Observing the Army’s 239th birthday and the frocking of more than 60 Sailors, Walter Reed National Military Medical Center (WRNMMC) was the scene of combined celebrations for both on June 12 in the Memorial Auditorium.
Wearing uniforms patterned after those donned by the musicians of Gen. George Washington’s Continental Army, which go back to the roots of when the Army was established on June 14, 1775, members of the U.S. Army Old Guard Fife and Drum Corps played music from the period to welcome attendees to the event. They then played the national anthem to begin the celebrations.
Following “The Star-Spangled Banner,” Master Chief Maria Fernandez, WRNMMC senior enlisted leader, saluted the Sailors being frocked, explaining its a Navy tradition permitting petty officers to wear the rank of a higher grade before their official date of promotion. She added a Sailor who is frocked has earned “the trust and support of leadership” to advance to the next rank.
Although 61 Sailors were frocked during last week’s ceremony, in total, 73 Walter Reed Bethesda petty officers were selected for promotion this spring, according to Fernandez. She explained those Sailors unable to attend the ceremony were on temporary assigned duty, leave or had transferred. The advancement rates for Walter Reed Bethesda Sailors were 15 percent for E-6 (10 selectees); 12 percent for E-5 (21 selectees); and 12 percent for E-4 (42 selectees). “The Walter Reed Bethesda leadership congratulates all of them,” Fernandez said.
Hospital Corpsman 3rd Class Markeece Oneale, one of the Sailors frocked during last week’s ceremony, said, “It means a great deal. I’ve put a lot of time and effort into it. I’ve had a lot of mentors push me along the way. Also, I have cousins in the Navy and they are all first class [petty officers]. I’m the last one to get frocked, so it feels pretty good,” he continued.
“My responsibilities now are to help my fellow junior Sailors to pick up rank,” Oneale added. “I’d like to give back and help those whom I can,” he said.
After the frocking ceremony, Army Sgt. Maj. Jeffrey Zak, chief clinical non-commissioned officer for WRNMMC, led the Army’s birthday celebration, discussing its values and profession of arms.
Originating from humble beginnings in 1775 when it was made up of state militias with citizen Soldiers to defend the new colonies from British forces, the U.S. Army has since grown from its initial 10 companies of Continental troops to a force of approximately 1.1 million.
Zak explained the Army established its values of loyalty, duty, respect, selfless service, honor, integrity and personal courage as well as its Warrior Ethos to help guide its Soldiers, but the focus of his presentation was on lines from the Soldier’s Creed and NCO Creed which respectively state, “I am an expert and I am a professional,” and “No one is more professional than I.”
The sergeant major encouraged all service members at Walter Reed Bethesda to think about and be professionals by “taking that extra moment to make sure their uniforms are within standards and they are wearing them properly. Make sure you’re doing the right thing and living by your service values,” he added. “Remember that you’re not just a health care professional, but you’re also a member of the profession of arms.”
Referring to a 2010 Army white paper concerning the Profession of Arms, Zak stated professions and professionals produce “uniquely expert work, not routine or repetitive work. Medicine, theology, law, and the military are — social trustee forms of professions. Effectiveness, rather than pure efficiency, is the key to the work of professionals — the sick wants a cure, the sinner wants absolution, the accused wants exoneration, and the defenseless seeks security.”
In addition, “the profession exists only through a relationship of trust with the client, and to maintain that trust, the profession requires the continuous development of human practitioners, (i.e. experts) who hold high levels of knowledge, adaptability, resilience, and other attributes that make them effective members of the Profession of Arms,” the White Paper states.
Also, the profession requires “unwavering, deeply held values on which to base its ethic. Those values, when well internalized, are manifested in the character of individual professionals, and the profession provides a vital service to American society, and does so in subordination. That service is manifested in the duty of the individual professional.”
Following Zak’s presentation, he was joined on stage by WRNMMC Director Brig. Gen. (Dr.) Jeffrey B. Clark and Col. Charles McQueen, representing Walter Reed Bethesda’s most senior Soldier, and Pfc. Khailah Mata, representing the medical center’s most junior Soldier, to cut the Army birthday cake.
After the cake was cut, Soldiers sang the Army song to conclude the ceremony.
Army Staff Sgt. Andres Moorman, an academic instructor in the Department of Health Professions Education at WRNMMMC, said he proudly celebrates the Army’s birthday because it means “being a part of the forces that defend the Constitution and support America’s freedom. It means service to others, selfless service, and it means a lot to serve in this capacity. I can’t imagine myself doing anything else.”
The Army staff sergeant added at Walter Reed Bethesda, it’s important to celebrate all of the services’ birthdays. “We are increasingly becoming a joint service and lately, that’s becoming more prevalent. For example, in theater, it’s not just the Army, it’s not just the Marines, it’s not just the Navy, and it’s not just the Air Force,” Moorman said. “We’re all working together to accomplish the same mission, whether it’s winning the war on terror, a humanitarian mission, or securing America’s borders here. Everybody has an important role to play and we all do it together. One service cannot do it without the other, so it’s important for us to understand each other and be unified,” the Soldier concluded.