How NCO Professional Development Ribbons Work

A lieutenant in the U.S. Army outside Kandahar, Afghanistan.
A lieutenant in the U.S. Army steps carefully to avoid bombs outside Kandahar, Afghanistan. Doing a job this delicate requires extensive training, mostly in the form of professional development courses provided by the Army.
Chris Hondros/Getty Images

Noncommissioned officers (NCOs) are known unofficially as "The Backbone of the U.S. Army." They are enlisted soldiers who have served long and well enough to be promoted to leadership positions over other soldiers. They are responsible for accomplishing their unit's assigned missions and for taking care of and training the soldiers under their leadership. They maintain the standards of the Army and provide help executing the orders of the commissioned officers above them.

Corporals, staff sergeants and sergeants are NCOs who live and work closely with their soldiers, acting as leaders of squads, sections and teams.


The history of the NCO Corps in the U.S. Army dates to the Revolutionary War, when Baron Friedrich Von Steuben standardized the ranks and responsibilities. The more senior soldiers in the NCO Corps attend mandatory professional development courses as they are promoted from one rank to the next. A Professional Development Ribbon recognizes their progress in the courses.

Keep reading to learn more about the Professional Development Ribbon and how NCOs earn them.