Hobbins honored with ‘Order of the Sword’

by Senior Master Sgt. Kelly Mazezka
U.S. Air Forces in Europe Public Affairs

***image2***The U.S. Air Forces in Europe enlisted corps bestowed its highest honor – The Order of the Sword – Nov. 17 on Ramstein to Gen. Tom Hobbins, U.S. Air Forces in Europe commander, “Being placed in the company of the great Air Force leaders who have been given this award, really makes it humbling for me,” the general said during the ceremony, attended by more than 800 people. “The Order of the Sword recognition really means more to me than words can express.”

For leaders to be selected, they must demonstrate constant concern for the enlisted corps under their command and personify the symbolic meaning of the sword – truth, justice and rightfully used power, said Chief Master Sgt. David Spector, 435th Air Base Wing command chief and the ceremony’s color guard commander.

“Those who have had the honor of serving under General Hobbins’ command have clearly witnessed his impact on the well-being of the enlisted corps as profound and enduring,” he said. “It’s obvious General Hobbins always considered the impact a decision would have on the enlisted corps and their families.”

Chief Master Sgt. Gary Coleman, USAFE command chief  and chief master sergeant of the mess, agrees that General Hobbins fits the qualifications.

***image1***“Since taking command of USAFE, General Hobbins has been a devoted advocate of the enlisted force in his command,” Chief Coleman said. “He instituted many quality of life initiatives and notably, the first of its kind Enlisted Heritage Room honoring the blood, sweat and tears of the enlisted Airmen spanning this command’s great history.”

In addition to the Enlisted Heritage room, he provided more than $10 million in quality of life funds to improve working and living environments of USAFE enlisted personnel and their families. He funded $1.7 million for playground and child development center upgrades. He led Ramstein to the 2006 CINC’s Installation Excellence Award and a $1 million quality of life award. And, he opened new fitness and child development centers at RAF Mildenhall, England.

Despite this track record of support for the enlisted corps, the general said he doesn’t consider it to be “work.”

“There’s an old adage that says ‘Do something you really love, something you’re really passionate about, and you never really work a day in your life,’” he said. “I’m really passionate about … our Air Force and the men and women of the United States Air Forces in Europe.”

His speech focused on the reason for that passion: Airmen personify the Air Force’s core values of integrity, service and excellence.

“The values and ideals our enlisted corps holds dear have simply not changed in my 38 years [in the Air Force],” he said. “We’ve been, and continue to be, Airmen of substance. We have Airmen who are dedicated to values that allow us to do good things in even the most difficult situations … Just knowing I could count on the excellence of [my Airmen’s] work meant more to me than anything.”

A first-term Airman has witnessed that passion. “I consider it an honor to be valued as a professional by General Hobbins,” said Airman 1st Class Marc Lane, a 435th Air Base Wing photojournalist. “He let me know that we’re on the same team.”

Even the extravagant arrival of the honoree and his wife Robbin by horse-drawn carriage – a USAFE Order of the Sword tradition – expressed the over-the-top support the enlisted corps has for its leader. They also gave special recognition to Mrs. Hobbins for her selfless dedication to our Airmen and families. General Hobbins expressly thanked her for the love, support and sacrifice through the years.
“Service-before-self almost always involves family sacrifice too,” said General Hobbins. “And, Robbin epitomizes that.”

Steeped in tradition, the Order of the Sword is all about symbolism. They are patterned after an order of chivalry founded in the Middle Ages, specifically the Swedish Royal Order of the Sword. These ceremonies were documented on old parchment paper, which were then rolled to save space. These were the scrolls.

Today’s scroll is a record of the more than 800 attendees and proceedings and will be encased in a display box to serve as a reminder to the general of the dedication and loyalty of his enlisted force.

The breaking of the glasses dates back to ancient times. When a toast is given and the toasting glass is deliberately broken, it signifies the honor the toast conveyed cannot be undone, as the glass cannot be reconstructed.

The USAFE enlisted corps honored this rich heritage by creating a medieval ambiance. General Hobbins entered the Air Force in 1969 as a graduate of Officer Training School. He commanded a numbered Air Force, two tactical fighter wings and a composite air group. He served as the Director of Plans and Operations for U.S. Forces Japan, Director of Plans and Policy for U.S. Atlantic Command, the Director of Operations for U.S. Air Forces in Europe, and as a Deputy Chief of Staff, Headquarters U.S. Air Force. A command pilot, the general has more than 5,100 flying hours, primarily in fighter aircraft.