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Enlisted aides key to Air Force success

  • Published
  • By Monte Miller
  • 375th Airlift Wing Public Affairs
As an enlisted aide to the commander of Air Mobility Command, Master Sgt. Thad Payne is among the few, select Airmen who directly serve a general officer each day.

His duties as Gen. Arthur Lichte's aide place him among only six aides at Scott Air Force Base - one of only four in all of AMC.

"This is the best job in the Air Force," Sergeant Payne said. "We are in a truly unique situation. This is their home, and (enlisted aides) take care of the common areas. We are always professional and unobtrusive. We provide seamless service."

There are approximately 263,370 enlisted personnel in the active duty Air Force. Of them, only 80 serve as enlisted aides -- the Airmen behind the scenes who manage the common, or public, areas of the senior generals' quarters and provide support for all aspects of official functions held there.

Sergeant Payne said he began his Air Force career in the personnel and protocol career fields and was told about the generals' aide special duty by a previous command chief.

"I had no idea the opportunity even existed," he said.

General Lichte is the fifth general officer Payne has worked for since first becoming an enlisted aide in 1995. He said it's easy to see the need for this level of support to the Air Force's senior leaders.

"The thing to remember is that generals are people just like you and me," Sergeant Payne said. "They are normal people who have extraordinary jobs that require them to keep incredibly busy schedules, including representing the Air Force and our nation to influential people every day."

During his time as an aide, Sergeant Payne has orchestrated support for events including the Air Force chief of staff, ambassadors, senators, governors, senior military officers and many other dignitaries.

"We host one or two dinner events each month," Sergeant Payne said. "We do it all: plan menus, purchase groceries, prepare meals and serve the guests."

"When we are told the general is going to host a dinner, we talk about the type of menu, gather recipes and make up the shopping list," Sergeant Payne explained. "A typical dinner has eight to ten guests. It is a ballet of service and I act as somewhat of a stage manager."

Although the events usually include a small number of people, Sergeant Payne said he has led the support for as many as 300 at receptions.

"This duty has changed quite a lot as far as training," Sergeant Payne said. "When I started in 1995, they just threw us a house key with no training."

Since beginning as an aide, Sergeant Payne's training for his position has been extensive and spans five culinary and event management schools and courses.

On a typical day, Sergeant Payne said he begins by "opening the house," which includes a review of the quarters for security or maintenance issues. Next the aide communicates with the residents about any needs they may have for the day or for upcoming events and develops the plans and arrangements to ensure success.

Not every general officer is authorized an enlisted aide. Due to the heavy travel schedule and the role three- and four-star generals play in meeting with other senior leaders, each have at least one aide.

An enlisted aide's duty typically lasts as long as the general officer holds his or her position. Aides sometimes accompany a general to another assignment or stay in place for an incoming general.

"I tell people that I come with the house," Sergeant Payne said.

To be considered for an enlisted aide position, noncommissioned officers must be career Airmen master sergeant or senior master sergeant, have favorable performance records and be recommended by a unit or wing commander.

For more information on becoming generals' aide go to www.afsl.hq.af.mil/dpg/enlaide.