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Regardless of your Air Force specialization, you might receive a directive to become the base's protocol officer. This is an appointment based on your understanding of Air Force and military etiquette and procedure, as well as your personal organizational skills. Protocol officers are tasked with being base event planners as well as liaisons for special visitors.
Anyone can train in and learn about the various ceremonial aspects of greeting dignitaries and arranging gala functions. However, certain personal attributes might make one officer a more natural fit for the job of protocol officer than another. For example, extremely well-spoken officers will hold an advantage, as will those who make a good physical appearance. Air Force protocol officers must also have strong communication skills and the ability to make quick and correct decisions when plans do not go perfectly.
When important leaders enter the base, either from government or elsewhere, the protocol officer is responsible for ensuring that visitors have a positive experience and that the Air Force is shown in the best possible light. These officers direct the lodging and care of visiting dignitaries. They also arrange itineraries, press coverage and enhanced security when needed. If the dignitary does not speak English, protocol officers ensure a translator is on hand to ensure proper channels of communication.
Special events at Air Force bases often take months to organize, and protocol officers are charged with ensuring everything goes smoothly. You must line up adequate support personnel and ensure everyone who is invited to attend the event is notified and given all relevant details. In addition, these events often feature entertainment and require that the base honor guard to be present. Like civilian events such as weddings, Air Force special occasions also often require seemingly mundane yet important details such as organizing proper seating arrangements and arranging decorations.
The protocol officer must make sure that Air Force ceremonial traditions and procedures are followed. Events such as change of command ceremonies and award presentations are often steeped in tradition and have very specific rules for behavior. Protocol officers enforce policies ranging from when guests should arrive and the order of speeches to proper flag folding procedures.
David Lipscomb is a professional writer and public relations practitioner. Lipscomb brings more than a decade of experience in the consumer electronics and advertising industries. Lipscomb holds a degree in public relations from Webster University.
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