The U.S. Army Heritage Center (formerly Museum) of the Noncommissioned Officer has a simple mission: “To collect, preserve, exhibit, and interpret historically significant property related to the history of the U.S. Army Noncommissioned Officer from 1775 to the present.” It is a mission accomplished through more than 2,500 artifacts with about 1/3 of them on display at any time.
The displays are overseen by a staff of four who update and maintain them in the way that history is written – chronologically. Beginning with the first NCOs of the civil war visitors are treated to a variety of displays – from mockups using mannequins to stand-alone displays with insignia, ammunitions, and other military artifacts – that tell the story of the small unit leader, how NCO symbols and insignia progressed over time and the evolution of the NCO corps as a whole. Along the tour there are also video screens which play continuous slide shows of historical photos of the time.
Recently the staff has updated several of the displays and created a few new ones – the story of Sgt. York, the most decorated man of World War I; the story of Audie Murphy, the most decorated Soldier of World War II; the desk of the Sergeant Major of the Army; the NCO wives display; and the uniform of Command Sgt, Maj. Cynthia Pritchett, the Army’s first and only female command sergeant major of a sub-unified command. Other displays are getting a touch up or redesign, but the chronology remains intact.
The center is routinely used by units on Fort Bliss as a place for NCO induction ceremonies and NCO professional development training.
The facility is located on East Fort Bliss on SSG Sims St., in Bldg. 11331 and is open weekdays from 9 a.m. until 4 p.m. Admission is free and is open to the public. The staff is available to give guided tours for groups and can be contacted at 915-744-8646/8609.
Among the center staff is an oral historian whose job it is to capture NCO stories. Many believe this is reserved for senior NCOs and former Sergeants Major of the Army, but nothing could be further from the truth. The historian stands ready to record the stories of any NCO about their experiences serving in the Army.
The website, located https://ncolcoe.bliss.army.mil/page.asp?id=57 will undego an upgrade in the near future and will include a photo tour and links to all of the oral histories being collected.