By Tech. Sgt. Thomas Kielbasa
Florida National Guard Public Affairs
WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. (6/17/09) - The National Guard remains an important part of the U.S. Army, and its non-commissioned officer corps ensures the Guard stays strong and relevant, the U.S. Army's senior enlisted leader said here today.
Sgt. Maj. of the Army Kenneth Preston addressed the Army National Guard's top non-commissioned officers (NCOs) during a Senior Enlisted Conference here, noting the significant contributions of the National Guard and Reserves in operations at home and abroad.
Preston, the 13th command sergeant major of the Army, said that nearly 83,000 Guard and Reserve Soldiers are mobilized and serving throughout the world.
"It's really absolutely amazing right now what our citizen-Soldiers are doing out there each and every day," Preston said.
"We could not do what we're doing as an Army or a nation if it weren't for the contributions of our citizen-Soldiers."
More than 300 senior enlisted Soldiers, Airmen, and their families from around the nation attended the week-long professional development conference in South Florida, where Preston spoke about an informational meeting he had with President Barrack Obama in January.
Preston and other senior enlisted advisors briefed the President about current military operations and issues, including the stress on the force from continued deployments, post traumatic stress disorders and the Army's campaign of sexual assault awareness within the force.
"Sexual assault is also an indicator of stress on the force," Preston told the audience.
"This year we want to get out there and continue the awareness that we are doing and continue the education for all of our Soldiers so they understand what constitutes a sexual assault. It's about education."
The Department of Defense has an ongoing sexual assault prevention and awareness campaign, and April is National Sexual Assault Awareness Month.
"It's a matter for all of us as senior leaders sitting our young Soldiers down and making sure that they really understand," Preston told the group.
"It goes back to all of us as senior NCOs to teach from a position of experience."
Preston said that on a positive note young men and women are continuing to join the Army, and retention levels remain high.
"Right now, across the Army, Active Guard and Reserve, from a recruiting perspective we've met all of our missions" he explained.
"Americans out there today are still continuing to volunteer and step up (to serve) in the Armed Forces.we can be very proud."
Preston also discussed the Army's "2009 Year of the NCO" campaign, and explained the importance of recognizing non-commissioned officers and their contributions.
He quoted Chief of Staff of the Army Gen. George Casey, who said: "The non-commissioned officers have really been the glue that's held our units and organizations together for the last eight years.
When you look at your commanders as they change in and out of command in a unit organization, it is really the non-commissioned officers that have the institutional knowledge - the subject-matter experts that remain behind and are the continuity that keep that unit together."
Since 2004, Sgt. Maj. of the Army Preston has served as the Army Chief of Staff's personal adviser on all enlisted-related matters, particularly in areas affecting Soldier training and quality of life.