FORT RUCKER, Ala. (November 8, 2012) -- A retired American Soldier earned the Dutch Combat Insignia during a Dutch graduation ceremony at the International Military Student Office on Fort Rucker Nov. 1.

Retired CW4 Michael Boyle, an Apache Longbow new equipment training team instructor, said he is the first American Soldier to earn the Dutch award and is thankful for the time he was able to spend with is Dutch comrades.

"I feel very proud [to receive this insignia] and I'm very proud to have spent all that time in the Netherlands training with those soldiers," he said. "The fact that I got awarded the Dutch Combat Insignia is amazing. I don't even have an American Combat Action Badge because all my own deployments were with the Dutch Air Force, so it's nice to get that kind of recognition."

Boyle said that his time spent with the Dutch Air Force was unique and something he would not trade for anything.

"I got to do something with them that not many people get to do -- I got to see how another nation fights using the same aircraft we do," said Boyle. "It makes me proud to wear [the badge] and makes me proud to be part of a unique legacy."

Boyle received the award alongside Capt. Martijn Lugtigheid, a Dutch Aviator and fellow recipient of the award, who he spent time with during deployments in Afghanistan.

"Michael Boyle served as an exchange pilot with the 301 Apache Squadron in the Netherlands, and he and Captain Lugtigheid were both deployed to Afghanistan and were engaged in combat," said Commodore William Westerbeek, commander of the Dutch Defense Helicopter Command. "They can be very proud of their accomplishments and deserve to wear the Dutch Combat Insignia."

Lugtigheid said receiving the award felt like an appreciation from the government for what he has done in times of deployment.

"What you're doing in deployments is helping out the ground forces and all of our allies," he said. "It's good to be a part of that and be recognized for helping those people because that's what we do."

During their deployments to Afghanistan, they conducted missions to support ground forces in nearby villages where they successfully engaged combatants, said Westerbeek. While conducting the mission, Boyle and his team were retasked to a village to suppress additional enemy fire and were able to neutralize opposing forces and save lives.

"Our mission was to help out the guys on the ground. When you went out to fly, it was never to just go out and find the bad guys," said Boyle. "Whenever you were taking off, you were taking off to help somebody on the ground and that was the most rewarding part of it for me."

Boyle began his time with the Dutch Air Force when he was tasked to be an exchange officer with the Dutch military, and in 2005 he went to Dutch language school before he went to the Netherlands to begin his training for deployment to Afghanistan.

Boyle said that working with the Dutch Air Force was a humbling experience and there was much that he learned and took away from his experiences with them.

"International soldiers are incredibly professional and it's noticeable on a day-to-day basis," he said. "During the time I was with them, they were flying the aircraft different than the way we fly it here in the United States. I had to learn from them, and it was a humbling experience, but a great experience."

Lugtigheid also said that there was much that he learns from American Aviators, as well.

"Working with American Soldiers is a great experience," he said. "Like Mike said, he was learning from us during his time in the Netherlands, and I'm now learning a lot here [at Fort Rucker].

"In the Netherlands we call it looking into another's kitchen, and that's always a good thing," said Lugtigheid. "Everybody does things the way they think they should be done best, and to be able to get the best of both worlds and combine those and learn from each other is a great advantage."