'We are Ceremonial Guardsmen!' - Lt. Col. Powell reflects to his unit on the six contributing factors leading to their success

  • Published
  • By Lt. Col. Raymond Powell
  • U.S. Air Force Honor Guard
When I took command of U.S. Air Force Honor Guard in June, 2009, Lt. Col. Anthony Taylor, former USAF Honor Guard commander, leaned over to me and said, "Get ready for the ride of your life!" Was he ever right!

It's been a tremendous honor and joy for me to be your commander these past two years. I will take away memories for a lifetime. Today, however, I'd like to share with you a few thoughts on the path we've walked together and how you can continue to build on the gains we've made.

1. The right people
In his landmark book "Good to Great," author Jim Collins observed that the best organizations start by getting the right people on the bus and the wrong people off the bus. Getting you here has been the key to our success.

Sometimes we had to fight to get the right people in and take strong measures to get the wrong people out. The result is a fantastic team of officers, noncommissioned officers and Airmen; who have brought us through some difficult days and put us in a position to be even more successful in the future.

You are our greatest asset.

2. The right organization
When we reorganized last year, several things happened.

Our ceremonies improved because we were able to foster 'centers of excellence' for our key disciplines. Our continuity got better because we had flights focused on specific mission sets.

Our standards increased because we built a standards and evaluations section committed to quality. Our command and control got better after we built an operations center to monitor every movement.

Morale improved because of the rising cohesiveness, quality and standards.

Finally, we were able to build a community parade capability which is making an impact for the U.S. Air Force, from New York and Philadelphia, Pa. to Chicago, Ill. and Las Vegas, Nev. ... and it just keeps getting better!

3. The right equipment and facilities
Thanks to the hard work of many people, we can now look forward to the construction of a 2,000-square-foot indoor training facility adjacent to the ceremonial hall here on Joint Base Anacostia-Bolling. We built a mezzanine for our new fitness center in the rear of the ceremonial hall, and are now waiting for delivery of exercise equipment to outfit the facility.

The 11th Wing, Joint Base Andrews, Md., has dedicated more of its existing motor coaches to supporting our mission, and we are now custom-designing two brand-new motor coaches for USAF Honor Guard use.

The drill team has a superb training camp support agreement with Keesler Air Force Base, Miss., which has helped us continue the tradition of producing the best, most thrilling military drill anywhere, without breaking the bank.

4. Great Airman and family care
If we don't take care of each other, the mission is guaranteed to fail. Look at what's going on around you now.

We've embedded a military and family life consultant within our unit - a program that is turning into a model for the Air Force. The USAF Honor Guard spouses have organized, and are making a huge difference for our families. We've established an Airmen Against Drunk Driving program.

The USO has committed to upgrading the day room in the USAF Hoor Guard dorm, and we're moving toward unit integrity in Blanchard Barracks here.

Finally, our booster club, alumni association and the joint base are chipping in more than ever and making it possible for us to start planning some great morale events for the rest of the year.

5. Consistent strategic outreach
The USAF Honor Guard is now a 21st Century communicator. In just two years we have grown our social media sites to include almost 4,000 Facebook fans and a YouTube page.

We have once again embedded public affairs support, and are now meeting regularly with senior level Air Force District of Washington and Pentagon leadership to plan how we can increase our outreach and effectiveness in future years.

Oh, and did I mention the Honor Guard will march across the red carpet on national television during the 2012 Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade?

6. Attitude
From top to bottom you have proved your mettle. We put on our game-face, took tough action where needed, and overcame some serious adversity to emerge stronger than before.

We absolutely crushed the compliance inspection as well.

I will never forget how this team came together and showed everyone who we really are; we are Ceremonial Guardsmen!

I leave you a happy man, bursting with pride for having been counted among you these two years. I leave you in the hands of a great leader, Lt. Col. Ken Marentette.

Be the men and women you've been under my watch, and I know you'll continue to superbly represent all Airmen, past and present, to the American public and the world.

(Editor's note: these comments are excerpts from Lt. Col. Raymond Powell's departing note to his command)