Eyes Right

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Clint Gust
  • 82nd Training Wing Master of Drill and Ceremonies
Sheppard parades showcase the finest Airmen in training, and permanent party Airmen in Air Education and Training Command. People who are fortunate enough to attend are undoubtedly affected by the melodic tones of the braces and the crisp movements they witness.

A parade is no easy task, and is certainly not on the shoulders of only a select few. The 82nd Training Wing prides itself in putting forth a team effort -- from the Wing Commander to the AiT on the field -- in a process that encompasses the very best in pride and precision.

The 82nd TRW hosts four parades each year, along with seven pass in review formations. Our four parades consist of a parade led by military training leaders, an Armed Forces Day celebration, a Prisoner of War/Missing in Action Recognition Day ceremony and a Veteran's Day celebration.

All four parades involve more than 2,500 personnel including reviewing officials, distinguished visitors, troop commanders, band and choir support, color guards, armed drill teams and finally the personnel who pass in review. Of these four parades, three include the 80th Flying Training Wing, with flyover support and our sister services here.

In addition, a wing change of command warrants a parade that brings together every unit on base.  The number of total personnel can rise to more than 3,000. That is an awesome number when you think about it -- 3,000 personnel working in unison, marching with precision and never missing a beat.

Pass in reviews mirror many of the same formalities of a parade; however, they are focused on recognizing our AiT who have graduated, or are about to graduate the technical training phase of their careers.

Airmen remember how proud we were at Lackland AFB, Texas, Maxwell AFB, Ala., and the Air Force Academy, Colo., to name a few, when we marched across the field in honor of completing our basic training courses.

This concept of pride and honor is emphasized and honed at Sheppard as we recognize the accomplishments of those we train. More than 1,500 permanent party and AiT will participate in these ceremonies and do so with only one day of training.

The old saying is that practice makes perfect. Well, at Sheppard we train for perfection on the drill field and we train hard. Our traditional parades involve three sessions of training leading up to the event. With an average training session time of 90 minutes, you can see the drive for perfection and the dedication that is displayed. Keeping in mind the scope and breadth of our ceremonies, those man-hours add up quickly.

If you've ever wondered who is actually beating those drums, look no further than the special activity teams composed of the AiT and managed out of the military training support office. They train twice a week, for 50 weeks a year, to bring the absolute best in musical and armed drill support to all of our ceremonies.

The 82nd TRW also prides itself in efficiency, and last year we found one more way to ratchet up that standard.

Prior to the 2009 parade season, this wing conducted formal parades every month for eight months out of the year. Thanks to the pass-in-review ceremony concept, we now conduct ceremonies 11 months a year cutting the overall training time in half from 2008, giving the AiT more time to spend in the classroom. This concept contributed to saving the training squadrons and the Airmen 3,250 total man-hours, while at the same time giving them more opportunities to participate in what might be the last parades of their careers.

So how does all of this happen? Who is driving this machine? Sheppard Airmen make it possible by playing various roles in these events whether by actually passing in review "holding down the fort," by filling in for those participating in the parade. 

The training squadron military training leaders, working in conjunction with the military training support office, protocol and wing leadership are the ones who shoulder much of the logistical weight. They are the ones with boots on the ground, training those who will pass in review.

They are the ones who are sending you e-mails letting you know you have been selected to participate. They are the ones who are white-knuckle tight as you march down the bomb run and beaming with pride after you execute with flawless precision. They are the ones who are proud to call themselves masters of drill and ceremonies.

Drill has always been a passion of mine, and I have been fortunate enough to serve as your wing master of drill and ceremonies for the past year. I believe parades represent the power and commitment of our military forces.

We pay honor and tribute to national holidays, POWs and MIAs, our veterans, commanders and the art of drill itself. We recognize and congratulate our Airmen in training as they progress through their careers. Our movements are not simply robotic; they stem from the battlefields where we have paid the ultimate price for our freedoms and securities. They represent all of our armed forces, our training force at Sheppard and our proud heritage.