Throughout their career, Airmen will most likely attend an Air Force official function at some point, be it a promotion, retirement, award or a number of other possibilities.
However, what many of these Airmen may not see or experience is the amount of skill, knowledge and dedication that goes into organizing these events.
The 86th Airlift Wing Protocol office provides the guidance necessary to host these ceremonies. They also coordinate greetings on the flightline, are the face of the Air Force to distinguished visitors of Ramstein and care for the base flags as part of their duties.
“We are the subject matter experts on everything that is Air Force tradition,” said Staff Sgt. Reginald Brown, 86th AW Protocol specialist. “We represent the commander by being one of the faces you see when you come to Ramstein, and we ensure that anybody who steps foot on this base is well taken care of.”
There is a large amount of work that goes into making sure an event or visit goes according to plan, and every detail must be checked and double-checked to keep things running smoothly. For each ceremony and visit organized, protocol reviews a detailed plan called a script, which includes all pertinent information accounting for every minute of the event.
“It’s definitely a no-fail, no-delay, no-mistake kind of job,” Brown said. “The level of attention to detail that is required to be in this position is the definition of excellence in all we do. Every event or task we do sets the standard for the next time. There’s no going backwards, taking longer or moving slower. The boundaries are limitless.”
With little room for mistake, it could weigh on someone when they make one. The Airmen in protocol have learned how to move past the hiccups and work together to fix the problem.
“This is not a job for just anyone,” said Staff Sgt. Christopher Long, 86th AW Protocol specialist. “You have to be humble, for one. There are times you will make mistakes and you can’t dwell on them. You have to have the bearing to be able to continue if something is going wrong.”
Despite the pressure, protocol Airmen strive to rise to the challenge and embrace the opportunity to learn everything they can about Air Force traditions.
“It’s a great experience because you get to see how things operate other than only seeing the event,” Long said. “You don’t see all the mechanisms behind a clock; you just see a clock face. When you’re doing this (job), you see every single screw and minute detail that goes into the making of that clock.”
When the protocol office makes every effort to represent the best of the Air Force and goes above and beyond to care for the people and events they are in charge of, many of those people take notice and value their dedication.
“Recently we’ve had a couple of groups that have emailed us back thanking us for our help with their event,” Long said. “We also received one saying that this was their best stop in the entire tour, and the Kansas City cheerleaders said the same thing last year. So it’s really cool to have people say they appreciate everything we did.”
The office has provided a list of tools that is available on its SharePoint site to help anyone who is in charge of an event. Every ceremony they cover has its own folder which contains all the information needed to properly execute that particular ceremony. However, if anyone still has questions or requires further assistance, protocol Airmen are available to provide support.
“People don’t realize our job is to help them with all of their questions,” said Brown. “We do this day in and day out so, if they give us a call, we can help them put together all the pieces for their event.”
Over the course of history, the Air Force has gained a rich heritage, full of honor, sacrifice and tradition. The Airmen from the 86th AW Protocol office dedicate their time and skills to ensuring those traditions are held to the highest standard here at Ramstein.