JOINT BASE-LANGLEY-EUSTIS, Va. --
Air Combat Command's enlisted force honored their commander with an induction into the Order of the Sword at the Riverview Event Center on Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Virginia Aug. 26.
Gen. Mike Holmes, who has commanded ACC since March 2017, is the ninth ACC leader to be inducted into the ACC Order of the Sword.
Before his acceptance speech he thanked the volunteers, the Base Honor Guard and the Heritage of America Band for hours of effort that went into making the ceremony happen.
“I appreciate that we have everybody from our youngest Airman here to a room full of chiefs, and all I ask of you tonight is that you pass my thanks for this great honor,” Holmes said. “I can’t think of anything that will ever match it in the 38 years that I’ve spent in the Air Force — 39 years this Friday.
“From the bottom of my heart, thank you for taking the time to be here tonight,” he added. “Thank you for nominating me and approving the Order of the Sword, and it’s something that I will remember forever.”
In the Air Force, the Order of the Sword remains the highest and only honor presented by the enlisted corps to a senior ranking officer and is maintained by the command chief master sergeant of the designated command.
Chief Master Sgt. David Wade, ACC command chief, explained why Holmes was selected for the prestigious honor.
“On the day we invited General Holmes to his own induction to the ACC Order of the Sword ceremony, he was supposed to be home packing up his household goods, but we had our Sword Bearer developmental class starting that day for noncommissioned officers,” Wade said. “True to form, he put off his personal needs to serve enlisted Airmen. It is something that has become quite common during General Holmes’ tenure up here at ACC headquarters.”
In his speech, Wade also discussed how Holmes led from the front and devoted chunks of his schedule on multiple occasions specifically to spend quality time with enlisted Airmen.
“General Holmes is a leader who tackled tough strategic problems at the highest levels of our Air Force and Department of Defense, and somehow managed to never forget the impact of those decisions on the most junior Airmen,” Wade said. “I watched him drive the training and certification of the Air Force’s only standing joint task force capable headquarters and also find time to have pizza with the 5th Combat Communications Airmen that set up all the communications for the event.”
Wade said he had a discussion with the former command chief for ACC, Chief Master Sgt. Frank Batten, who said Holmes’ induction into the order of the sword was a “no brainer.” In Batten’s opinion, Holmes is exactly the type of leader upon who deserves this type of honor.
“Induction into the ACC Order of the Sword is serious business, reserved only for leaders among leaders, and not something I decide on my own,” Wade said. “I spoke with enlisted Airmen when I was out on the road and all the responses were the same: General Holmes is an exceptional leader who understands and appreciates the enlisted force. His induction was unanimous. It was a slam dunk.”
Wade also talked about how Holmes spent time with the Air Force Wounded Warriors during the 2019 Wounded Warrior Games.
“COMACC is a busy guy, and we had a pretty aggressive itinerary, but that wasn’t going to keep General Holmes from supporting our Wounded Warriors, most of whom were enlisted,” Wade explained. “He watched the games for hours, handed out medals, and had real conversations with our best Airmen.
“A couple months later we were in Germany and they were holding Air Force Wounded Warrior trials during our visit” Wade continued. “Being the kind of selfless leader he is, General Holmes adjusted our schedule to stop by and lend four-star support. That is what leaders among leaders do.”
The Order of the Sword is patterned after two orders of chivalry founded during the Middle Ages in Europe and still in existence today — the Royal Order of the Sword and the Swedish Military Order of the Sword.
In 1522, King Gustavus the First of Sweden enjoined the noblemen he commissioned to appoint officers to serve him — accountants, builders, craftsmen, teachers, scribes and others responsible for conducting the ordinary daily affairs of the kingdom. The system worked so well it was incorporated into the Swedish army as a way to establish and maintain a cohesive, disciplined, well-trained force to protect lives and property in the kingdom. These ancient enlisted personnel would honor their leader and pledge their loyalty by presenting him with a sword.
Another known instance of the Order of the Sword was during the in the 1860s when a Civil War general was presented a sword by his command. More than 100 years later in 1967, the Order of the Sword ceremony was revised, updated and adopted by the U.S. Air Force enlisted corps. Since then, the rare honor of receiving it has only been accorded to those special leaders who demonstrate extraordinary support for the enlisted corps.