Silent Warriors

Staff Sgt. Joshua Helmstetter, 8th Fighter Wing protocol non-commissioned officer-in-charge, focuses on the stage during a change-of-command ceremony dry-run at Kunsan Air Base, Republic of Korea, June 1, 2020. Protocol’s expertise is used to properly portray etiquette and customs and courtesies for military ceremonies. This includes ensuring distinguished visitors are given the proper respects during their stay. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Kristin High)
Staff Sgt. Joshua Helmstetter, 8th Fighter Wing protocol non-commissioned officer-in-charge, focuses on the stage during a change-of-command ceremony dry-run at Kunsan Air Base, Republic of Korea, June 1, 2020. Protocol’s expertise is used to properly portray etiquette and customs and courtesies for military ceremonies. This includes ensuring distinguished visitors are given the proper respects during their stay. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Kristin High)

Silent Warriors

by Staff Sgt. Kristin High
8th Fighter Wing Public Affairs

KUNSAN AIR BASE, Republic of Korea -- Behind the scenes of every base event, there is a protocol specialist ensuring specific requirements are met to guarantee mission success.

While many Airmen have heard of the specialty, few know what the job actually entails.

“The primary focus for protocol is to support the wing in any sort of official function, whether that’s a distinguished visitor visit, wing awards ceremony, recognition ceremony or anything with a ceremonial nature to it,” said 1st Lt. Peter Kolakowski, 8th Fighter Wing protocol chief.

The protocol expertise is used to properly portray etiquette and customs and courtesies for military ceremonies. While protocol training is taught military wide, each branch of service has their own distinctive way ceremonies are performed.

DVs range from high military leaders to key individuals within the local community. In Kunsan’s case, this also includes foreign DVs such as the mayors of cities surrounding the base. This, just like in the continental U.S., reaffirms a positive relationship with the local community.

The team facilitates every DV visit and wing event regardless if the event is an hour long ceremony or the visiting DV stays for a period of time requiring a more in depth itinerary.

“Here we tend to have many DVs visit so we prepare plans and itineraries for locations they’ll tour while visiting the Wolf Pack,” said Kolakowski.

Prior to arrival of the DV, the protocol team is busy with the coordination process establishing a point of contact and determining the purpose of the visit. They then determine every detail of the potential visit, including: how the visitor is arriving, ground transportation, if DV quarters on base are available, office calls with the wing commander, and many more.

Once the shell is outlined, protocol coordinates with all involved agencies and the DV’s main office to build an itinerary, arrange lodging if needed and fulfill other requests to ensure the visit is smooth and meets the mission objectives.

“Day-to-day, we respond to emails in the morning and continue to plan upcoming events,” said Kolakowski. “Here we have a lot of meetings getting the wing leadership’s intent regarding ceremonies or what visits are going to entail.

“With ceremonies, we coordinate with the masters of ceremony and other key players, including communication support, to ensure everyone is on the same page,” he continued. “We also prepare locations, ensuring meals are ready or conference rooms are set-up to host the DV once they arrive.”

The military members here in protocol are working temporarily outside of their primary job. They perform a one-year tour in the office, leaving their normal duties and bringing their unique backgrounds to aid the protocol mission.

Staff Sgt. Joshua Helmstetter, 8th FW protocol non-commissioned officer-in-charge, was recently assigned to protocol from aircraft fuels systems repair.

“I’m looking forward to working with and learning about the different career fields while in my position,” he said. “I expect to hit the ground running. My job is usually repairing jets and this experience is nothing like it. I hope to continue to learn about the different facets pertaining to this specialty and hopefully it helps on my personal journey in my career.”

Together the individuals in the protocol office have the right skill set to support the Wolf Pack mission. These silent warriors continue to be the backbone of the wing commander and ensuring our pack remains prideful.

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