JOINT BASE LANGLEY-EUSTIS, Va. –
One way to strengthen a backbone is to strengthen one’s core. The U.S. Army Corps of non-commissioned Officers calls itself the “Backbone of the Army,” and May 2-5 newly promoted Army and Air Force non-commissioned officers at Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Virginia, engaged in just that, with a week of physical, mental and leadership enhancing activities culminating in a Joint U.S. Air Force and U.S. Army induction ceremony, a tradition celebrating newly promoted NCOs.
“We NCOs are the backbone, and in order to facilitate that backbone, we need to follow our leadership and work together as a team,” said U.S. Army Master Sgt. Shervonne James, NCO in charge of NCO Week, Training and Doctrine Command special troops battalion.
Hosted by TRADOC STB and spearheaded with support from both Langley and Eustis, the week kicked off with the challenge course, a time based obstacle course, where the 35 NCOs were broken up into 5 teams, combining Air Force and Army. Other events of the week included a series of leadership professional development seminars, drill and ceremony, and a three mile ruck march. The seminars featured joint senior enlisted leaders from the region, including TRADOC Command Sgt. Maj. Daniel Hendrex.
According to James, she was inspired to be the driving force for the NCO week challenges and trainings.
“Having a Joint NCO Week started with a dream for honing in an NCO presence and leadership,” James said. “After some significant feedback we took the idea of making it an entire week with a focus on the team concept.”
The majority of the week’s challenges were not individually based, but team and leadership oriented. For example, the ruck march was more than just marching with a 35 lb. weighted ruck sack, each team had to pick up items, including a litter carry, an ammo can filled with sand, a five gallon jug of water, and even an M249 light machine gun with the stipulation that everything picked up must be brought back to the start and the team must all be together as well.
One Air Force NCO remarked on the feeling of participating in an Army-led challenge week.
“It was very welcoming, how the team treated us; It’s been a real joy to experience the Army NCO culture and their emphasis on the potential of leaders and leadership,” said U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Daniel Baxter, a communications specialist with the 633d Communications Squadron.
According to Baxter, he faced some new challenges, such as the ruck march.
“I’ve kept fit but I’ve never done something like this in my career. It was definitely a new experience,” he said.
An Army term, TIMS – This is My Squad, was incorporated into the week’s activities as well.
“To me, TIMS means, the greater the bond of trust that you have with your team and the tighter that culture is, the more productive and successful your team will be,” said senior U.S. Air Force noncommissioned officer at the event Chief Master Sgt. Tabitha Sanders, 45th Intelligence Squadron, when she spoke at the induction ceremony. “This week has challenged you, brought you together, but this is the first step. Grow and cultivate those leadership responsibilities. Always strive to be your best.”
At the end of the ceremony, a cake was cut by the Sanders, the oldest NCO at the ceremony and Sgt. Andricus McClelland, the youngest.
“It’s amazing to see the different uniforms in the crowd. What a milestone we get to witness and be a part of,” Sanders said. “Congratulations on a job well done. You made it here and have made it through all the challenges of the week, both physical and mental.”