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Joint Base Andrews Features

NEWS | March 2, 2012

Behind Oz's Curtain: Chief's Own Protocol runs the machine

By Senior Airman Laura Turner 11th Wing Public Affairs

We see them running around at base events with artificially calm exteriors while dealing with constant changes, last minute conflicts and the forever 'unexpected.' As the brains, brawn and backbone of every wing event, the 11th Wing Protocol office is one of extreme fortitude.

Their mission is to deliver first-rate hospitality and support to transiting distinguished visitors, including the President and Vice President of the United States, other U.S. senior leaders, military commanders, foreign leaders and diplomats, as well as to provide timely, useful protocol guidance to Andrews leaders.

"The day-to-day tasks in (11 WG) Protocol include reviewing scripts and other ceremony materials, managing additional duties and signing out equipment to other Andrews organizations," said Gerome Banks, 11 WG director of ceremonies and protocol. "The number of events we do each month varies significantly, but in the average year we spearhead 100 major Andrews and National Capital Region events."

While the recent reduction in force has decreased their overall manpower considerably, Banks does not think it has made their tasks more difficult.

"It is complex, and takes far more ingenuity and dedication to accomplish more work with fewer people," said Banks. "The joint basing effort has enlarged our responsibility to include support for six wings, two headquarters and more than 50 tenant organizations between Andrews and Joint Base Anacostia-Bolling."

Although the job is difficult and laden with stressful days and long nights, some events stand out as memorable to these hard-working comrades-in-arms.

"To date, the largest event I've participated in was the Air Force Band Guest Artist Series featuring Keiko Matsui," said Staff Sgt. Kyler Lewis-Johnson, 11 WG protocol specialist. "When I was briefed on the event, I had no clue it was her that was going to play. Upon arriving to set up for the event, we got a chance to sit down and listen to the band and her. I realized who it was when I heard the melody."

As the host base to our commander in chief, high-visibility occurrences are also one of the highlights for the team.

"The Return of the Colors from Iraq was an event that shot up pretty quickly and changed dramatically over the course of a few days," said Airman 1st Class Richard Kline, 11 WG protocol specialist. "One of the rewarding aspects of this event was the fact that the war in Iraq was finally over and our troops were coming home. It marked the end of the war."

The Joint Service Open House (JSOH) that occurs each year on Andrews stands out as especially significant to Banks.

"Because of the nature and location of our job, we tend to receive accolades from many high-ranking officials," said Banks, "but during JSOH, we have the privilege of supporting several World War II and Vietnam-era pilots who have been awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross. When we get the chance to help distinguished veterans who have honorably served, I feel like we've truly made a difference in someone's life."

A recent addition of three enlisted members to the previously two-man team promises to ease the busy life that is 11 WG Protocol and help them accomplish the goals of the wing commander in 2012.

"Doing the right thing each day ultimately adds up to surpassing greater, more significant objectives," said Banks. "We're always trying to improve morally, mentally and physically on how we add to the mission whether by civilian education, professional military education, or volunteering; the Protocol office is committed to developing experienced Airmen and imbuing them with the highest degree of motivation to bring credit to the Chief's Own, Joint Base Andrews, and the U.S. Air Force."