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Fort Carson Mountaineer

WTB holds first NCO induction ceremony

Sgt. 1st Class Justin Widhalm, second from left, walks with Sgt. Gavin Sibayan as he crosses the line of authority during the Warrior Transition Battalion's first noncommissioned officer induction ceremony June 24 at McMahon Auditorium.

Sgt. 1st Class Justin Widhalm, second from left, walks with Sgt. Gavin Sibayan as he crosses the line of authority during the Warrior Transition Battalion

Story and photos by Devin Fisher

Mountaineer staff

Ten Fort Carson wounded warriors officially joined the ranks of the Army noncommissioned officer corps June 24 during the Warrior Transition Battalion’s first NCO induction ceremony at McMahon Auditorium.

In a ceremony rich in Army history, NCO sponsors introduced their inductee and then joined them as they crossed the line of authority, symbolized by walking beneath crossed sabers. Inductees then signed the Creed of the Noncommissioned Officer and were administered the NCO oath to recognize they have transitioned from the ranks of Soldier to NCO.

“The NCO induction ceremony is a rite of passage into the (NCO) corps, which symbolizes dedication of duty shown by taking care of Soldiers,” said guest speaker Command Sgt. Maj. Frank Escolopio, Joint Forces Headquarters Colorado National Guard Land Component command sergeant major.

“To be an NCO is the hardest thing you will ever do, next to raising your Family,” the fellow wounded warrior told the inductees.

Escolopio told the inductees to set the example at all times and not to forget “Soldiers are always watching.” He said the NCO corps must always lead by example, train from experience, maintain and enforce the standards, take care of Soldiers and adapt to a changing world.

“What a great year to become an NCO,” he said, noting the Army is celebrating 2009 as the Year of the NCO.

WTB Command Sgt. Maj. Jim Bunch, who officially inducted the wounded warriors into the

NCO Corps, said the inductees had to overcome a lot of additional challenges and obstacles to earn the right to be called NCOs.

“They have overcome a lot of adversity to get to where they are,” Bunch said following the ceremony.

Noting the inductees didn’t appreciate all the rehearsals, Bunch said the first NCO induction ceremony he has been involved in during his 22-year career meant a lot to him and his Soldiers being inducted.

Staff Sgt. Angie Kerns, who was injured in Iraq in April 2008 did not have the chance to participate in an NCO induction ceremony after being promoted to sergeant.

“To be honored today meant the world to me. It touches me almost on a spiritual level, because wearing this uniform is everything to me,” she said, noting the hair on the back of her neck still stands up when she hears the national anthem.

“Being an NCO has probably been the best job, besides being a mother, that I ever had,” she said. “You take brand new Soldiers and you mold them into our nation’s finest.”

A WTU success story, the six-year Army veteran recently re-enlisted for another six years of service and has aspirations of becoming the first female sergeant major of the Army.

“I wasn’t willing to give up the fight,” she said of being classified unfit for combat and assigned to the WTB in October 2008. Kerns recently received orders to continue on active duty in a WTU cadre position at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C.

Kerns’ daughter, Rachal, 16, was beaming with pride after the ceremony.

“It’s been a long journey and

I’m really proud of her for sticking to it,” said Rachal, who traveled from Kansas to attend the ceremony. “All I could do is just smile … I was so proud of her; to say that she is my mom.”

The recognition provided a sense of achievement for Sgt. Gavin Sibayan.

“It meant accomplishments that ever since I was a private – I accomplished so much to earn sergeant,” said Sibayan, who has been in the WTB for 20 months recovering from injuries sustained in August 2007.

Sibayan noted he still has some complications to overcome, but his official induction into the NCO Corps has motivated him to continue his quest for achieving return to duty status.

“It helps (me) out with getting back into the routine of RTD and setting more goals toward the next rank.”

His wife, Stephanie, said she was proud of her husband and happy to see him receive some deserved recognition.

“The ceremony was awesome … it was truly awesome,” she said.

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