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AFSOC commander inducted into The Order of the Sword

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Joe W. McFadden
  • Air Force Special Operations Command Public Affairs
More than 700 Airmen from throughout Air Force Special Operations Command paid tribute to Lt. Gen. Donald Wurster, AFSOC commander, by inducting him into The Order of Sword during a ceremony at the Emerald Coast Conference Center in Fort Walton Beach, Fla., Nov. 19.

General Wurster became the seventh recipient of AFSOC's Order of the Sword, the highest honor an individual can receive from the enlisted force. He first became aware of his nomination shortly after his plane landed at the Hurlburt Field flightline Aug 31. More than 200 Air Commandos both welcomed him back home and notified him of their decision.

"There's no greater honor that can be afforded to a commander than to hold the trust, respect and affection of those they lead," General Wurster said. "You truly humble me with this honor, and I am most grateful. My family and I thank you for this incredible, overwhelming and awesome honor."

Airmen donned their semi-formal or mess dress uniform and cheered General Wurster and his wife Ronda as they arrived at the conference center. As the Wursters' entered the main ballroom, the hall reverberated from the bagpipes playing, thunderous applause and the crowd banging 105mm and 40mm shells together to celebrate a general they hailed as "an Airman among Airmen."

Chief Master Sgt. Michael Gilbert, AFSOC command chief, served as the ceremony's command chief. He was flanked by Chief Master Sgt. Dexter Mitchell, 1st Special Operations Wing command chief, and Chief Master Sgt. William Turner, 27th Special Operations Wing command chief, both representing the enlisted personnel of Hurlburt Field and Cannon Air Force Base.

After calling the room to order, Chief Gilbert shared his perspective of working with General Wurster on behalf of all special operations Airmen.

"As AFSOC command chief, I enjoy a front row seat from which to view the performance of our commander during what has arguably been the most demanding era in AFSOC's history," Chief Gilbert said. "We are more heavily tasked than ever before, but we're also bigger and better largely due to General Wurster's efforts."

Chief Gilbert listed many of General Wurster's contributions to the quality of life for his Airmen while leading them through missions in Haiti, Iraq, Afghanistan and others around the world. He also acknowledged the command's success to the general's leadership style and example.

"When there's success, and there's a lot of success in this command, he's thankful for such great Airmen to serve with and gives them all the credit," Chief Gilbert said. "When there's failure, he immediately assumes everyone gave their best and it must have been a failure on his part that allowed something wrong to happen. This is a rare leadership quality. It's a style that instructors work hard to teach, because in those rare cases when it's perfected, it's so powerful. For General Wurster, it's the way he looks at the world, the way he looks at his AFSOC team and simply the way that he serves."

With the ornate, ceremonial sword placed below the speaker's podium, General Wurster took to the stage. His remarks highlighted the contributions of the special tactics, operations, maintenance, mission support, medical and AFSOC Airmen whom he has commanded since November 2007.

"Tonight is not about me, but a celebration of the terrific enlisted force in the United States Air Force," he said. "We say that AFSOC is a step ahead in a changing world and that agility is led by our enlisted force. What's occurring in AFSOC in this generation is unlike anything in the entire history of the command, and you all are a part of it. We truly are a step ahead, and these changes are essential to our national security in the coming years. I'm truly proud of each one of you, because it's you who are doing this."

General Wurster closed by thanking the more than 16,000 Airmen for their selfless service in "the most relevant, respected and capable command in the United States Air Force."

"One percent of the people in this country serve to defend our nation and you're that one percent," he said. "You are well trained, highly disciplined and incredibly competent. You are lethal, but compassionate and willing to bear the burdens that accompany this life of selfless service and sacrifice for the sake of the security of our nation."

Once the ceremony was complete, General Wurster took the time to coin every single Airman in attendance.

Airman Basic Sarah Maria Schaum, 1st Special Operations Security Forces Squadron entry controller, is one of only 32 Airmen Basic at Hurlburt Field. Despite being at Hurlburt Field for just three weeks, she represented her rank as part of the sword cordon in the ceremony. She said she left the event with a better appreciation for being in AFSOC and of the Air Force's traditions.

"He was so thankful to the enlisted personnel," Airman Schaum said. "I've been in the military for less than a year, and I've already witnessed something that's only happened six times before. I'm really glad to have been a part of this."

According to Air Force Instruction 36-2824, "The Order of the Sword was established by the Air Force to recognize and honor military senior officers, colonels and above, and civilian equivalents, for conspicuous and significant contributions to the welfare and prestige of the Air Force enlisted force, mission effectiveness as well as the overall military establishment."