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Air Guard enlisted bestow highest honor on Lt. Gen. Stanley Clarke III

Chief Master Sgt. James W. Hotaling, the command chief master sergeant of the Air National Guard, toasts Lt. Gen. Stanley E. Clarke III, director of the Air National Guard, during his Order of the Sword induction ceremony at the Renaissance Hotel in Montgomery, Ala., April 17, 2016. Clarke is the 13th Air National Guard officer to be inducted into the Order of the Sword, which is the top honor the enlisted corps can bestow upon an officer. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Tech. Sgt. William Buchanan/Released)

Chief Master Sgt. James W. Hotaling, the command chief master sergeant of the Air National Guard, toasts Lt. Gen. Stanley E. Clarke III, director of the Air National Guard, during his Order of the Sword induction ceremony at the Renaissance Hotel in Montgomery, Ala., April 17, 2016. Clarke is the 13th Air National Guard officer to be inducted into the Order of the Sword, which is the top honor the enlisted corps can bestow upon an officer. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Tech. Sgt. William Buchanan/Released)

MONTGOMERY, Ala. -- Command Chief Master Sergeant of the Air National Guard James Hotaling served as chief of the mess and inducted the Director of the Air National Guard Lt. Gen. Stanley E. Clarke III into the Order of the Sword here on April 17.

The Order of the Sword was adopted by the enlisted Air Force to recognize senior officer, colonel and above and civilian equivalents for extraordinary contributions to the Air Force enlisted corps.

"I knew that the Order of the Sword was a big deal," Clarke said of the highest honor enlisted Airmen can bestow upon an officer. "It means a lot to me, it means a lot to my family; I think it means a lot to the Airmen out there to be a part of this also."

Clarke, an Alabama Guard member, expressed the great accomplishments of the Air National Guard during his time in service. He also conveyed the importance for enlisted members to continue improving and flourishing as Guard members.

During Hotaling's speech, the chief commended Clarke for his actions and profound interest in promoting the well-being of the ANG's enlisted Airmen. He thanked the director on behalf of all enlisted Air National Guard members--from airman basic to chief master sergeant.

Airman 1st Class Aaron Leyte, of the 140th Fighter Wing, Buckley Air Force Base, Colorado, was one of the newer military members in attendance who found the experience of the ceremony and the surrounding ANG leadership to be meaningful.

"This has been a life-changing opportunity and a real eye-opener," said Leyte. "It's helped me set goals for myself and my career. I want to be in a chief master sergeant seat one day."

Even more seasoned Air Guard members felt inspired during the evening's events.

"It was an awe-inspiring experience," said Tech Sgt. Danielle Heidrick from the 111th Attack Wing at Horsham Air Guard Station, Pennsylvania. "When you witness this event, it makes you want to improve yourself. It makes you want to be the best Airman you can be, since you're around those who've done just that."

First awarded to Maj. Gen. John T. Guise, director of the Air National Guard from 1977-1981, Clarke's induction commemorates him as the 13th ANG officer to receive the Order of the Sword.

"Now I know what it is to feel like a rock star," Clarke said. "Thank you for this, from the bottom of my heart."