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Protocol: Behind the scenes making it happen

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Christopher Schack, 19th Airlift Wing chief of protocol, readies an event at Little Rock Air Force Base, Arkansas, Aug. 16, 2019. Schack is in charge of ensuring base events and visits are coordinated to transpire smoothly and professionally, ultimately helping tell the Herk Nation story. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Mariam K. Springs)

a man talks to two airmen

Christopher Schack, 19th Airlift Wing chief of protocol, discusses the plan for the 19th Airlift Wing Birthday event with Airmen at Little Rock Air Force Base, Arkansas, Aug. 16, 2019. The protocol section is in charge of coordination, creating itineraries and making sure everyone is in the correct spot for an event. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Mariam K. Springs)

LITTLE ROCK AIR FORCE BASE, Ark. --

Thousands of Team Little Rock members attend the various events held throughout the year. However, not everyone is aware of the individuals behind the scene making them happen.  

Christopher Schack, 19th Airlift Wing chief of protocol, is in charge of ensuring base events and visits are coordinated to transpire smoothly and professionally, guided by Air Force Instructions. Protocol is critical in showcasing the pride that members of Herk Nation have in their mission.

Schack, alongside the two other personnel in the section, ensure visitor itineraries, billeting, transportation and security needs are arranged. Protocol also organizes or assists with most ceremonies including changes of command, retirement, promotion and awards when the 19th AW Command Section is involved.

 “Many times, the events or visits we deal with involve talking about our mission to community members, elected officials and their representatives,” Schack said. “Smoothly run events makes it easier to get that message across. We want guests to leave this installation with a good feeling about an event they attended or a visit they made.”

The change of command ceremonies are the most common event protocol manages. The protocol team plans these ceremonies for not only the 19th, but also the 314th AW. This year there have been 17 changes of command.

The office is in charge of coordination, creating itineraries and making sure everyone is in the correct spot for an event. They are also responsible for covering such details as who is speaking at a ceremony, the order distinguished guests are introduced, how the flags are set up, and how the honor guard is presenting the colors- many things the attendants of these events may not think about.

“People retire on base all the time,” Schack said. “I want the ceremonies to be dignified. I think about who they bring to that ceremony - mostly their family members, who may have never seen a ceremony before. They look back afterwards and say, ‘Wow, that was a great ceremony.’ Their family was impressed with how it went smoothly and professionally.”

Cheryl Fraser, 19th Airlift Wing secretary to the wing commander, said protocol works behind the scenes to ensure each event is dignified and respects the men and women of the U.S. Air Force.

“Protocol makes sure that each event is properly executed according to the AFIs and the rules of general etiquette, making sure that each event is memorable,” Fraser said.

Schack emphasized protocol’s role in supporting the wing commander so he can maintain his mission focus across the installation.

“My number one job is making sure I’m taking care of the wing commander and any desires he has.” Schack said.  

Protocol strives to commemorate and celebrate events by assisting with planning dignified, professional ceremonies and social activities while maintaining quality service and always improving business processes.

“I want to be at 100% all the time and not have any mistakes,” Schack said. “But there’s always going to be something that changes last minute. We put out a lot of fires. I can’t fix everything, but I try. There’s a lot of pressure in this job and you always have to be on your toes and know what’s going on.”

The section faces stressors from trying to make an event go as planned, identifying improvements and adapting when changes occur. Even so, they regularly have the opportunity to meet a variety of influential people and showcase Little Rock’s mission.

“I really enjoy this job,” Schack said. “Everyone’s a team here, working together and taking care of each other.”

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