FORT RILEY, Kan. - Twenty one Fort Riley Soldiers joined the ranks of one of Army aviation's most distinguished orders in a ceremony May 19 on Fort Riley.

Soldiers with the Combat Aviation Brigade, 1st Infantry Division's 3rd Assault Helicopter Battalion, 1st Aviation Regiment, were inducted into the Order of Saint Michael for their service during the unit's recent Iraq tour.

The Order of Saint Michael is awarded to Army aviation Soldiers and Civilians who have served the aviation community with distinction. The criteria includes that the service must be significant and long-lasting.

Brigade Commander Col. Frank Muth, also a member of the order, spoke to the inductees before the ceremony.

"I am proud to have flown with you so much," he said. "The espirit de corps, the gumption that exists among you aviators is phenomenal."

"This is more than just a write up, an award," said Muth. "This is recognition of all you have done for the Army aviation community, and I'm proud, honored to stand in your ranks today."

Chief Warrant Officer 4 Scott Wadeson was among the recipients. One of the battalion's most senior warrant officers, Wadeson has served two tours to Iraq with the unit.

"This isn't something that is given out lightly," he said. "As a battalion, we had a pretty big part in supporting the CAB's mission, and a lot of work went into that."

"This really does touch my heart," said Wadeson.

The Soldiers were given medals engraved with the famous scene of Saint Michael defeating the dragon.

"His warrior qualities demonstrate the boldness and swiftness of aviation on the battlefield," read the ceremony's narrator. "As a brave warrior and protector, Saint Michael is the embodiment of courage and justice and is an appropriate symbol of excellence within Army aviation."

The battalion returned this March from Iraq, where it served as part of the Army's only aviation brigade supporting operations there.

The battalion was also the first unit to use the Army's newest model of Black Hawk helicopter, the UH-60M, in Iraq.