History was made as the first joint U.S. and Iraqi army non-commissioned officer ceremony was held at Forward Operation Base Faylok in Diyala province on March 27. Soldiers from 3rd Battalion, 21st Infantry Regiment, 1st Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division joined with Soldiers of the 20th Brigade, 5th Iraqi Army Division to officially induct their newest members into the NCO Corps.
Of the 27 Soldiers that were inducted in the ceremony, 18 were members of the 3-21 Inf. and 9 were members of the 20th IA Brigade.
Though the ceremony is not required for Soldiers who become NCOs the ceremony is seen as a time-honored tradition that displays the pride and respect Soldiers have for the Corps.
"It is a great honor. I know when I came up as a sergeant, this was pretty much the tradition and the norm, but due to all of the deployments it has kind of went away. So it is good to see it come back and to see the Soldiers get to participate," said 1st Sgt. Richard Beaver of 3-21 Inf.
The ceremony began with the playing of the U.S. and Iraqi national anthems symbolizing the bond the two groups have created with each other.
"We have united over the last few years. Last deployment we didn't joke around or talk to them [Iraqi army] very much but now we interact with them quite a bit," said Sgt. Melvin Gibson, an NCO inductee with the 3-21 Inf.
During the ceremony the Soldiers from each respective nation stood and recited their service's NCO creed. Each creed was then interpreted to the others language so all could acknowledge the creed being recited.
The guest speaker for the ceremony was Command Sgt. Maj. Robert Austin of the Brigade Support Battalion, 1/25th SBCT who spoke on what it means to be a leader and NCO in the military.
"It was an honor for me to be chosen as the guest speaker to be able to give a message to the young leaders; our future leaders of tomorrow," said Austin.
After Austin spoke, four senior U.S. NCOs along with one Iraqi NCO entered and lit four separate candles signifying the core principles of the military and its forever endurance.
The Soldiers then walked through an archway and over a small wooden bridge on the event's stage to signify their passage into the NCO Corps.
"This is something I'll always remember; the biggest reason is because of the IA. It just shows that every day we are getting closer to the Iraqi people and the Iraqi army," said NCO inductee Sgt. Jessie Calvillo, Company C, 3-21 Inf.
After the ceremony closed the new inductees lined up and were greeted with smiles and handshakes from their fellow Soldiers from both the U.S. and Iraq. The historical event was a defining mark in the relationship between the two nations, once enemies, now comrades, in the struggle to bring peace to a nation.