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6th AMW leadership says 'Thank you' to Airmen

by Nick Stubbs
Thunderbolt staff writer

The annual CORONA Top conference and the Heraldic dinner honor a tradition set by Gen. Curtis LeMay, bringing together top Air Force leaders to discuss future policies and concepts on how the Air Force exercises the National Security Strategy, with remembrance of what the Air Force is all about.

This year the 6th Air Mobility Wing leadership will honor our Airmen and herald unit history during a special dinner in July. The Airmen's Dinner will be held July 7 at the Officers Club. Mirroring the Heraldic Dinner to the letter, the pre-CORONA Top event brings together group and squadron commanders, each of whom select someone from the junior enlisted or company grade officer ranks to accompany them as a guest. Each selectee is recognized not only as a standout in their group or squadron, but also represents all the members working in each squadron and unit contributing to the Global War on Terrorism.

Because the event is identical to the Heraldic Dinner, it also will serve as a full dress rehearsal for all general officer attendants and staff, said Capt. Christine Rioux, of the 6th Medical Group and coordinator of the Airmen's Dinner this year.

"It's a good trial run and gets everyone in sync (for the Heraldic Dinner.) More importantly, it celebrates the accomplishments of Airmen who are picked to attend because they consistently go above and beyond," said Captain Rioux. "Everyone who attends is a part of Air Force heritage."

The origins of the Heraldic Dinner date to 1961, when then Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. LeMay, who new to the job, had just received direction from the joint chiefs of staff and assembled a strategic plan for the Air Force based on their meetings.

General LeMay contacted his MAJCOM commanders one by one and while each pledged support, each had reservations and revised priorities and loss of troop strength. General LeMay knew the impacts on commanders were real but became frustrated and called a meeting of all Air Force senior leaders, the location set at the Fort Myers Officers' Club in Virginia.

The day before the meeting, General LeMay visited the club and tasked engineers with assembling a huge table by splicing several smaller tables together, creating an extra wide and long table joined in many places.

He had a large bowl of water on an elevated stand and many tall, fragile flower arrangements along with tall candle holders placed on the table. General LeMay was delighted with the result.

The next day when everyone convened to the table and stood in place behind their chairs, General LeMay entered and announced that he thought the table should be moved eight feet over to take advantage of natural light entering the room. As all prepared to heft the table, the first order seemed to be removing the various table settings so as not to topple them. General LeMay said that would not be necessary and that they could move the table with them in place. They did, without spilling a drop of water or toppling flowers or candles.

Once moved, General LeMay remarked that the new location had a glare from the light, which was a distraction, and all agreed it should be moved back to its original location, which once again was accomplished without disturbing the table decorations.

The general always had relied on speaking first, last and loudest to get his point across but this time passed on the message through the example of an important object lesson.

The demands on each commander to implement General LeMay's Air Force strategic plan may have seemed to be upsetting and a risk to the balance each had carefully achieved, but through teamwork, Air Force leaders learned they could come together like the single table made of many. Likewise, through teamwork and moving as a single unit, the table could be moved without disturbing the decorations balanced upon it.

After the diner, General LeMay is said to have passed out Corona cigars to everyone, establishing the Corona event and tradition continued today at MacDill, when senior Air Force leaders gather in the spirit of cooperation and teamwork to fulfill the mission of the Air Force.

The Airmen Dinner is a wing-level version of the Heraldic Dinner, following the exact protocol. Celebrated is the heraldry of the wing units and accomplishments. Squadron commanders herald past, present and future goals of their commands and current and past missions are recognized followed by recognition of Airmen and their service.

A silent service is the standard observed and servers move on cue in a carefully choreographed affair in which a six course gourmet meal is served European style.

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