The 355th Protocol office can be called a Jack-of-all-trades that wears many hats. From distinguished visitor stays to the Air Force Ball, Protocol has a hand in ensuring a multitude of base events run smoothly.
One of their main duties is DV hospitality. These important guests can range from Air Force leaders to foreign dignitaries and Protocol takes care of them all.
“We help make sure that the commander, as well as the base, is prepared for all his visitors,” said Heike Smith, 355th Fighter Wing chief of Protocol.
The objective is to keep the base commander aware of who is visiting the base at any given moment.
“Not only do we take care of people by housing them, feeding them, etc., we also make sure the commander is aware of everyone that comes to his base,” Smith said. “We let him know why they’re here, the purpose of their visit and their itinerary.”
In addition to hospitality, Protocol assists squadrons with customs, courtesies and etiquette during their ceremonies.
“The majority of the time there is a point of contact that runs the actual event,” Smith said. “Our job is to advise and guide them based on what the wing wants as a whole for that event.
We work hand-in-hand with the POCs to have a successful ceremony.”
The Protocol office also coordinates base events. Official functions hosted by wing leadership are organized and executed by their office.
“I love the party planning part of my job,” Smith said. “For instance, the Air Force Ball. That is a huge undertaking so we usually start that process a year out. During planning, we advise on customs and courtesies, seating arrangements, flag etiquette based on the flag officers attending, and we book the national anthem singer and Honor Guard as well.”
Handling all of these responsibilities right now is a team of four people: one civilian, one captain and two staff sergeants.
“I enjoy a challenge and thrive under stress and Protocol is the perfect environment for that,” said Staff Sgt. Audrey Baldwin, 355th Fighter Wing non-commissioned officer in charge of Protocol. “It challenges me in many different ways and has made me a better leader, supervisor and non-commissioned officer which I will surely carry with me the rest of my career.”