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Promotion ceremonies: Make them special

Col. Rick J. LoCastro

Col. Rick J. LoCastro

EGLIN AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. -- Who cares about promotion ceremonies? We all should! Think about the last promotion ceremony you attended...or the last ceremony you were in charge of ... Was it (did you make it) the kind of ceremony you'd want for your promotion?

Airman or Chief ... Lieutenant or Lieutenant General. Every rank is important. Every rank is tough to make. Every rank is special. Why not make it special for those who work for you and with you? We buy cakes for each other on our birthdays, we fill offices with balloons and hang up signs...but days to celebrate our birth come once a year no matter what we do. Do we get promoted EVERY year? No. So why not make that day even more special?

One fault commonly made is letting the people being promoted plan their own ceremony. Would you let family members, good friends, or coworkers plan their own birthday parties? So why would we let them plan their own promotion ceremony? They are the ones who have done all the work to get to that special day...so make it special for them. This is your day to make THEIR day memorable. All too often when we promote someone it's a quick procedure and not a "ceremony." Here are some items to consider if you want to do it right. Not all will be players for the particular ceremony you plan...but here are a few things to think about.

American Flag: Have an American flag--not just somewhere in the room--but as a part of the ceremony. The American flag represents all we stand for, swore to, and would die for...have it as a VISIBLE part of every ceremony.

National Anthem: On the most formal occasions we sing the National Anthem. Even before every sporting event we stand and sing in honor of our country. Shouldn't we consider including this tradition before every ceremony honoring a military member? Consider having someone sing...or have the entire group join in. It's a perfect remembrance as to why we serve.

Service Dress: We commonly wear service dress on special occasions and when we attend VIP events. What's more special than a promotion? We all work in different uniforms...but we all "wear" Air Force blue.

Read The Order: Attention to Orders! Every promotion is a significant milestone in a military career. There are formal words to go along with such a declaration. Make them part of every ceremony.

Retake The Oath: Every time you pin on a stripe, a bar, an oak leaf, etc...you are reaffirming your promise to the military and our country. Why not actively re-seal the deal and proudly remind everyone why we do what we do?

A Word Or Two: If you are the supervisor, commander, or first sergeant of the individual being promoted, begin the ceremony with a few words of wisdom. Review the person's record, talk to their coworkers, and call family members. This is a day to look ahead to the future, but also to review the past. Where have they been, what have they done, what makes them special? Following the ceremony, you as the promotee should also take the time to say a few words. Think of those who were instrumental in your career, they might not be present, but let all who are in attendance know you haven't forgotten those who were influential in your career and who are there in spirit. Thank those who deserve thanking...whether they are present or not.

Invite Family And Friends: This is their day, too. They are proud of you and proud of your accomplishments. Let family and friends see how special it is to be a military member--make them part of your ceremony too.

Consider A Special Area Or Place: Consider selecting a special location to have the ceremony. Eglin AFB is fortunate to have so many unique locations to choose from...our Air Armament Museum, our aircraft filled flight line, Khobar Towers Memorial, and our All Veterans' Memorial. Make the location as distinctive as the event.

Photographer/Video: It's a special day. Have someone act as the photographer and/or videographer. The promotee will wish they had pictures or the video 20 years from now (or sooner). Your pictures may one day convince a grandchild to join the military.

Has the person recently received a decoration? Why not present that too?

Post-Event: Why do we buy cakes and balloons for our office-mates' birthdays...but we only give a quick handshake when they get promoted? Dip into those squadron funds or pass the hat. It should be the biggest party of THEIR year. It should be a military event...a formal event...but also a fun day to remember with lots of celebrating.

...And to those of you getting promoted (or retiring)... HAVE A CEREMONY! Want to have a ceremony. What message are we sending our young Airmen if the value we put on our rank...if the value we put on our careers...is so small that it doesn't even warrant a special day to honor the achievement? So many officers and NCOs choose to take the low road by saying, "I don't want anything." Don't be that person.

If you think making Senior Airman isn't a big deal...just ask a brand new Senior Airman. If getting promoted was easy--we'd all be Chief Master Sergeants or 4-star Generals. Give every promotion the respect it deserves...and, if you are retiring (military or civilian) let your unit give those years the respect they deserve. All promotions and retirements are special...let's treat them that way.

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