The importance of Protocol: Core Values hold the key

Airmen from the 319th Air Base Wing practice folding the flag before a formal retreat ceremony August 19, 2015, on Grand Forks Air Force Base, North Dakota. Squadrons take turns performing a formal retreat ceremony each week during the spring and summer months. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Ryan Sparks/Released)

Airmen from the 319th Air Base Wing practice folding the flag before a formal retreat ceremony August 19, 2015, on Grand Forks Air Force Base, North Dakota. Squadrons take turns performing a formal retreat ceremony each week during the spring and summer months. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Ryan Sparks/Released)

Airmen from the 319th Air base Wing practice lowering the flag before a formal retreat ceremony August 19, 2015, on Grand Forks Air Force Base, North Dakota. A different squadron is responsible for supplying a flag detail and a flight to perform a formal retreat ceremony each week during spring and summer. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Ryan Sparks/Released)

Airmen from the 319th Air base Wing practice lowering the flag before a formal retreat ceremony August 19, 2015, on Grand Forks Air Force Base, North Dakota. A different squadron is responsible for supplying a flag detail and a flight to perform a formal retreat ceremony each week during spring and summer. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Ryan Sparks/Released)

Airmen from the 319th Air Base Wing Staff Agencies salute the flag during a formal retreat practice August 19, 2015, on Grand Forks Air Force Base, North Dakota. Airmen are required to salute the flag while it is raised or lowered. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Ryan Sparks/Released)

Airmen from the 319th Air Base Wing Staff Agencies salute the flag during a formal retreat practice August 19, 2015, on Grand Forks Air Force Base, North Dakota. Airmen are required to salute the flag while it is raised or lowered. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Ryan Sparks/Released)

Airmen from the 319th Air Base Wing practice folding the flag August 19, 2015, on Grand Forks Air Force Base, North Dakota. The Airmen were a part of the flag detail that performed a formal retreat ceremony August 21, 2015. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Ryan Sparks/Released)

Airmen from the 319th Air Base Wing practice folding the flag August 19, 2015, on Grand Forks Air Force Base, North Dakota. The Airmen were a part of the flag detail that performed a formal retreat ceremony August 21, 2015. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Ryan Sparks/Released)

Airman 1st Class Patrick Wyatt, 319th Air Base Wing Public Affairs broadcast journalist, folds the flag August 19, 2015, on Grand Forks Air Force Base, North Dakota. Wyatt volunteered to be a member of the flag detail for a formal retreat ceremony. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Ryan Sparks/Released)

Airman 1st Class Patrick Wyatt, 319th Air Base Wing Public Affairs broadcast journalist, folds the flag August 19, 2015, on Grand Forks Air Force Base, North Dakota. Wyatt volunteered to be a member of the flag detail for a formal retreat ceremony. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Ryan Sparks/Released)

The American Flag waves in the wind August 19, 2015, on Grand Forks Air Force Base, North Dakota. The flag is raised and lowered to symbolize the beginning and end to the duty day. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Ryan Sparks/Released)

The American Flag waves in the wind August 19, 2015, on Grand Forks Air Force Base, North Dakota. The flag is raised and lowered to symbolize the beginning and end to the duty day. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Ryan Sparks/Released)

GRAND FORKS AIR FORCE BASE, N.D. -- You drive through the gate of an Air Force base for the first time just before 5 p.m. on a weekday. As you continue to drive, you pass a playground full of children. All of a sudden music begins to play and the car in front of you pulls to the side of the road. While sitting there, the national anthem begins to play and you look over to see the group of rambunctious children all standing still and facing the music with their hands over their hearts.

Air Force protocol can sometimes be forgotten, but knowing and adhering to even the smallest tradition is the duty of every Airman.

The Air Force Core Values of Integrity First, Service Before Self, and Excellence In All We Do hold the key to understanding the importance of protocol.

Recently appointed Air Mobility Commander, Gen. Carlton D. Everhart II wrote a letter to Airmen, in his previous role as 18th Air Force commander, in which he talked about the Core Values.

"Integrity First, Service Before Self, and Excellence In All We Do are the simple words that give Airmen a sense of unity and tie us to the great warriors and public servants of the past," said Everhart.  "They teach us that there is no replacement for virtue, character, dignity and respect. If we accept a lesser standard for ourselves or allow our Wingmen to do so, we compromise the very foundation of airmanship that those who have gone before us worked so diligently to build."

Integrity First

Roberta Schipper, 319th Air Base Wing protocol officer, is responsible for knowing everything there is to know about protocol and customs and courtesies.

She explained the proper protocol for vehicles on military installations during reveille and retreat.

"All vehicles on military installations should come to a complete stop and wait until the last note of the music stops. Military members in their vehicles should sit at attention," said Schipper.

Many Airmen are taught that integrity means doing what is right even when no one else is looking. That applies to the aforementioned protocol. Being the only vehicle on the road and being in a hurry forces Airmen to think about our first Core Value.

Service Before Self

For many people, funerals can be difficult to attend. Schipper exemplified Service Before Self when she was stationed at Fort Knox, Kentucky, and was in charge of funeral detail.

"It is a very humbling experience.  It taught me a lot about pride, respect, self-discipline and demonstrating professionalism," said Schipper.

Air Force Pamphlet 34-1202, Guide to Protocol, lays out the proper protocol for a military funeral service. Paragraph 14.2.5 states, "High-ranking military and government officials may be invited, but it is important to remember that this is a time focused on family and friends. The wishes of the next-of-kin are paramount."

The U.S. Air Force Honor Guard exemplifies the connection between protocol and Service Before Self. Staff Sgt. Ryan Kuhn, 319th Air Base Wing Honor Guard NCO-in-charge, summarizes the connection through his own experiences.

"The whole idea of honor guard is about service before self.  When you arrive at the base honor guard you are issued a brand new uniform.  The one thing missing from those uniforms is a name tag.  When you go out and perform military honors, you no longer represent yourself.  You are a representation of the United States Air Force as a whole, and are the quintessential military image.  For most of these families you are the last image of the Air Force they will ever have," said Kuhn.

Kuhn said the Airmen that volunteer for honor guard are the definition of Service Before Self.

"The Airmen that volunteer to be a part of our mission have agreed to put the mission before everything.  They are briefed when they get here that it is no longer about them.  It doesn't matter if they are on leave or taking a day off for having to work over a weekend.  At any moment they can be called to leave to go perform, they accept this and frankly are honored to do it," said Kuhn.

The Airmen also spend a lot of time learning the proper protocol for the ceremonies in which they participate.

"These Airmen put in countless hours of training to be the best at what they do.  Our philosophy is; if it is not perfect, it is not good enough for our fallen brothers and sisters," said Kuhn.

The combination of Service Before Self and adhering to Air Force protocol proves to be a rewarding experience for the honor guard members.

"You can ask any ceremonial guardsman that there is no more humbling experience than handing off a flag for a fallen hero.  The pride that is in the next of kin's eyes has nothing to do with you.  It is a pride that they feel about service to our country.  It is an immense honor and strong sense of pride to represent all of those who have come before us; we are not ourselves when we put on that uniform. We are every American Airman," said Kuhn.

Excellence In All We Do

Excellence In All We Do applies to everything in AFPAM 34-1202 and everything in a military career. Schipper's job is to make sure proper protocol is followed and to answer any questions people might have regarding protocol.

This core value doesn't require an in-depth explanation because its meaning is straightforward. Airmen are expected to treat every task with the same level of importance.

Col. Rodney Lewis, 319th Air Base Wing commander, sees how our core values tie into every part of Airmen's day-to-day lives, including protocol.

"We take great pride in upholding the Air Force core values: integrity first, service before self and excellence in all we do. With this sense of pride, we're holding ourselves to a higher standard," said Lewis. "It is our attention to detail that sets us apart from the rest, abiding by the proper protocol and customs is just one example of how professional the warriors of the north are. I am deeply honored and humbled to command such men and women."

The Air Force Core Values are meant to guide Airmen. The core values are a part of what makes the United States Air Force the greatest air force in the world. Adhering to proper protocol and traditions honors the Airmen who have paved the way for the Airmen of today. Schipper feels it is important that we continue these traditions.

"Maintaining tradition helps to ensure it will continue," said Schipper. "It is important to teach and carry out our traditions so that they will be enforced long after we are gone."