FORT RUCKER, Ala. (June 27, 2014) -- Before he said farewell to friends and coworkers, an NCO Academy instructor received the bronze Order of Saint Michael award June 20.

Sgt. 1st Class Clenten Lewis is currently on orders for 1st Battalion, 227th Aviation Regiment, Fort Hood, Texas, but before he had a chance to give his goodbyes he was surprised to find a small gathering waiting for him in the Butts Classroom where he was presented the prestigious award.

"(Lewis) has distinguished himself as an exceptional leader throughout his 15 years of service in the U.S. Army and the Aviation Branch," said 1st Sgt. Gloria Cain, NCO Academy deputy commandant.

Lewis began his distinguished service to Army Aviation in 1999, said Cain, adding that during his career Lewis made a lasting impact on the Soldiers of Army Aviation.

"His outstanding leadership, coupled with a high degree of technical and tactical competence, has been instrumental to the success of every unit which he has served with. Lewis' dedicated service to the nation and valuable contributions to Army Aviation clearly indicate he is worthy of (this award)," she said. "He is an outstanding Aviation Soldier and leader of uncompromising character and integrity. He embodies all of the virtues commensurate with the tremendous honor of being inducted into the Honorable Order of Saint Michael."

Cain continued to say that Lewis was an amazing Soldier at the NCOA, and that she is astounded at what he has accomplished over the years.

"All of his students always raved about him. They have always trusted him and believed in him," she said. "They have always commended him on his abilities to instruct and lead them to success."

Lewis was "truly humbled" by the award.

"Thank you guys so much for everything. You guys have made it hard to leave. I really enjoyed my time here at the academy," he said to fellow NCOA instructors and staff after receiving the award. "Ever since I got in a helicopter, I was hooked. It didn't matter what I was doing, as long as I was around them, I loved my job. I love Aviation, and I am so honored and proud to be up here receiving this award."

The AAAA Order of Saint Michael recognizes individuals who have contributed significantly to the promotion of Army Aviation in ways that stand out in the eyes of seniors, subordinates and peers, and Lewis was tested and found worthy of this honor, said Sgt. 1st Class Marvin Brown, NCOA maintenance branch first sergeant.

"Order of Saint Michael recipients demonstrate the highest standards of integrity and moral character, display an outstanding degree of professional competence and serve the United States Army Aviation Community with distinction. Lewis has done all of that and more."