Protocol class conducted at 120AW
By Senior Master Sgt. Eric Peterson, 120th Airlift Wing
/ Published August 11, 2016
GREAT FALLS, Mont. -- Seventeen 120th Airlift Wing Airmen learned rules of conduct from an experienced U.S. Air Force Services Agency instructor during a protocol fundamentals class held on base in the 120th Airlift Wing's Larsen Room July 24-29, 2016.
Special Events Director Maggie Bonner shared stories of her decades of knowledge and experience working Air Force events and ceremonies with the captivated Airmen during the week-long course.
"Protocol isn't a discipline, it's a life lesson and you learn it from childhood," Bonner said. "The evolution of protocol is ever changing with the growth of world technology."
Bonner said she was asked by the National Guard Bureau 15 years ago to help standardize the way ceremonies are performed at Air National Guard bases. She now teaches classes on protocol for deploying Airmen and for those working on guard bases that do not maintain a formal protocol office.
"A base like this doesn't have any formalized protocol," Bonner said. "But if you train everybody and they all have the resources, they're not going to forget it."
Bonner taught important topics involving protocol such as ceremonies, precedence, seating and flag etiquette. She conducted a class exercise that involved students having to sort and arrange flags that represented a wide range of entities including countries, states, cities and organizations.
Bonner said it is easier to find answers to questions regarding the correct protocol today than when she was first learning the rules and using encyclopedias to research information.
"It's so much easier than it was when I was learning," Bonner said. "Now, with online resources they can just go in and get the information and be right 99 percent of the time."
Bonner said wing ceremonies are often performed incorrectly due to a training plan followed by Airmen using wrong information. The ceremony may look great when it is performed, but it is still wrong.
"We want you to do it right and that's all we're asking you to change are the things that you have practiced for a long time incorrectly," Bonner said. "Now we want you to learn them correctly so you can implement them to deliver better, more perfect ceremonies."
The protocol information provided by Bonner will also help Airmen in situations found outside of their military careers. Many of the students attending the class were part-time traditional guardsmen and work in a variety of civilian jobs for their fulltime work.
"We have schoolteachers and we have a coach (in class)," Bonner said. "So these people are traditional and do have lives outside and each one of them is saying, 'I'm going to fix every flag in the school.'"