FORT RUCKER, Ala. -- U.S. Army Aviation Center of Excellence and Fort Rucker officials honored their Noncommissioned Officer and Soldier of the Year for 2009 during a ceremony Feb. 5 at the U.S. Army Aviation Museum.

Sgt. 1st Class Nicholas L. Beauchamp, an instructor at the USAACE NCO Academy, and Spc. Keely H. Misemer, an air traffic controller with 1st Battalion, 11th Aviation Regiment, received recognition as the NCO and Soldier of the Year, respectively.

A packed house of Soldiers, civilian employees and Family members turned out to watch as Maj. Gen. James O. Barclay III, USAACE and Fort Rucker commanding general, and USAACE Command Sgt. Maj. Tod L. Glidewell presented the awards and Army Commendation Medals to the two Soldiers.

"I'm truly proud to be a part of recognizing these two great Soldiers in front of you today," Barclay said. "I can tell you they are going to make us proud because I know that they are going to win the rest of the way. I know they are."

That rest of the way consists of the two competing at the Combined Arms Center, and then at Army Training and Doctrine Command levels, and ultimately Army-wide, Glidewell said.

Winning the NCO of the Year award during the Army's Year of the NCO is certainly an honor, Beauchamp said, but for him, just being an NCO puts him exactly where he wants to be.

"Being an NCO - there's not a better feeling waking up every day knowing that what you're doing is not only for your country but also for Soldiers," he said. "As an NCO, there are a lot of opportunities out there. Always try to be the best you can be, set the example, make the mission happen and lead from the front."

Beauchamp is from the Aviation maintenance career field, enlisting as an avionics mechanic and after his time at the NCO Academy is up he will return as a shops maintenance supervisor. And while he is proud of his accomplishments and the chance to represent the Aviation Center, he said support from his Family, and also the Army's support of his Family, is critical to his success.

"They support everything I do," he said, adding that his parents drove here from Kentucky to see him receive his accolades. "Fort Rucker is the epitome of taking care of Soldiers and Families. I've had nothing but the best support. My daughter is 4 months old and when she was a newborn they helped me in every way possible. If I needed it, it was made available right away."

For Misemer, too, just serving in the Army is an honor.

"It means a lot to me and my Family," she said. "My father is a retired Marine, and it means so much just to serve and have it recognized that I am part of something so important. There is no greater pride than knowing you are serving your country and a part of what is protecting your Family and keeping them sleeping safely at night."

But winning Soldier of the Year is a nice enhancement to that service, above and beyond the gifts and awards the 10-plus local organizations showered her and Beauchamp with during the ceremony.

"If opportunity is out there, I want to grab it - and this was out there," Misemer said. "I believe all the extra things I do, like studying, volunteering, being part of BOSS (Better Opportunities for Single Soldiers) and helping Soldiers with physical training paid off. I think it also helps me set an example for other Soldiers - be a go-getter, take advantage of opportunities to excel, improve yourself and help others.

"Don't waste your time in the Army," she added. "If you're going to be in the Army, take advantage of the opportunities like going to college for free. Learn about the Army and go to the boards. They really help build your confidence. If opportunity knocks, go get it."

Misemer's future goals include competing for acceptance to the Sgt. Audie Murphy Club, an honor Beauchamp already enjoys, becoming an NCO and considering the Army as a lifelong career.