Protocol professionals make every first impression

  • Published
  • By 2nd Lt. Annabel Monroe
  • 341st Missile Wing Public Affairs
It's finally the day that you've been waiting for. Maybe you're getting that next stripe, taking command of your first squadron, attending the ball or the highest ranking official you've had the privilege of meeting is requesting a visit to your office. Behind the scenes of each of these special occasions is the base protocol office.

Founded on ceremonial etiquette, deep-rooted military customs and courtesies and long-honored traditions, becoming a protocol official requires great attention to detail, excellent communication and superb organizational skills.

At Malmstrom Air Force Base, a two-person team is responsible for advising, planning, coordinating and executing all formal ceremonies and distinguished visitor itineraries.

Due to limited protocol positions throughout the Air Force, Senior Airman Michelle Collins has volunteered as a protocol assistant outside of her primary Air Force specialty code as a security forces member.

"Every visit and event brings something special and valuable lessons," Collins said. "There are many moving pieces in any visit or event."

"Many of our major events require us to work as a team with other base agencies, such as transportation, base operations, the Grizzly Bend Club, dining facility, bowling alley, lodging and public affairs," said Victoria Plank, 341st Missile Wing chief of protocol.

Through coordination with wing leadership, wing staff, group-level administrative personnel and appointed action officers, events and visits are planned with down to the minute itineraries and include everything from menu options to a welcome letter, book and basket.

"Lt. Gen. (Stephen) Wilson, (Commander Air Force Global Strike Command), is coming in a day prior to the Secretary of the Air Force Deborah Lee James," said Plank. "Command Chief Master Sgt. (Terry) West is then coming in the day after she leaves."

Though the operations tempo can be high, Plank said the best part of her job is the people she's met. "We've had the opportunity to meet some of the most experienced and kind individuals that truly love America and genuinely care about our Air Force."

Collins says the best part of the job for her is the honor of being responsible for ensuring military traditions and customs are honored and upheld.

"And of course, all of the selfies taken with DVs before they board their aircraft," said Collins with a laugh.

With the intent to highlight the mission and hard work of every individual within the wing, the protocol office is responsible for advising, orchestrating and coordinating every event to success.

"You come to learn to know that when a visit, ceremony or event comes to an end and the guests have all had a good time, are leaving with smiles and laughing, that you have done a good job," Plank said.

"First impressions last, and our protocol shop makes sure we make a great one," said Col. Marné Deranger, 341st Missile Wing vice commander.