U.S. Army Aviation Soldiers, family, and friends gathered on Howze Field to welcome a new chief warrant officer of the aviation branch to the U.S. Army Aviation Center of Excellence and Fort Rucker during a change of responsibility ceremony May 27, 2021.
Chief Warrant Officer 5 Michael "Myke" L. Lewis Jr., incoming chief warrant officer of the Aviation Branch, assumed responsibility from Chief Warrant Officer 5 Jonathan P. Koziol as the officer saber passed to him from ceremony host Maj. Gen. David J. Francis, USAACE and Fort Rucker commanding general.
The saber is one of the most enduring weapons on the battlefield and is symbolic of technical and tactical skill, which are fundamental characteristics of today’s warrant officer.
Francis thanked the attendees, both in person and online via social media livestream, including Soldiers and veterans, members of the Wiregrass community, and families of the honorees.
“It certainly is a perfect day to celebrate CW5 Jon Koziol’s 34-year career, and to welcome the next command chief warrant officer of the branch Myke Lewis,” Francis said.
“Myke has served at every echelon of Army aviation as a warrant officer from the tactical to the strategic, and we could not be more excited to welcome team Lewis to the USAACE team,” Francis said.
Lewis comes to Fort Rucker from his most recent assignment as the Army aviation standardization officer at Headquarters, Department of the Army’s Office of the Deputy Chief of Staff G-3/5/7 Aviation Directorate at the Army Pentagon.
Lewis’ previous assignments include serving as the command chief warrant officer for 25th Combat Aviation Brigade, Wheeler Army Airfield, Hawaii; and as the chief of standardization for the Directorate of Evaluation and Standardization here at Fort Rucker. He served multiple tours with the 101st Airborne Division, Fort Campbell, Ky., including as the brigade standardization officer for the 159th Aviation Brigade.
During his career, Lewis was selected to represent the United States as an AH-64D exchange pilot with the Royal Netherlands Air Force.
His deployments include Somalia in support of Operation Restore/Continue Hope, Kuwait and Iraq in support of Operations Enduring and Iraqi Freedom, and Afghanistan to support the International Security Assistance Force.
His awards include the Legion of Merit, Bronze Star Medal, Meritorious Service Medal, and Air Medal with Valor. He is qualified in the UH-1H, OH-58A/C, and AH-64A/D/E.
Lewis thanked family, guests, and USAACE leaders for attending the event.
“Maj. Gen. Francis, Sherrie and I want to thank you and Jodie for your support and for giving us another opportunity to serve the aviation branch,” he said.
He thanked the Koziols for what they have done for his family, and said he felt encouraged by what he has seen at Fort Rucker in the past few days.
“When you see what Col. Chasteen’s son did yesterday, that reflection garden over at the chapel, and you meet the Mayfield family and you hear Spc. Mitch Mayfield’s story, or you speak to a Gold Star brother…who is just as excited as he can be to start an aviation career like his brother did, you can’t help but feel a little invigorated about those things, and by God you find that energy to keep doing what they‘re doing, and that’s serving selflessly,” Lewis said.
“I’m glad to be part of something bigger than myself,” Lewis said.
Francis said the leadership and mentorship of Koziol and his wife Kyle will have a positive impact for years to come.
“[Koziol] set the wheels in motion for a new leader development model for aviation warrant officers that will be emulated by other branches across the Army. His efforts will improve aviation readiness and set the conditions for Army aviation to be [Multi-Domain Operations] capable and ready to introduce Future Vertical Lift into our formations with leaders who are ready to fight and win in large scale combat operations,” Francis said.
At USAACE, Koziol focused on how to better access, train, and retain the warrant officer corps. Under his leadership, warrant officers saw the first rise in aviation incentive pay in more than 20 years.
With 34 years of selfless service and leadership under his belt, Koziol is qualified in seven different aircraft. During his career he flew 5,000 hours, with four combat tours in the AH-64.
Koziol described his role at USAACE Headquarters as the “best seat in the house,” to be able to watch the “greatest aviation fighting force in the world” operate on a routine basis, including across the combat aviation brigades and the transformative work being done at USAACE.
“We are preparing for the next fight, and continue to sharpen the warfighter’s edge,” Koziol said.
Koziol, who was officially retired from the Army during the ceremony, shared his impressions across three decades of service in the U.S. Navy and U.S. Army.
“How small you feel in the Atlantic Ocean. The coldest days of my life in Hohenfels, Germany. The muddiest days in Bosnia, the hottest in Iraq, and the beauty of flying around the mountains of Afghanistan….”
“Facing the crippling fear of combat and being able to push it aside to support your fellow Soldiers. The profound joy of mission success. The sincerity in the eyes of a Soldier you support and them thanking you for making a difference. That awkward last goodbye as you wait for the plane to leave for deployment. More importantly, the exciting joy and sense of accomplishment of coming back and seeing your family,” Koziol said.
Looking back over his career, Koziol said he was grateful for his family’s support, and to have been taught by and served with the best aviation professionals in the world in Army Aviation.
“How lucky I’ve been,” he said.