FORT RUCKER, Ala. -- The U.S. Army Aviation Center of Excellence and Fort Rucker recognized the first quarter's top noncommissioned officer and Soldier during a ceremony Dec. 3 at the U.S. Army Aviation Museum.

Staff Sgt. James Borchardt, Fort Rucker NCO Academy small group leader, and Spc. Jamar Harris, Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 1st Battalion, 223rd Aviation Regiment S1 clerk, were awarded the Army Commendation Medal for their accomplishments as the NCO and Soldier of the First Quarter Fiscal Year 2011, respectively.

"I'm very proud of them," said Sgt. Maj. Vernon Brown, USAACE deputy commanding general's sergeant major. "They set themselves apart when they accepted the challenge and we need more young Soldiers to do this because they're our Army future."

Brown, who was the guest speaker at the event, stressed the need for Soldiers to take risks in their careers to grow as leaders.

"Unless they're willing to attend boards and take chances, Soldiers won't be successful," He said. "We're there as senior NCOs to help catch them and guide them."

The awardees accomplished a feat that many Soldiers and NCOs would not even attempt, Brown said. With that accomplishment comes the responsibility of leadership.

"You must seek in each of your Soldiers their individual potential and help them develop that potential, so that each of them is willing to take on new challenges no matter where they are," he said. "You're the future sergeants major of the Army. None of us today who wear that rank will be here 10 years from now. You will be, leading the Army ... leading your Army."

Both recipients were thrilled that their hard work paid off.

"This award means a lot to me. I worked hard, I studied hard and I really tried my best, so it meant a lot to actually win it," said Harris.

He credited his senior leadership for motivating him to succeed.

Borchardt said he worked many hours, some with his wife, studying.

"It's very humbling to be able compete in the installation boards and to go against other NCOs who are qualified as well," he said. "It's humbling and it's an honor."

Brown left the audience with a final message.

"Doing the same old thing is easy, change is hard," he said. "The failure to change will lead to more inefficiencies and failures within our systems and organizations, which will result in ill-trained and unprepared Soldiers. We cannot afford that.

"It is every leader's responsibility and duty to develop their subordinates." Brown said. "We, as senior leaders, whether NCO or officer, must ensure that our young leaders are doing the right things. And we must ensure that we have trained them properly to accomplish the mission."
In addition to the commendation medals, Borchardt and Harris received plaques, gift certificates and trophies from various sponsors. Sponsors included USAACE, Wiregrass Sergeants Major Association, Army Aviation Association of America, Disabled American Veterans Enterprise Coffee County Chapter 9, First Command Financial Services, Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, Army Fleet Support, Army Aviation Federal Credit Union, Geico, United Services Automobile Association and the Association of the U.S. Army.