even the birth of his seventh child couldn’t keep Sgt. Starling McDonald, of the 87th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion, away from his induction ceremony. McDonald’s wife, Salisa McDonald, gave birth the night before to their youngest daughter, Abigail.
“It was a long night,” McDonald said. “I didn’t think I was going to make it, but I’m here.”
McDonald first enlisted in 2000 and got out of the Army in 2005. He re-enlisted in December 2006 and plans to stay and make the military a career until retirement.
“It’s exciting,” said NCO inductee Sgt. Krystal Barrett, a native of Forest City, Ark. “It’s a step toward my future.”
Barrett enlisted because she wanted to serve her country, and is now encouraging her 20-year-old brother to join the military for the same reason.
During the ceremony, brigade NCOs who were killed in Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom were honored, their framed photos gracing a table set before the theater stage.
Three NCOs also lit three candles: a red candle symbolizing blood spilled in the course of military service, a blue candle symbolizing valor and fidelity and a white candle to remember fallen comrades.
Inducted NCOs each recited a line of the NCO pledge. Johnson then introduced the guest speaker, Command Sgt. Maj. Louis Torres, of 4th Brigade (Vanguard), 3rd Infantry Division at Fort Stewart.
Torres advised new NCOs that being a professional non-commissioned officer would not be easy.
“You swore allegiance to be professional at all times; not just when you’re in uniform,” he said.
The Vanguard’s command sergeant major reminded new NCOs they promised not to compromise their integrity or moral courage.
“Waste no time arguing what a good man should be; be one,” Torres said, quoting an old saying.