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375th Airlift Wing Watching their P's and Q's

  • Published
  • By Monte Miller
  • 375th Airlift Wing Public Affairs
If you attend any event at Scott Air Force Base that involves the wing commander, there is a small group that keeps things running smoothly, and most likely you will never even know they are there.

The four members of the 375th Airlift Wing protocol office are responsible for planning and executing about 95 events each year for the wing and the 18th Air Force. There were a total of 120 events the protocol office had involvement of some type in last year.

Burt Foutz, 375th AW chief of protocol, explained the role of his team is to make any event, no matter how big or small, go well and ensure that it is memorable.

"We don't want to be in the limelight," Mr. Foutz said. "We are just doing our jobs. We get no recognition for it, unless there is a mistake."

Although the primary role of the protocol office is supporting the wing commander at special events, accommodating distinguished visitors is also a top priority.

"We ensure all distinguished visitors are greeted appropriately," Mr. Foutz explained. "We also try to ensure that all ceremonies they are involved in go the right way. Nothing ever goes exactly the way it should. Hopefully, the mistakes are only seen by us."

Some of the things they do to ensure fluidity in are preparing scripts for the various speakers, sending out invitations and even planning the seating chart. All of these factors can be very meticulous and time consuming.

"There is definitely an order of precedence," Mr. Foutz said. "It just depends on where the event is and everything is open to interpretation. The hardest part of planning an event is seating. Events are tough, dinners are tougher."

A perfect example of this is the upcoming 18th Air Force change of command ceremony. The protocol office has already put in about two and a half months of planning and the event is still a few weeks away. Most of the time they average about two months to plan.

"You have both an outgoing and incoming commander to accommodate," Mr. Foutz explained. "You have to send out invitations early enough so people have time to make all of their arrangements."

In addition to major events involving the wing commander, distinguished visitors and change of commands, the office is also responsible for coordinating retirements and promotion ceremonies.

"It's a job to us, but it's a once in a lifetime event for others," Mr. Foutz said. "We may do 30 retirements in a year. We want each one to be special to the honoree. They are only going to retire from the Air Force once."

He added that the most challenging events for the protocol office are multi-day conferences where he and his staff must make extra accommodations for visitors. Also events held off base are extra stressful for the office.

"Any events where there are a lot of people involved are the hardest," he said. "Events are easier to hold on base because we control the assets. For example, if we need portable bathrooms, we just call up the appropriate squadron and things arrive quickly."

One of the largest events the 375th protocol office has had a role in was the Blue Summit conference working with Air Mobility Command protocol.

During the conference, there were 700 general officers or equivalents to accommodate. The event was held at the Adams Mark Hotel in downtown St. Louis.

Major annual events for the protocol office include the Match-Up picnic, Tops in Blue concerts, the Band of Mid-America performances throughout the summer and the biggest of all, the airshow.

Mr. Foutz said that hands down the most emotional event his office has coordinated was the memorial service last year for a fallen Office of Special Investigations agent that was killed in Iraq.

"It was hard to stay removed from the event," Mr. Foutz said. "It was tough doing it for one of our own. Another tough situation is waiting with families on the flightline when their loved one's remains come home."

On top of wing and 18th Air Force events, the protocol office also assists many of the other commands at Scott with functions if they are requested.

"We are considered the protocol office for the whole base," Mr. Foutz said. "We have a good working relationship with all of the other protocol offices. We have worked with Tanker Airlift Control Center, Air Force Communications Agency, Office of Special Investigations, the 932nd Airlift Wing, 126th Airlift Wing, the Global Logistics Support Center and many of the other tenant organizations."

In recent weeks, the 375th protocol office has been a part of visits by Secretary of the Air Force T. Michael Wynne, Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Michael Mosley, Chief Master Sgt. of the Air Force Rodney McKinley as well as civilian dignitaries, including five NCAA football coaches.

"It's not a job for everyone," Mr. Foutz said. "Some people can't take the stress of dealing with the senior ranking personnel. I have fun with it and enjoy being out and about and not tied to my desk."

The protocol office also does planning of events off base.

"We work with mayors and local business leaders through the Belle-Scott Committee," Mr. Foutz explained. "They are very familiar with our protocols. Our relationship with the neighboring communities is the best I've seen of any bases I've worked with."

Mr. Foutz' protocol team includes 1st Lt. Theresa Vollnik, Tech Sgt. Adrienne Warren and Staff Sgt. Carmen Battle.