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It’s all going according to the plan

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Greg Erwin
  • 379th Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs

The phrase “flexibility is the key to airpower” is familiar to those who have served in the Air Force. This phrase reminds us that things often don’t go according to plan. Adapting to adversity is something that the Air Force prides itself on. Those last-second changes are a standard in the world of protocol, where one small detail can potentially derail the best laid plans.

“Ideally, distinguished visitors’ schedules are planned down to the minute, and everything goes according to a set sequence of events,” explained Capt. Phil Ryan, 379th Air Expeditionary Wing chief of protocol. “We are able to adjust on the fly to ensure that the DVs are able to complete what they’re here for, no matter what changes from the original plan.”

The protocol mission seems simple from the outside looking in – managing DV visits. But it’s more than that, and the team prides themselves on a first class customer service experience.

“When planning the itinerary, we want to streamline the DV’s visit so they can focus on why they are here without distractions,” said Tech. Sgt. Adriana McIlvaine, 379th AEW protocol noncommissioned officer in charge of ceremonies and DV lodging. “We want their experience visiting AUAB to be regarded as first class, first time, every time.”

Protocol is a position that can be applied for, like a special duty, as each person on the team comes from a different job. For the chief position in a deployed environment, it is a 365-day deployment, whereas the other positions are a standard six-month rotation.

It’s not just the DV visits though, protocol covers so much more – including change of commands. From managing flight plans to lodging to itineraries and more, the mission of protocol can be a heavy lift for a team that is made up of only four people at AUAB.

“I never realized how busy a deployed protocol office would be until I got the job,” Ryan reflected. “Now, I see that working in a protocol office is akin to riding a roller coaster – a climb to a rush of events followed by a series of high-speed twists and turns, with intermittent pauses to build more momentum.”

For Ryan and McIlvaine, a highlight that they’ve shared is getting to build relationships with the other agencies on base and to know how others fit into the overall mission.

“Now that I am behind the scenes, I understand the level of work that goes into hosting a DV,” McIlvaine added. “To see the final product after weeks of planning is very rewarding.”

While protocol may not be directly involved in the mission the DVs are supporting on these visits, they do contribute to the strategic advantage of the U.S. in the region by helping cut through the red tape for senior leaders.

“Ultimately, our goal is to enable senior leaders to focus on delivering dominant coalition airpower to secure and stabilize the U.S. Central Command area of responsibility by producing a professional, distraction-free environment,” Ryan stated.