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The Order of the Sword

(U.S. Air Force courtesy photo)

(U.S. Air Force courtesy photo)

CANNON AIR FORCE BASE, N.M. -- Arguably the most renowned aspect of the United States Military is its reverence for tradition. Tradition is engrained in the lives of all who have raised their right hand while swearing to protect the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic.

Few traditions, however, are as ancient and honored as The Order of the Sword. Founded during the Middle Ages and adapted in the Twentieth Century, The Order of the Sword is the highest honor an enlisted member may bestow upon an officer.

The origins of this ceremony date back to Sweden in the year 1522. The nation’s ruling authority, King Gustavas I, had displayed ideal leadership, strength and provision to his people, which in turn formed a disciplined, orderly and loyal followership within his military.

The people were proud to serve someone of such devotion. Wishing to honor their leader with a symbol that represented “truth, justice, and power rightfully used,” the people presented King Gustavas with a sword. This sword announced to the masses that this particular king was of highest esteem and dignity.

The Order of the Sword was formally adapted by the Air Force nearly half a century ago and is based on this historical example. Since it is the highest award an enlisted member may impart to an officer, the criteria for nominees is staggering.

One must possess outstanding leadership, tireless commitment and unwavering devotion to those serving under him or her. It is up to the enlisted force to nominate this individual, and the final decision is solidified by a two-thirds vote of the executive committee planning the event. The finalized votes are sent to the chief master sergeant of the Air Force, and remain confidential until the sword is presented.

The chief master sergeant of the Air Force notifies the nominee and invites him or her to the ceremony, which is hosted at the presenting major command’s headquarters. At the ceremony, the winner is presented with a personal sword mounted in a red velvet-lined shadow box. Additionally awarded is a scroll signed by enlisted members in attendance, a proclamation signed by the committee members, and a citation signed by the chief master sergeant of the mess. Names of every new recipient of the Order of the Sword are inscribed at the appropriate MAJCOM headquarters for future generations to remember.

Exceptional leaders are those who inspire their followers to be better than they were before. They inspire discipline, integrity, and create future leaders within their followership every single day. Those leadership traits are vital to the success of the United States Air Force and are recognized at the highest level by the presentation of The Order of the Sword.