About the NCO Historical Society

The NCO Historical Society is an online, central repository allowing free access to information and material relating to the US Army Noncommissioned Officer Corps.

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We seek to provide easy access for soldiers, historians, researchers or others seeking to learn more about the professional enlisted Corps of the United States Army.

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The curator and founder of the NCO Historical Society is available for lectures, presentation or professional development sessions on NCO History.

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Noteworthy NCOs

A listing of noteworthy Noncommissioned Officers, not all inclusive. Please submit your suggestions for inclusions to this list so we can better capture the importance of the US Army Noncommissioned Officer Corps. Suggest a Noncommissioned Officer to be included.

Sgt Maj AdamsSgt. Maj. Bette Adams

First woman assigned to Vietnam. In 1964 the situation in Vietnam had intensified and the Republic of Vietnam was organizing a Women’s Armed Forces Corps (WAFC) and wanted U.S. WAC’s to assist them in planning and developing it. General Westmoreland, Commander of The Military Assistance Command, Vietnam, authorized one officer space and one enlisted space and the requisitions were submitted to the Pentagon to Colonel Emily Gorman, Director of the Women’s Army Corps. The requisition for the enlisted woman was a first and she was to be chosen for excellence in leadership, training, administration and recruiting. On January 15, 1965 Sergeant First Class Betty Adams stepped off an airplane in Saigon and into the advisory position for the WAFC.

Cmd. Sgt. Maj. Jerry T. Alley

One of two "co-Interim" Sergeants Major of the Army when the 10th Sergeant Major of the Army was removed. Served as the Forces Command Command Sergeant Major. Also see James C. McKinney.

Cmd. Sgt. Maj. Alexander Anderson

CSM Alexander S. Anderson (1919–1975) was born on November 12, 1919. He was one of the first African-American paratroopers and served in both the Korean and Vietnam conflicts. According to George L. Washington, director of pilot training at Tuskegee, Anderson executed the first parachute jump at Tuskegee and later became a pioneer in the use of parachutes. On March 25, 1940, Anderson received one of the highest scores on the standard written examination required of all CPTP students at Tuskegee and was featured in the March 1941 edition of Popular Aviation.

Cmd. Sgt. Maj. Leroy Arceneaux

Command Sergeant Major at 30 years old. CSM Leroy Arceneaux, CSM at 30 years old(Redstone Arsenal)

Cpl. William B. Baker

First soldeir awarded the Certificate of Merit for actions during the Spanish-American War. Later awarded the Army Distinguished Service Medal in lieu of the Certificate of Merit. For distinguished service in action at Manila, Philippine Islands, on 13 August 1898, while serving as a member of the Astor Light Battery.

Sgt. Maj. Knox Bellingham

Knox Bellingham who served as a First Sergeant for 15 years and was crowned by Army Times as the champion First Sergeant in 1959. Interviewed by Today Show host Dave Garroway in 1957.

Sgt. Daniel Bissell

Of the 2d Connecticut ,was one of three awardees of the Badge of Military Merit badge,  awarded for "any singularly meritorious Action." It was the "Figure of a Heart in Purple Cloth or Silk edged with narrow Lace or Binding." and was affixed to the uniform coat above the left breast and permitted its wearer to pass guards and sentinels without challenge and to have his name and regiment inscribed in a Book of Merit. The Badge specifically honored the junior ranks, where decorations were unknown in contemporary European Armies.Also see:Brown and Bissell.

Spec 5 Janice Blackwell

First female African American  Jumpmaster.

Sgt. William Brown

Of the 2d Connecticut, was one of three awardees of the Badge of Military Merit badge,  awarded for "any singularly meritorious Action." It was the "Figure of a Heart in Purple Cloth or Silk edged with narrow Lace or Binding." and was affixed to the uniform coat above the left breast and permitted its wearer to pass guards and sentinels without challenge and to have his name and regiment inscribed in a Book of Merit. The Badge specifically honored the junior ranks, where decorations were unknown in contemporary European Armies. Also see: Churchill and Bissell.

MSG ChilsonMaster Sgt. Llewellyn Chilson

A highly decorated enlisted soldier of the United States Army during WWII. Master Sergeant who served in the Mediterranean and European Theater of Operations during World War II. He performed remarkably on several occasions throughout the war. He was recommended twice for the Medal of Honor, the U.S. Army awarded him over a dozen combat decorations including three Distinguished Service Crosses for "extraordinary heroism". He was personally decorated by the President of the United States with seven combat decorations after the war. In 1952, he was considered to be the "second most decorated" American combat infantryman of World War II. NCOHistory Article

Sgt. Elijah Churchill

Of the 5th Connecticut Regiment, was one of three awardees of the Badge of Military Merit badge,  awarded for "any singularly meritorious Action." It was the "Figure of a Heart in Purple Cloth or Silk edged with narrow Lace or Binding." and was affixed to the uniform coat above the left breast and permitted its wearer to pass guards and sentinels without challenge and to have his name and regiment inscribed in a Book of Merit. The Badge specifically honored the junior ranks, where decorations were unknown in contemporary European Armies. Also see: Brown and Bissell.

Sgt. Maj. Kenneth W. Cooper

Former 1st Cav Div Sgt. Maj. at the time his was killed on Jul 7, 1970 along with 1st Cav Div Cdr Maj Gen George Casey Sr. Their aircraft hit a mountain near Bao Luc partial IFR flying from Tay Ninh to Cam Ranh to visit troops in the hospital.

Sgt. Curtis G. Culin III

A member of New Jersey’s 102nd Cavalry Squadron, Sgt.. Culin developed the idea of taking the iron road obstacles placed by the retreating Germans, fabricating them into a ‘plow’ affixed to the front of a tank that then allows it to ‘cut’ its way through hedgerows in WWII. This allowed the tanks to break through in any unpredictable location, confounding the enemy’s traps. Known as “rhino tanks” more than 300 were equipped and help to speed up the Allied advance. Sergeant Culin was awarded the Legion of Merit Medal for his idea. [momument ]

Cmd. Sgt. Maj. Theodore (Ted) Dobol

Command Sergeant Major Ted Dobol, who served with the 26th Infantry Regiment from 1940 to 1966. First NCO promoted to Sgt. Maj.

S.Sgt. Malcolm Forbes

Malcolm Forbes is one of the most famous names in the world of business. Malcolm was born in 1919 in Brooklyn to Scottish immigrant parents. He graduated from Princeton University in 1941, and was inducted into the army as a private at the start of World War II. Forbes was assigned to a heavy machine gun section in the 334th Infantry, 84th Infantry Division — the "Railsplitters." He served in France, Belgium, Holland, and Germany. Wounded in the thigh in combat at the Battle of Aachen, he spent ten months recovering in military hospitals before being discharged in August 1945 with the rank of staff sergeant. He was awarded the Bronze Star and Purple Heart.

Cmd. Sgt. Maj. William J. Gainey

First Senior Enlisted Advisor to the Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff.

SFC (later Col.) Robert L. Howard

As a staff sergeant of the highly-classified Military Assistance Command, Vietnam – Studies and Observations Group (MACV-SOG), Howard was recommended for the Medal of Honor on three separate occasions for three individual actions during thirteen months spanning 1967–1968. The first two nominations were downgraded to a Silver Star and the Distinguished Service Cross due to the covert nature of the operations in which Howard participated. As a Sergeant First Class of the same organization, he risked his life during a rescue mission in Cambodia on December 30, 1968, while second in command of a platoon-sized Hornet Force that was searching for missing American soldier Robert Scherdin, and was finally awarded the Medal of Honor. He learned of the award over a two-way radio while under enemy fire, immediately after being wounded, resulting in one of his eight Purple Hearts. Howard was wounded 14 times during one 54-month period during the Vietnam War.

1st. Sgt. Henry Hogan

Recipient of two medals of honor.  1st. Sgt. Henry Hogan, Double MOH awardee

Sgt Maj JamesSgt. Maj. Carolyn H. James

The Military Pay Bill of 1958, added grades E-8 and E-9 to the enlisted ranks; After this law was passed in 1959, Sgt. Maj. James  became the first in the Women's Army Corps (WAC) promoted to grade E-8. Therefore, she was the first WAC promoted to master sergeant (or first sergeant). In 1960, she was the first WAC promoted to sergeant major, E-9, while assigned to Headquarters, U.S. Army Air Defense Command, Colorado Springs

SPC Lawrence Joel, MoH winnerSpec 6 (then Spec 5) Lawrence Joel

Specialist 6 (then Specialist 5) Lawrence Joel, a medic, was the first living black man since the Spanish-American War to receive the United States Medal of Honor on Nov 8, 1966 for saving so many lives in the midst of battle with the 173rd Infantry.

Sgt. Heather L. Johnsen

First woman to earn the tomb guard identification badge, March 1996.

Sgt. Maj. William McBryar

McBryar was an African American who first served in the 10th Cavalry in Arizona. He was awarded the Medal of Honor in 1890 for his part in the capture of a group of Apaches who had retreated to a cave after a five-day, 200-mile pursuit. Under fire, McBryar maneuvered to a position where he could ricochet his bullets into the cave, forcing surrender. His was the first Medal of Honor awarded to a 10th Cavalry Soldier. Article: NCOs Inducted in to the Leavenworth Hall of Fame.

Sgt. Maj. of the Army Gene C. McKinney

10th Sergeant Major of the Army, the first African-American to serve at the post. First to be removed from office.

Cmd. Sgt. Maj. James C. McKinney

One of two "co-Interim" Sergeants Major of the Army when the 10th Sergeant Major of the Army (who was his twin brother) was removed. Served as the Training and Doctrine Command Command Sergeant Major. Also see Jerry T. Alley

Cmd. Sgt. Maj. Jeffrey Mellinger

Last Vietnam draftee without a break in service to serve on Active duty.

Commisary Sergeant (later Bvt Maj. and twice elect President) William McKinley

When the Civil War broke out, 18-year-old William McKinley quit his job as a postal clerk in Poland, Ohio, and enlisted as a private in Company E, of the 23rd Ohio Volunteer Infantry. Before his first year of service had ended,McKinley was promoted to Commissary Sergeant. On September 17, 1862, at the Battle of Antietam, the bloodiest day of the Civil War, Sergeant McKinley was just to the rear of the battlefield watching over the brigade’s food and supplies. The men had eaten only a scanty breakfast, and he knew that as the day wore on the Buckeyes were growing weaker. Gathering up a hand full of stragglers, Sergeant McKinley courageously led two mule teams with wagons of rations and hot coffee into the thick of battle. Working his way over rough ground, through a hailstorm of artillery and rifle fire, he ignored repeated warnings to retreat – and continued on. He lost one team of mules to Confederate gunners, but did not return to the rear of the brigade until his fellow soldiers had been properly fed under the most adverse conditions.

Sergeant McKinley Co. E. 23rd Ohio Vol. Infantry, while in charge of the Commissary Department, on the afternoon of the day of the battle of Antietam, September 17, 1862, personally and without orders served "hot coffee" and "warm food" to every man in the Regiment, on this spot and in doing so had to pass under fire. (monument)

S. Sgt. (later Maj.) Audie Murphy

Murphy was initially a platoon runner, on July 15, 1943 he was promoted to the rank of corporal.  On December 13 1943 he was promoted to Sergeant. In preparation for his 3rd Infantry Division storming the Anzio beach head they  begain training near Naples, Italy. Murphy was promoted to S. Sgt. on Jan 13, 1944, and he was hospitalized in Naples with malaria on January 21 and was unable to participate in the initial Anzio landing. Murphy returned to his unit and became part of the unsuccessful January 30 – February 2 First Battle of Cisterna. Murphy was hospitalized for a week on March 13 with a second bout of malaria. In April, the 3rd Infantry Division was sent for more training. The Second Battle of Cisterna began May 23, resulting in an Allied victory on May 25. On August 15, 1944 during Operation Dragoon, the Allied invasion of southern France, S. Sgt. Murphy was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross for killing eight German soldiers, wounding three and taking eleven prisoners. In northeastern France Murphy was awarded two silver star medals and the purple heart medal. He was commissioned a second lieutenant on October 14, 1944.

Sgt. Maj. Florence G. Munson

The First Sergeant Major of the WAC Training Battalion (1959-64) Sgt.. Maj.   Munson was honored by having the headquarters and classroom building for the WAC Training Battalion dedicated in her honor in October 1965. She was the only WAC to have a building named for her at the Ft McClellan WAC Center. She also went on to become the first WAC Action Officer on the General Staff.

CSM NelsonCmd. Sgt. Maj. Yzetta  Nelson

Cmd. Sgt. Maj.. Yzetta Nelson First female Command Sergeant Major.

John OrdwaySgt. John Ordway

First statue to a named enlisted soldier. Sergeant John Ordway was a first sergeant of the famed Lewis and Clark Corps of Volunteers for Northwest Discovery. Army's first Statue to a named enlisted Soldier.

Sgt Maj O'ReillySgt. Maj. Hugh O'Reilly

Hugh O'Reilly formed a famous relationship between the 27th US Infantry Regiment "Wolfhounds" and the Holy Family Home orphanage in Osaka, Japan. The movie "Three Stripes in the Sun" was made by Columbia Pictures in 1955 based on Sgt. Maj. O'Reilly.

CPL PearlCpl. Calvin Titus Pearl

Cpl. Pearl was the last American standard-bearer. He received the Medal of Honor for his actions during the Boxer Rebellion and went on to become one of the US Army'sfirst chaplains assistants.

CSM PlumleyCmd. Sgt. Maj. Basil L. Plumley

Plumley served as the Sergeant Major of 1/7 Cav in the I Drang Valley alongside his commander then-LTC Hal Moore at LZ XRay and memorialized in the book and movie We Were Soldiers Once, and Young. He and Moore served together as Sergeant-Major and Commander for over two years at Fort Benning and in Vietnam. Plumley made all four combat jumps with the 82nd Airborne in World War II and one in Korea. Received three awards of the Combat Infantryman's Badge and a number of awards, including two Silver Stars.

1st Sgt Poolaw1st. Sgt. Pascal C. Poolaw, Sr.

First Sergeant Pascal C. Poolaw is the most decorated Indian soldier in the US military, he was full-blooded Kiowa. Among his medals are four Silver Stars and five Bronze Stars. He also earned three Purple Hearts, one for each of the wars in which he fought, World War II, Korea, and Vietnam.  1SG Poolaw was killed attempting to rescue his Battalion Commander and his staff from an overwhelming enemy assault. As 1SG Poolaw was carrying a wounded soldier to safety, he was struck by a rocket propelled grenade and killed. For his heroic actions 1SG Poolaw was awarded his fourth Silver Star and third Purple Heart posthumously.

PresleySgt. Elvis A. Presley

Elvis Aron Presley entered the United States Army at Memphis, Tennessee, on March 24, 1958, and then spent three days at the Fort Chaffee, Arkansas, Reception Station. He left active duty at Fort Dix, New Jersey, on March 5, 1960, and received his discharge from the Army Reserve on March 23, 1964. Elvis was promoted to Sergeant E-5 at age 25 on 1/20/60 at Tank Range 42 at Grafenwoehr, Germany.

During his active military career Presley served as a member of two different armor battalions. Between March 28 and September 17, 1958, he belonged to Company A, 2d Medium Tank Battalion, 37th Armor, stationed at Fort Hood, Texas for training. He served overseas in Frieberg GE witth the 1st Medium Tank Battalion, 32d Armor. History of Elvis Presley's military career

CSM PritchettCmd. Sgt. Maj. Cynthia Pritchett

The first female command sergeant major of a sub-unified combatant command. First female nominated to compete for Sergeant Major of the Army. Article:Ground-breaking senior NCO shares her experiences

Cmd. Sgt. Maj. Mark Ripka

First SEA to AFRICOM, second SEA for JFCOM.

1st. Sgt. George Washington Roosevelt

First Sergeant George Washington Roosevelt (Uncle of President Theodore Roosevelt and Grandfather of Brigadier General Theodore Roosevelt Jr.)

1st. Sgt. John Ryan

In late 1861, 16-year-old John Ryan of West Newton, Massachusetts, enlisted for three years in the 28th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry Regiment, thus beginning a lengthy Army career that extended to December 1876 and included 10 years in the U.S. Cavalry Regiment on the Plains under legendary Lt. Col. George A. Custer. John Ryan saw many "hard sights" in some 45 battlefields during the Civil War as well as on the Plains against Indians at Washita and the Little Bighorn rivers. He returned to his home in 1876 to live out another 50 years. Custer's First Sergeant John Ryan

Cpl. Paul Scaletta

Last awardee of Certificate of Merit Medal, awarded on 5 May 1918. Later awarded the Army Distinguished Service Medal in lieu of the Certificate of Merit. D.S.M. issued in lieu of the Certificate of Merit under the provisions of the act of Congress July 9, 1918)

Sgt. Dan Silverman

Designed the first recognized shoulder sleeve insignia (SSI) for the 81st Divisionduring WW I.  

Cpl. Freddie Stowers

Freddie Stowers was the only African American to receive the Medal of Honor for actions in World War I. Stowers had led an assault on German trenches, continuing to lead and encourage his men even after being twice wounded. Stowers died of his wounds, and was shortly afterwards recommended for the Medal of Honor; however, this recommendation was never processed. In 1990, the Department of the Army conducted a review and the Stowers recommendation was uncovered. An investigation was launched, and based on results of the investigation the award of the Medal of Honor was approved. Stowers' Medal of Honor was presented on April 24, 1991—seventy-three years after he was killed-in-action. 

Sgt StubbySergeant Stubby

The most decorated war dog of World War I and the only dog to be promoted to sergeant through combat. America's first war dog with the 106th Infantry, 26th (Yankee) Division, Stubby served for 18 months and participated in seventeen battles on the Western Front. He saved his regiment from surprise mustard gas attacks, found and comforted the wounded, and even once caught a German spy by the seat of his pants, holding him there until American soldiers found him.

CSM Lynell Sullivan

First female nominative command sergeant serving a two-star general at the Industrial Operations Command, reported in the NCO Journal.

Sgt. Maj. Joseph A. Venable

On 11 Sep 1968 elements of the 1st Infantry Division got into a developing engagement at Loc Ninh in Binh Long Province. Two days into the three-day fight, on 13 Sep 1968, B Company, 1st Aviation Battalion, provided the command and control helicopter (UH-1H tail number 67-17552) for the Division's Commanding General, Major General Keith L. Ware and Division Sergeant Major, Sgt. Maj. Joe Venable. The Huey was carrying a crew of four and the CG's party of four passengers when it exploded in mid-air and crashed southeast of Loc Ninh with no survivors.

1SG (later GEN) John Vessey

During World War II, Vessey served with the 34th Infantry Division. The experience of early American setbacks in North Africa left Vessey with a lifelong appreciation of the need for realistic combat training, modern equipment, physical fitness, and air-ground cooperation. WhenMajor General Omar Bradley, Commander of II Corps in North Africa, launched the U.S. drive on Bizerte in April 1943, he gave the 34th the most difficult objective: the well-defended Hill 609. In the first clear-cut U.S. Army victory of the campaign, the 34th Division took its objective, opening the way for the U.S. advance on Bizerte. Vessey, who had been a First Sergeant since 1 September 1942, later described being a first sergeant in combat as the "toughest job" he had. He was with the 34th when it entered the Anzio beachhead in Italy in May 1944; there he received a battlefield commission as a second lieutenant, serving as a forward observer.

SSG Skeezix Wallet

Skeezix is a character in the comic series Gasoline Alley. Gasoline Alley is a long-running comic strip created by Frank King and first published on November 24, 1918. Widely recognized as an innovative pioneering strip, Gasoline Alley was the first to depict its characters aging through generations as the decades progressed. Enlisted in June 1942; Enroute from Naples to a mission in the Balkans survived a plane crash into the Adriatic and was rescued by Nazi resistance fighters. Reunited with US forces, promoted to sergeant, and reassigned to the Pacific Theater of Operations. Discharged October 1945 after three-and-a-half years’ service and with 89 points. [Registry]

Sgt. Maj. William (Billy) Waugh

Awarded eight purple heart medals (tied for highest number of PH medals) and 3 Silver Star medals. An SF legend.

Sgt. Samuel Woodfill

Samuel Woodfill enlisted in the Regular Army in 1898 and saw combat during the Philippine Insurrection. He was made a reserve lieutenant in 1917 and won the Medal of Honor while leading his company against numerous German machine gun positions around Cunel on 14 October 1918. After the war Woodfill reverted to the rank of master sergeant to safeguard his pension.

SMA William O. Wooldridge

First Sergeant Major of the Army. First NCO promoted to CSM.

SGT Alvin C. York

One of the most decorated American soldiers in World War I. He received the Medal of Honor for leading an attack on a German machine gun nest, taking 32 machine guns, killing 28 German soldiers and capturing 132 others.

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