ACC enlisted induct Gen. Kelly into Order of the Sword

  • Published
  • By ACC Public Affairs Staff
  • Air Combat Command Public Affairs

Air Combat Command's enlisted force honored their commander with an induction into the Order of the Sword at the Riverview Event Center on Aug. 30. The Order of the Sword is the highest honor the enlisted corps can bestow upon a senior ranking officer in the Air Force.

Gen. Mark Kelly, who has served as commander of ACC since August 2020, is the 10th ACC leader to be inducted into the command’s Order of the Sword.

“The Order of the Sword is a great honor and incredibly humbling,” Kelly said. “I would offer that this event is a celebration of our great enlisted force. I’ve been blessed to watch their skill and courage at their absolute finest. [This celebration] is less about me; it’s more a reflection of learning from those Airmen and others over 37 years.”

During his speech, Kelly honored the enlisted force, sharing stories about how Airmen have impacted him throughout his career. 

He recalled watching the “dirt boys” (civil engineering Airmen) repair a cratered runway while under fire and a young medical technician inserting a chest tube who directed the general to “get out of their light.” He also remembered watching explosive ordinance disposal Airmen disarm a rocket that landed near his dorm. 

“You follow the legacy of Airmen like Medal of Honor recipient Tech Sgt. John Chapman and Senior Amn. Jason Cunningham who on March 4, 2003, didn’t ask, ‘How strong is the enemy, how many is the enemy?’ They loaded up on two Chinooks, callsign Razor 1 and Razor 2, and simply asked, ‘Where is the enemy?’” Kelly said. “They didn’t come back. 

“And Senior Amn. Ashley Goodman, who drove me around all the dirty and dangerous spots of Afghanistan she just never got herself home,” he said.

Kelly concluded his remarks by thanking the enlisted force for honoring him with the Order of the Sword, for 37 years of education, and for loving Airmen enough to hold them to high standards.

Command Chief Master Sgt. John Storms, Air Combat Command, spoke about why Kelly was selected for the prestigious honor, using an example from world-renowned leadership expert John C. Maxwell. 

“Maxwell defines leadership as ‘the ability to gain followers,’ and he said he could not think of another leader in our society who has lived up to this expectation as much as Arnold Palmer,” Storms said.    

In describing Kelly’s leadership, Storms cited three powerful principles Arnold Palmer embodied both on and off the golf course: interaction with everyone as if they are a close friend, making time for others as if it’s his only priority, and smiling every day as if being addicted to it.

“Ladies and gentlemen, our inductee this evening, General Mark Kelly has gone through his nearly 38-year career leading and influencing Airmen more aligned with Arnold Palmer’s three life principles than any other leader I’ve ever come across,” said Storms. “Tens of thousands of people idolized Arnold Palmer not only for how well he played golf but for how he made them feel after an encounter… that’s exactly how the Airmen of ACC feel about General Kelly.  

“It’s not simply the effective policies or sound decisions, it’s how they feel after an interaction with him,” he said. 

The command chief also highlighted several of Kelly’s accomplishments during his tenure as ACC commander.

In the aftermath of Hurricane Michael, Tyndall Air Force Base’s mission shifted to Eglin and many Tyndall Airmen, and their families were displaced. Support infrastructure at the base had to be replaced from scratch, and the future of the F-22 training enterprise and the F-35 beddown had to be preserved. 

“While no one man could do this alone, you stood out front and kept missions on pace while aiding and supporting our enlisted Airmen and their families, many times on a case-by-case basis,” Storms said to Kelly. “The accountability you displayed, and the personal level of attention given to Tyndall Airmen by you and your staff was nothing short of extraordinary.”

As the commander of Air Combat Command Kelly was never too busy for the enlisted corps, Storms said.  Every enlisted function, ACC Senior Enlisted Advisor course, Air Force Chief Orientation, or Sword Bearer course, began with Kelly’s opening remarks. 

“It's also the little moments, often not seen by the Public Affairs reps or leadership teams we’re visiting. It’s the four-star walking alone for well over 100 meters to greet and thank the Defenders that were securing your arrival at a base,” said Storms. “It’s the General Officer aviator working closely with the young enlisted crew chief, as professional Airmen, to troubleshoot a jet prior to launch…and never forget to thank them or recognize them after the sortie.

“I cannot think of any leader more deserving of being inducted into the Air Combat Command Order of the Sword than you,” Storms said to Kelly. “Thank you for being the right leader at the right time for the enlisted men and women of Air Combat Command.”