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ANG director receives Order of the Sword invitation

NEW YORK -- Air Force Lt. Gen. Stanley Clarke III, director, Air National Guard, received the enlisted corps' top honor that can be bestowed upon an officer as he was presented an invitation to accept the Order of the Sword at a historic fire station here, Nov. 11.

"You are the leader who has shaped the Air National Guard and the enlisted corps forever," said Chief Master Sgt. James W. Hotaling, command chief master sergeant of the Air National Guard. "On behalf of the enlisted force, you truly deserve this invitation."

Clarke accepted the invitation as several senior enlisted ANG leaders looked on.

"Thank you for this," Clarke said. "This is such a tremendous honor. I am deeply touched that all of you invited me. This is very special, historic and certainly quite memorable. This is a tremendous honor for me both personally and professionally to receive this award."

As the Air National Guard's Enlisted Field Advisory Council looked on, the invitation was presented inside Fire Department New York 10 House with the 10 House Bravest Memorial in the background. The memorial honors six fire fighters from the firehouse who have fallen in the line of duty.

"For them to honor me like this, I just wish there was a way for me to pay a bigger honor back to them," Clarke said. "To get it today, on Veterans Day, presented to me in Firehouse 10, right here next to the World Trade Center location where the towers went down on 9/11 is memorable, historic, and obviously touched me deeply that somebody thought of me and presented it to me at this time."

The Air Force enlisted force established the Order of the Sword to recognize and honor military senior officers for significant contributions to the enlisted force. The presentation must be conducted in a way that ensures the dignity, respect and honor in which the enlisted force has placed upon this distinguished recognition. On Veteran's Day at this location ensured those requirements were met. The fire station lost 5 firefighters in the Sept. 11 attacks. During the early days of the WTC rescue and recovery operations, the firehouse was used as a command center and rest and recuperation station for fire department operations at the site.

Hotaling talked about the significance of the location for the invitation.

"A place of honor--a firehouse symbolizes everything the Air Guard is all about," said Hotaling. "It is composed of citizens who are designed to protect the community and to run towards danger. We wanted to talk to you where there was honor surrounding the invitation."

The day chosen for the invitation to be presented was also significant.

"Veteran's Day is designed to celebrate not only patriotism but also veterans who have served and sacrificed," said Hotaling. "Presenting this invitation to you on Veteran's Day is truly symbolic."

Air Force noncommissioned officers may nominate any eligible individual who has met the established criteria to be honored with the Order of the Sword. EFAC served as the executive agent and agreed with Clarke's nomination for this high honor.

"EFAC represents the 91,000 ANG enlisted force and voted unanimously to approve the invitation," said Hotaling.

Clarke, who became the ANG director in March, 2013, paved the way for enlisted professional development by supporting the Senior Enlisted Leadership Management Office. He also expanded the pool of future leaders through mentorship, which increased depth and competencies in the enlisted force. Clarke also reduced the amount of man-hours spent on ANG ancillary training by 80 percent, putting Airmen back on mission.

"9/11 took the Air National Guard from a strategic reserve to an operational reserve," said Hotaling. "The second most significant event since 9/11 is you becoming the director of the Air National Guard. The Air Force has transformed forever under your watch. You were the leader who gave the enlisted force the ability to go out and shape the new ANG. We can't thank you enough for what you have done for us."

This invitation for the Order of the Sword astonished the ANG top general.

"I was surprised by the EFAC who presented me with an invitation to accept the Order of the Sword on behalf of 91,000 members of the enlisted corps," said Clarke. "I can't wait to tell all my family about what this means."

Clarke will become the 13th ANG officer to receive the Order of the Sword. It was first awarded to Maj. Gen. John T. Guise, who served as the director of the Air National Guard from 1977-1981.

The Order of the Sword presentation is scheduled to take place on April 17, 2016.