Story by Patricia Dubiel on 08/23/2019The leadership of Fort Polk's 46th Engineer Battalion made the Aug. 15 ceremony for 33 of their newest NCOs more primal by usingfire, wind and the night sky.
Sgt. Michael Jones, Forward Support Company, said the spectacle seemed a bit overthe-top at first: Tiki torches and fire barrels alit against a darkening sky, seven standards bearing the Army values hoisted on poles, the battalion flag and streamers undulating in the wind and Viking music echoing across Spike Field.
"But then I began to understand the sense of pride it took to invest that amount of time and thought into making it special for us, and it looked amazing and beautiful, " he said. "I was impressed with the way they set it up. I became excited and felt proud about becoming an NCO."
Another new NCO said the event seemed to have a life of its own.
"The ceremony had a heartbeat, like it was alive," said Sgt. Madison Miller, Headquarters and Headquarters Company. "I think it was a great way to adapt an old Army tradition into something new for today's Soldier. They actually cared enough to modernize it so that someone from our generation can share with those from the previous generation."
This is the third time the 46th Eng Bn has held this style of NCO induction ceremony, according to Command Sgt. Maj. James Mitchell.
"The reaction of the guests and of the NCOs being inducted is different they are completely in awe," he said. "It gets the heart pumping, and when retired Command Sgt. Maj. Kevin Bryant and I designed this we wanted it to be so powerful that Soldiers would want to be NCOs, and to remind current NCOs why this is special."
Mitchell said traditional NCO inductions usually use red, white and blue candles, representing the N, C and O respectively. For the 46th Eng Bn, large wooden letters were erected on spike field with fire drums placed to illuminate them from the back.
The Engineer Arch was placed on Spike Field as well, and each inductee walked under it to be officially acknowledged and accept the duties and responsibilities of an NCO.
"I think these kinds of events are extremely important but they are often overlooked," said Mitchell. "I wish there were more ceremonies that took different creative approaches. I also wish someone would have taken the time to do something like that for me when I crossed that threshold. It means so much."
Being part of the NCO corps "means I can now help Soldiers mentally, physically and spiritually," said Jones.
Miller said being an NCO changes her priorities because it's no longer about what she can do, rather what her team can do.
"When you are a junior enlisted Soldier, your focus is on what you can achieve (individually)," she said. "Now it's more important to see what you can impress upon the people (in your charge) to make them better. My focus now is on mentoring Soldiers."
Each inductee received their own copy of the NCO guide, an NCO certificate signed by the inductee and Mitchell, a silver railroad spike that was once part of the railroad system here at Fort Polk and a seven Army Values dog tag.