Honors and recognition have been coming pretty frequently in recent days for First Sgt. Lee Dalton.

And his leadership believes it's well deserved.

At a time in the Army when force reduction and budget constraints are making it more difficult for Soldier promotions, Dalton is one of the exceptions, being promoted to master sergeant during a Nov. 1 ceremony at the Aviation and Missile Command's headquarters at Redstone Arsenal.

"It's no secret that our Army is coming down in end strength and size, so promotions these days are huge," said AMCOM Command Sgt. Maj. Glen Vela.

"You have a lot of positives in your column to make this promotion. Getting promoted to E-8 (master sergeant) is a huge, huge deal. From your paperwork and your packet, you are a phenomenal leader and it was a very easy selection. You have demonstrated leadership."

The promotion came on the heels of an Oct. 27 awards ceremony where Dalton received the Sgt. John Ordway Leadership Award for the Army's active duty component from the Redstone-Huntsville Chapter of the Association of the U.S. Army.

Dalton has served as the first sergeant for AMCOM's Headquarters and Headquarters Co. for just over a year. He leads efforts to oversee the administrative, medical and other Human Resources actions for about 700 Soldiers stationed at Redstone Arsenal. That oversight includes not only Soldiers assigned to AMCOM, but Soldiers assigned to 27 tenant organizations at Redstone, including the Army Materiel Command, Space and Missile Defense Command, Missile Defense Agency and Army Contracting Command.

"You have done the work of a first sergeant, of a master sergeant, since you've been here, and you have done a remarkable job," said Maj. Curt Schultheis, commander of AMCOM HHC, who hosted the promotion ceremony. "The quality of this non-commissioned officer is among the best I've ever worked with."

Dalton, accompanied by his wife Samantha and his father, thanked his family, and all who have influenced and supported him as he's worked to be the best Soldier possible.

"This is a recipe for success," he said. "My mentors, my peers, my buddies, all of you have been a part of what's made me be stronger and I appreciate this. And supporting me all the way has been my bride, who has been my power source for my entire career."

Dalton expressed that same sentiment at the Ordway leadership award breakfast hosted by the AUSA chapter at The Summit. The award is unique in that first sergeants are usually the leaders determining the awards for lower ranked Soldiers.

"It's an honor to be recognized," Dalton said.

"First sergeants, generally, don't get award recognition. They are usually the ones doing the recommendations for awards for the Soldiers in their unit. So it's nice to get recognition as the first sergeant of the company."

Besides Dalton, the AUSA chapter also presented Ordway leadership awards to the Reserve component's Master Sgt. Joshua Knott of the 13th Battalion Ordnance, 108th Regiment, 3rd Brigade Ordnance, 94th Division, Redstone Arsenal; and to the National Guard component's First Sgt. Roy Hamilton of B Company, 115th Expeditionary Signal Battalion, Sheffield, Alabama. They also received a recognition plaque from the Redstone Arsenal Sergeants Major Association.

The AUSA award "recognizes the Army tradition of taking care of Soldiers and their families … The chapter is proud to recognize first sergeants from across the Tennessee Valley each year at this event," said retired Command Sgt. Maj. James Ross, AUSA's vice president of Soldier Affairs who served as narrator at the awards breakfast.

The Sgt. John Ordway Leadership Award was named after a regular Army Soldier who served as the first sergeant of the Lewis and Clark Expedition in 1804-06. It was first presented in 2005 in recognition of the 200th anniversary of the expedition. Ordway has relatives in Huntsville, and was represented by Lisa Ordway, Sarah Hereford and Sibyl Wilkinson at the awards breakfast.

"Lee is well deserving of this award," Schultheis said. "He leads a company of 706 Soldiers from across the installation. I can't think of a better Soldier leader to be more deserving of this award."

Dalton was nominated for the AUSA award by Redstone-Garrison Command Sgt. Maj. Brad Bradshaw.

"He's a phenomenal leader," Bradshaw said of Dalton. "He's a hard worker and very dedicated in his efforts to take care of Soldiers at Redstone. He is an inspirational leader and I have a lot of respect for him. His unwavering love for the Army and for taking care of Soldiers and Soldier families is evident in everything he does."

That care of Soldiers and Soldier families is in direct support of Army chief of staff Gen. Mark Milley's readiness priority, said the event's guest speaker, Command Sgt. Maj. Jerome Wiggins of the Space and Missile Defense Command/Army Forces Strategic Command.

"These are three outstanding first sergeants who have made a difference in the lives of Soldiers and in mission accomplishment and, most important, in taking care of families," Wiggins said of the awardees. "Each possess the desired traits, attributes and character associated with being a leader."

As the military leader of the Lewis and Clark Expedition, the 29-year-old Ordway set the standard for all Army first sergeants, a standard that still stands today, Wiggins said. Ordway was the administrator and disciplinarian for the 25 Army Soldiers who made the 18-month expedition northwest with Capt. Meriwether Lewis and 2nd Lt. William Clark. Ordway kept a journal documenting the historical expedition.

"In his capacity as a first sergeant, he was making sure his men were taken care of, providing rations and making sure the mission was accomplished. Because he was the only Soldier who could read and write, he would write home for his men. He represented the highest tradition of leadership," Wiggins said.

Today's Army first sergeants can look to Ordway for the footsteps they can follow in supporting their Soldiers and their Soldier's families, encouraging others to do the same and remaining dedicated to always doing the right thing, he said.

"First sergeant duties are endless," he said. "They are the backbone of most companies. A successful unit has a motivated, unwavering and exceptional first sergeant at the helm … First sergeants' strength is in their love for their Soldiers and their weakness is wanting everyone to love the Army like they do."