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Who’s the sharpest of them all: Airmen host dress and appearance competition

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Natalie Filzen
  • 386 AEW Public Affairs

In the final round of a military dress and appearance competition hosted by the Rising IV organization, two airmen stood tensely on stage, poised to execute the next command the judge would announce.

The judge firmly declared “Left face! About face! Present arms! Right face!” In that moment, one airman turned to the right, letting his right arm fall to his side without being commanded to do so. The other airman kept his right arm planted in the salute position, awaiting his next command. As the crowd started to cheer his victory, he kept his arm up for the judge to command him to order arms. The command came, and he relaxed, having won the men’s portion of the competition.

“It felt really good to win,” said Airman 1st Class Alexander Harr, a force protection airman with the 386th Expeditionary Civil Engineering Squadron. “When I maintained my bearing for that last command and everyone gave me a standing ovation it was definitely a surreal moment. [It will become a] core memory for me.”

The Rising IV is an enlisted professional organization at Ali Al Salem Air Base, Kuwait, where airmen ranked E-1 to E-4 can mentor one another and learn about career and professional development opportunities. Stateside, this organization is known as the first four, or more comprehensively as the Rising VI which includes E-5 and E-6 non-commissioned officers. Any base can start its own chapter.

Senior Airman Trina Quirindongo, an inbound cargo specialist with the 386th Expeditionary Logistics Readiness Squadron, shared how the idea for the first ever The Rock Sharp Troop Award was inspired after attending a commander's call emphasizing the importance of dress and appearance, and sensed the opportunity to act under her elected role as the Professional Development Coordinator within the Rising IV to support this standard.

“Being a member of the Rising IV, we take pride in morale events and displaying our best in relation to the core values,” said Quirindongo. “The initial brainstorming of the event began in February and took a month of planning to acquire contestants, select judges, create a scoring sheet, determine event questions, the layout of the event and additional duties for event day.”

Appropriate dress is a long standing tradition within the U.S. military. From the very first days at basic military training, one can find a room full of dozens of newly enlisted service members, clipping away strings on their blouses or pants. When the recruits are inspected, their uniform has to be perfect.

“I wanted to compete because when I was in basic training I enjoyed dress and appearance as well as drill,” said Harr. “I remember the feeling of putting on my uniform for the first time and looking in the mirror. I felt so proud.”

“[Our uniform] is the first piece our civilian population sees and the [first image that comes to mind] when thinking about service members,” said Chief Master Sgt. Tyrell McClora, senior enlisted leader of the 386th Expeditionary Medical Group, who presented the coin to the winners of The Rock Sharp Troop Award on behalf of Chief Master Sgt. Joshua Buck, command chief of the 386th Air Expeditionary Wing.

McClora referenced the tradition behind drills, as they are reminiscent of the esteemed ceremonies the military holds and can also act as an impressive spectacle of the coordination of mass forces. Drill is an introduction to listening to and executing orders in the military, while also a way for junior leaders to learn how to give orders.

Besides events such as The Rock Sharp Troop Award, involvement in the Rising IV is also an opportunity to gain exposure to senior leaders, as they work with the Five-Six and the Top Three councils.

“Our junior airmen come together to build that spirit of togetherness and the core values,” said McClora. “It gives them the opportunity to lead at their level, collaborate as a cohesive team to work through concerns and come up with solutions. It allows them to get involved at the wing level, to help the wing reach its objectives.”

The event concluded with a standing ovation, as many of the audience members who watched were reminded of their days on the drill pad. It is the Rising IV’s goal for this event to become an annual tradition at Ali Al Salem Air Base so airmen can truly embody the U.S. Air Force core value of excellence in all we do.