WASHINGTON -- Fort Rucker brought home the gold May 18 at the Army Communities of Excellence Awards ceremony at the Pentagon.

Maj. Gen. William K. Gayler, U.S. Army Aviation Center of Excellence and Fort Rucker commanding general; Col. Brian E. Walsh, Fort Rucker garrison commander; Command Sgt. Maj. Christopher D. Spivey, garrison command sergeant major; and other garrison officials accepted the gold award in the active component category a day after learning the post also received top honors in the 2018 Commander in Chief's Annual Award for Installation Excellence.

And it's no surprise Fort Rucker found itself on top in both competitions, Gayler said.

"Through these awards, the Department of Defense and the Army are confirming what we knew all along -- Fort Rucker is a great place for Soldiers, families, civilian employees and retirees to train, work, live, play and receive support," the general said.

"We have a great team at Fort Rucker -- and that includes our partners off the post, Gayler continued. "Community relations play a major part in an installation receiving these awards, and you just can't find a place where Soldiers and families receive greater support than in the Wiregrass. Our partnerships with the communities in the Wiregrass set up all sides for success and we look forward to continuing those partnerships in the years to come. Fort Rucker and the Wiregrass form a team that is truly Above the Best."

Other installations received recognition at the ceremony, as well, and Vice Chief of Staff of the Army Gen. James C. McConville Army said installations provide "world-class, power-projection platforms."

"Installations sustain daily operations, enabling units to concentrate on missions without distraction," he said at the ceremony. "When an installation is well run and well managed, everything from range operations to a commissary visit to a long deployment is easier for Soldiers, civilians and their families."

Soldiers are the Army's "most important weapons system," he added. That's why taking care of them at the place where they live and work every day is so vital.

People today live in a world where technology, in many cases, has replaced personal interaction, he said. Yet, installations have succeeded in creating a true sense of community for Soldiers, civilians and families, and establishing personal interactions.

This is notable, he pointed out, because many Soldiers, families and even civilians on installations are thousands of miles away from the place they call home, he said. "It's the installations that make them feel at home every day when they drive through that gate."

Military communities are connected not just by those who reside inside the gate, but they also interact with state and local governments, schools, churches and businesses that exist outside the gates, McConville said. These too need to be recognized because they provide tremendous support as well.

The vice chief mentioned that he grew up in Quincy, Massachusetts, where there are not many nearby military installations.

These regions miss out on what the military brings to the community, he said. "All the installations here today cracked the code on developing and maintaining that sense of community. They focused on the mission of Soldiers, and that truly boosts Army readiness."

Some 156 regular Army installations and 1,100 Guard and Reserve installations exist in the U.S. and globally, he pointed out. They manage over $16 billion annually, providing "world-class infrastructure and services to more than 1 million Soldiers, 240,000 Army civilians, and 2.2 million family members, and they do it well."

The Army Communities of Excellence Program recognizes quality in installation management leading to reform and improved readiness in areas like energy efficiency, facilities, training areas, emergency services and customer services, he said.

Army Communities of Excellence Awards active component winners:

• Gold: Fort Rucker;
• Silver: Fort McCoy, Wisconsin;
• Bronze: U.S. Army Garrison Daegu, South Korea; and Fort Stewart, Georgia; and
• Honorable mention: Fort Knox, Kentucky; and Fort Wainwright, Alaska.

Army Communities of Excellence Awards National Guard winners:

• Gold: Ohio Army National Guard;
• Silver: South Carolina Army National Guard;
• Bronze: Georgia Army National Guard; and
• Honorable mention: Vermont Army National Guard.

Army Communities of Excellence Awards reserve component winners:

• Gold: 81st Readiness Division, Fort Jackson, South Carolina; and
• Silver: 1st Mission Support Command, Fort Buchanan, Puerto Rico.