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Louisiana guardsman is top graduate at NCO Academy

McGHEE TYSON AIR NATIONAL GUARD BASE, Tenn. -- Tech. Sgt. Micah T. Collins, 2nd from right, a loadmaster with the 159th Fighter Wing, Louisiana Air National Guard, receives the John L. Levitow honor award for NCO Academy Class 10-3 at The Air National Guard Training and Education Center here, Feb. 11, 2009.  Also pictured L-R are Col. Richard B. Howard, Chief Master Sgt. Deborah Davidson, and Chief Master Sgt. James E. Downing, Sr. The John L. Levitow award is the highest honor awarded a graduate of any Air Force enlisted professional military education course.  (U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Kurt Skoglund/Released)

McGHEE TYSON AIR NATIONAL GUARD BASE, Tenn. -- Tech. Sgt. Micah T. Collins, 2nd from right, a loadmaster with the 159th Fighter Wing, Louisiana Air National Guard, receives the John L. Levitow honor award for NCO Academy Class 10-3 at The Air National Guard Training and Education Center here, Feb. 11, 2009. Also pictured L-R are Col. Richard B. Howard, Chief Master Sgt. Deborah Davidson, and Chief Master Sgt. James E. Downing, Sr. The John L. Levitow award is the highest honor awarded a graduate of any Air Force enlisted professional military education course. (U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Kurt Skoglund/Released)

McGHEE TYSON AIR NATIONAL GUARD BASE, Tenn. -- A member of the Louisiana Air National Guard was presented the John L. Levitow award for his accomplishments at The I.G. Brown Air National Guard Training and Education Center's Noncommissioned Officer (NCO) Academy during the class graduation ceremony held in Knoxville, Feb. 11.

Tech. Sgt. Micah T. Collins, a loadmaster with the 159th Fighter Wing in New Orleans was the top graduate of 132 NCO's from the Air Force, Air Force Reserve, Air National Guard and Coast Guard who attended Class 10-3.

The John L. Levitow Award is the highest honor awarded a graduate of any Air Force enlisted professional military education course. It is named for Medal of Honor recipient Sgt. John L. Levitow for his actions during the Vietnam War. It is presented to the one student who not only demonstrates academic excellence, but also the outstanding attributes of leadership, enthusiasm, military bearing, and dedication to the spirit and mission of the total Air Force.

"I'm kind of shocked," said Tech. Sgt. Collins of his win. "It's awe-inspiring to know that people thought enough of me to put me in for it."

"From day one, he stood out," said Tech. Sgt. Charles A. Hoover, Collins' instructor. "He was a natural leader and his strong academic abilities combined with his professional behavior made him a true asset to have in class."

The NCO Academy is a six-week in-residence course. It prepares technical sergeants to be professional, war-fighting Airmen who can manage and lead their units in the employment of air, space and cyberspace power. Students learn and study curriculum in the areas of the profession of arms, leadership and communication to build the skills they need for their current rank and to prepare for future responsibilities.

"The program was very good," said Collins. "I think it really did do what it's supposed to do... and that's to raise up leaders and managers in the total force."

"He's a superstar," said Hoover. "I feel certain he'll take what he's mastered here and enlighten any work center he touches."

The John L. Levitow award is named in honor of Sgt. John L. Levitow, one of only two Air Force enlisted men to receive the Medal of Honor during the Vietnam War.

Levitow received the Medal of Honor for his heroic actions on Feb. 24, 1969. Serving as a loadmaster on an AC-47 gunship over Long Binh, South Vietnam, his aircraft was severely damaged by mortar fire. Suffering from over 40 shrapnel wounds to his back and legs, he saw a smoking magnesium flare amid a pile of spilled ammunition canisters. Despite loss of blood and partial loss of feeling in his right leg, he threw himself on the flare, hugged it close, dragged himself to an open cargo door and hurled the flare out. Almost immediately, the flare ignited harmlessly. Levitow's actions saved the aircraft and the lives of seven crewmembers.