The top U.S. non-commissioned officer shared the spotlight last night with fellow honorees U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, Prince Harry and other luminaries as he accepted a prestigious Atlantic Council leadership award on behalf of all enlisted service members.
Marine Corps Sgt. Maj. Bryan B. Battaglia, senior enlisted advisor to the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, accepted the Distinguished Military Leadership Award at the council’s annual awards dinner. The award recognizes the contributions toward a better world made by enlisted soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines and Coast Guardsmen, several dozen of whom attended the dinner.
“It is indeed humbling to represent an enlisted corps of over 1 million men and women, a diverse and powerful composition reaching all walks of life,” Battaglia told a group of almost 900 former and current administration officials, members of Congress, ambassadors and influential business leaders.
He noted the transformation of the enlisted force since its inception 237 years ago into a “multi-dimensional, multi-talented enlisted corps” that brings unprecedented capability and professionalism to the all-volunteer force.
“Our enlisted men and women have patriotically provided enduring freedoms within the borders of our homeland and beyond,” he told the gathering. “We are no longer just simply a defender of society, but rather, a vigorous group which helps sustain the commitment of Americans to everything we value: honor, equal opportunity, resiliency, leadership and integrity.”
Battaglia recognized the contributions the enlisted force has made during the past decade of conflict, noting as examples special operators “who risk much to ensure that our adversaries bring no harm” and National Guard members who provide immediate response to their communities when natural disasters strike.
He also remembered enlisted warriors “who gave the full devotion of duty and now lie in formations within hallowed grounds of our cemeteries,” and acknowledged the unwavering support of military families whose support is vital to the military’s success.
As Sen. Chuck Hagel, president of the Atlantic Council and an enlisted soldier during the Vietnam war, presented the award, Battaglia shared the stage with representatives of each service: Army Staff Sgt. Tanner Welch; Marine Corps Staff Sgt. Serena Anderson; Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Curtis Robinson; Air Force Tech. Sgt. Lisa Tomlinson; and Coast Guard Petty Officer 2nd Class Lisa Pique.
Prince Harry of Great Britain, accepted the Distinguished Humanitarian Leadership Award for work he and his brother, The Duke of Cambridge, conduct for wounded British servicemen and women and veterans. He extended his personal congratulations to Battaglia and the U.S. armed forces for their “peerless contribution to the defense of freedom.”
Harry, a captain in the British army, said he witnessed those contributions firsthand while deployed to Afghanistan. “It was a privilege for me to fight alongside members of the United States armed forces,” he told the gathering. “Their professionalism and dedication to the values we share and hold dear are inspirational.”
Speaking with American Forces Press Service after the ceremony, Battaglia said he felt like a lottery-winner, albeit it without the monetary gain, to be able to accept the award on behalf of all enlisted members and NCOs. “Saying it is an absolute honor might be an understatement at this point in time,” he said. “If I had to put some kind of … price on it, I’d have to call it priceless.”
While expressing appreciation for the Atlantic Council’s formal recognition, he said he’s not surprised that the American people continue to stand solidly behind their military.
“Noncommissioned officers and our enlisted force have always measured up,” he said. “And when the stakes got really high after 9/11 and during the past 10 years, they have really carried a big burden on their shoulders and showed their mettle.”
Receipt of the Distinguished Military Leadership Award sends a strong message to the men and women in uniform, he said. “America, our society respects and admires the hard work and sacrifices you and your families do each and every day,” he said.
“So keep up the great work that you are doing,” he continued. “And when it comes time to making decisions – and they are very, very hard decisions that you will make – the right decision is never-wavering the moral, ethical high ground.”
Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Thomas Mooney, serving at the Marine Corps Warfighting Laboratory in Quantico, Va., said he felt honored to attend the ceremony and experience the outpouring of support firsthand.
“It’s great to see such support from such a large, diverse audience,” agreed Air Force Tech. Sgt. Jason Hesbol, an aide to Battalgia. “It’s humbling as well,” he said. “As you can see, there’s a lot of pride.”
Also during last night’s ceremony, the U.N. secretary-general received this year’s Distinguished International Leadership Award for his success in mobilizing international leaders around global challenges.
Ban Ki-moon used last night’s ceremony as a platform to lament “a deficit of leadership” from the international community to end the bloodshed in Syria and to announce an increase in U.N. observers there.
The United Nations will deploy its full complement of 300 military observers and 100 civilians to Syria by June, he announced. The U.N. currently has 59 military monitors and about the same number of civilians on the ground.