AETC enlisted Airmen present former AU president, commander Order of the Sword

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Gen. Anthony Cotton recently received the Order of the Sword for his significant contributions to the development of the Air Force enlisted force during an official ceremony at Gunter Annex’s Flag Park.

Currently serving as the commander of Air Force Global Strike Command, Air Forces Strategic-Air, and U.S. Strategic Command, Cotton’s recognition is for his previous assignment as Air University’s president and commander.

“This induction is the highest honor that the enlisted force can bestow upon an officer and it is right and fitting that General Cotton join the very exclusive list of leaders in Air Education and Training Command presented with this command sword,” said Chief Master Sgt. Erik Thompson, AETC command chief. “This is the enlisted force’s way of recognizing leaders with the conspicuous and significant contributions to the military establishment, mission effectiveness and the overall welfare of the enlisted corps.”

“Thank you, and what an incredible honor it is to represent the men and women of Air Education and Training Command,” Cotton said. “I am truly, incredible humbled with the honor.”

The Order of the Sword proclamation issued by the enlisted men and women of AETC proclaimed Cotton “a leader among leaders who have established new standards for leadership while serving as the commander of Air University.”

“The officer that we recognize today embodies the leadership qualities of our Air Force and those that our nation holds dear,” Thompson said. “He leads with energy, drive, determination and compassion for the men and women of his command and those he is charged to enrich and develop as the commander of Air University.”

In ancient times, noncommissioned officers would honor their leader and pledge their loyalty by presenting him with a sword ceremoniously. The sword symbolized truth, justice and power rightfully used, and served as a token for all to see and know that there was a “leader among leaders.” The ceremony became known as the Royal Order of the Sword, later adopted by U.S. Air Force NCOs in 1967.

“As you see a four-star general standing here addressing you today, what I want you to understand is, whether it’s my current command chief or my previous command chief, I stand on their shoulders,” Cotton said. “The reason that I even have the opportunity of having this honor bestowed upon me as the commander and president of Air University is because of the wisdom and mentorship that I received from them. I don’t take it lightly that you are the backbone of an incredible and powerful Air Force.”

No other branch of the military honors its leaders in this manner, and the Order of the Sword is the highest honor and tribute the Air Force enlisted corps can bestow upon an individual.

During his tenure at AU, Cotton was responsible for providing a full spectrum of education, research and outreach at every level through professional military education and academic degree-granting. He led the intellectual and leadership center of the Air Force, graduating more than 50,000 resident and 120,000 non-resident officers, enlisted and civilian personnel each year.