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Former CSAF inducted into AFSOC Order of the Sword

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Desiree Moyé
  • 1st Special Operations Wing Public Affairs
More than 30 years after first arriving at Hurlburt Field as a young MC-130E Combat Talon pilot, the former chief of staff of the Air Force returned to receive the highest honor the enlisted force can bestow upon an individual.

Nearly 700 enlisted Air Force Special Operations Command Airmen from around the world inducted retired Gen. Norton Schwartz, the 19th chief of staff of the Air Force, into the command's Order of Sword Feb. 1.

The general is now the eighth inductee into AFSOC's Order. He first acknowledged the nomination from Chief Master Sgt. Bill Turner, the command chief of AFSOC, in front of more than 300 Airmen here Nov. 15, 2012.

"We were very humbled that you and Suzie accepted the invitation and honored our Air Commandos," Turner said.

Turner served as the ceremony's command chief, flanked by Chief Master Sgt. Paul Henderson, the command chief of 27st Special Operations Wing at Cannon Air Force Base, N.M., and Chief Master Sgt. Gregg Jones, the command chief of 353rd Special Operations Group at Kadena Air Force Base, Japan.

After dinner was served, the audience viewed a photo and video montage of Schwartz during his total Air Force career, allowing them a brief glimpse into his deep commitment to the Air Force and its Airmen.

The presentation also included testimonials from various enlisted Airmen, including retired Chief Master Sgt. James Binnicker, the ninth Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force, who also spoke at the ceremony.

"I was talking to some Airmen out in the lobby during the break and was asked 'How do you get promoted to general?', I said 'Well, OK, I'll tell you the secret. Once a year, all the chiefs get together...' Obviously, that's not how we do it," Binnicker said during his speech at the event. "But if we did, we would do it this way. We do the sword that way. The chiefs get together and with the support of the Airmen, we make a selection. And we picked a good selection."

Turner called the ceremony, based upon long-standing military heritage and customs, to order to formally induct the general.

"Sir, this is the very least we could do for you, after all you've done for us," Turner said. "You are a leader among leaders, an Airman's Airman and most surely worthy of the greatest honor the enlisted force can bestow. Sir, congratulations once again on being inducted into the AFSOC Order of the Sword."

In addition to honoring Schwartz, Turner paid tribute to Suzie Schwartz and her efforts to supporting military families.

"The counsel you provided the boss really changed the discussion on issues like privatized housing, wounded warrior care and family programs," Turner said. "Ma'am, our Air Force owes you a deep debt of gratitude, and we love you deeply."

The general addressed the enlisted Airmen from the podium, complete with a ceremonial sword and the AFSOC shield placed before it.

"How does one explain in a few words the significance of honors received here tonight -- honors afforded by our magnificent enlisted special operators and special operations cadre over the years and our Air Force Airmen in general?" Schwartz said. "Allow me to go back in history for just a moment: in 1979, Air Force special operations was dying. But Ayatollah Khomeni reminded us that our country needed superior capabilities that only well-trained, committed and resourceful Airmen could consistently produce with precision and reliability. Today, the jewel that leaders and others imagined in 1980 is a reality today. This is not by chance or by luck, but by the admirable work of Airmen of all ranks and their incredibly supportive families."

The general then detailed his family's journey as a young captain living in a house in Mary Esther, Fla., to residing at Air House in Washington, D.C., as the chief of staff of the Air Force.

"We stayed the course with all of you because of our experience and affection for our enlisted team, their sacrifices and essential contributions to the mission in so many dimensions -- operations, maintenance, medical and support in its various forms -- and the essential high standards you maintained year after year," Schwartz said. "You recognize that generation of leadership that propelled special operations from the searing experience in Desert One to the exhilaration of Abbottabad. Suzie and I have been privileged to have been a part of this community for many years, and we accept your Order of the Sword -- not for ourselves, but for those known and not-so-well known who committed themselves to ensuring that America would never again experience the crushing disappointment of failure and of a mission of singular national importance."

According to Air Force Instruction 36-2824Order of the Sword Programs, "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."

"Thank you for your hospitality and the honors bestowed on us tonight," Schwartz said at the conclusion of his speech. "Suzie and I will endeavor to remain always worthy of your trust."