Gen. William “Kip” Ward, the top U.S commander in Africa, received the Trumpet Award for his ability to inspire others over the course of his extensive military career, the Army News Service reported. Ward was recognized at the 18th annual Trumpet Awards on January 30.

Those considered for the award are generally African-American professionals who have inspired others and have exhibited consistency and longevity in their respective fields, according to officials.

“It is a pretty cool award,” said Ward, who is an ROTC graduate of Morgan State University in Baltimore. Ward said those motivated by his work are simply inspired by a hard-working soldier, an attitude he said makes it easier to be a role model.

“I am a soldier first, and as a soldier, I’ve always tried to do what I’d been asked to do and do it the very best I can,” he said. “I take the obligation very freely, but I also take it knowing that maybe if I can be an inspiration to others then that’s OK with me.”

Ward said he was inspired by his father to pursue a successful career in the military. Ward’s father, who is now deceased, served in World War II.

Ward said he believes his accomplishments, his rank as an African-American senior Army leader and the accomplishments of other African-Americans are all proof that the Army is a progressive institution.

Ward is the fifth African-American to be promoted to the rank of four-star general in U.S. Army history, and the only one currently serving.

“It represents that our Army is indeed a diverse organization. It is the strength of that diversity from which we all benefit,” he said. “As we take advantage of all the diversity that exists and the contributions each member can make, we as a whole are better…a better institution …a better Army.”