Sunday, July 17, 2011


I Relinquish Command

On Tuesday July 12th, I relinquished command of The United States Air Force Honor Guard, closing a remarkable 2-year odyssey.

Command of a squadron is a unique experience in the Air Force. It's said you'll never love--or hate--any job more, because from the day he takes the flag a squadron commander accepts the burden of responsibility for everything that happens on his watch ... the good, the bad, and the ugly.

Commanding the Honor Guard provided me more than my share of all three. The Airmen assigned are very young--over 80% come directly from Basic Training--and they work in a fishbowl. Most of them rise wonderfully to the occasion, conduct themselves with extraordinary skill and dedication, and reward your faith in them through superb performance and conduct.  A few, however, will not, and those few will take up far too much of your time.

The "good" ... where to start?

The phenomenal experience of taking command with my friend, counselor and spiritual father and his wife in attendance.  I love and respect them so very much.
Maj. Tyson Willis, U.S. Air Force Honor Guard director of operations, leads Col. Elizabeth Borelli, 11th Operation Group commander, and Lt. Col. Raymond M. Powell, U.S. Air Force Honor Guard commander, during an inspection of the troops as part of the Air Force Honor Guard change-of-command ceremony June 23 on the U.S. Air Force Ceremonial Lawn, Bolling Air Force Base, D.C. These ceremonies represent the formal passing of responsibility, authority and accountability of command from one officer to another. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Alex Montes)

The thrill of returning to my Sacramento middle school together with the Drill Team ... and my mom!

The challenge of staging a huge sight-and-sound Twilight Tattoo for the 50th Anniversary of the Conference of American Air Chiefs on the US Air Force Ceremonial Lawn.

The somber responsibility of presiding over the funeral of US Senator Ted Stevens.
Military personnel carry the casket during the burial service of longtime Alaska Senator Ted Stevens at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia, September 28, 2010.  Olivier Douliery / MCT

The opportunity to returning to my beloved Santa Cruz with the Drill Team and meeting up with so many dear family members and old friends.  I also met up with my friend "Sharon" again on that trip after 24 years.  Sharon came to place her trust in Christ as a result (thus launching the Born Again series ... which I promise will resume shortly)!

The tremendous honor of participating in the 2010 Christmas Parade in my current hometown of Fredericksburg, Virginia as the Grand Marshall.

Still, I think my favorite memory will be of seeing my father (who blogs here in these pages as "Presbyter") honored by the Air Force, as he was previously by me, the Santa Cruz Sentinel, and some lady named Oprah.  He came to see me relinquish command almost exactly 50 years after his 1961 Freedom Ride.
Lt. Col. Raymond Powell and his father Michael Powell discuss Michael's experience during the Freedom Rides of 1961 at Joint Base Anacostia-Bolling, Washington D.C. July 11, 2011. The freedom rides sought to end segregation in the Southern states with non-violent protest. Raymond relinquished command of The U.S. Air Force Honor Guard on July 12, 2011, nearly 50 years after his fathers arrest in Jackson, Miss. (USAF Photo by Staff Sgt. Raymond Mills)

As amazing as this has been, the experience has not been without trial, some "bad", some "ugly".  Leaders in this environment often emerge bloodied and bruised, while some do not make it to the end. The bright lights show every flaw, and patience can be in very short supply. Frankly, after watching three of my superiors and one of my peers get relieved early, I was grateful for every day my key still fit the lock.

The most difficult period of my command centered around the discovery of a "Spice" ring in our midst.  Spice is the name of a new and particularly nasty synthetic cannabis popular among young people, and it has been making the rounds in the military.  It took us by storm, and although we acted swiftly to punish and purge the offenders, we received a lot of negative attention and were forced to battle through some very difficult days.

On a personal level, God turned up the heat on His refiner's fire through this trial, and taught me the value of perseverance and setting my face like flint through adversity.   Frankly, there was no way to go but forward, and there was no one to lead them but the man to whom God had assigned the mission.  I also discovered that in such adversity lies opportunity for those who are not too busy feeling sorry for themselves to see it.  By remaining alert and purposeful, we were able to leverage the attention generated by the crisis to gain support for some important initiatives which should bless future generations of Ceremonial Guardsmen for some years to come.

God also taught me a new humility.  As you can see from the photos and video above, there was much opportunity for arrogance, yet I found myself at times fighting for my job and my reputation, the latter being a particular favorite idol of mine.  While my carnal desire was to go out "on top", God's desire for me was to glorify Him, for that is all that has any enduring value whatsoever.

Through the peaks and valleys, I was deeply blessed to have been supported by many fine Airmen--superiors, peers and subordinates alike--and of course by my sweetheart of almost 21 years, Mrs Jailer.  We have a pocketful of incredible memories.

Together we look forward to our next challenge, as we prepare to go to Hanoi, Vietnam (following a couple years of training), where I am to be the Air Attache. We covet your prayers.


  1. Praying for you jailer. I hope you enjoy Vietnam.

  2. Congrats've come a long way! Enjoy your deserve it.

  3. Congratulations! Handpicked to serve so well and to serve God best of all. Thanking God for you! My prayers will be for and with you! Blessings!

  4. Ray -- May thanks for sharing and congrats on your very successful command, well done. Best wishes for success in your new position over in Vietnam.

    Thank you for being a strong man of faith, honor, and integrity -- unapologetic to spread God's word.

    May God continue to richly bless you and your family.

    Lanny Greenbaum

  5. May God bless you and your family in all things. August

  6. God speed and thanks for your testimony in His Service and to our nation.

  7. Wow! Ray, I am beaming with pride and admiration as I just went through all your pictures and videos. That final video was a true testimony for your leadership and Godly example to others. It is an honor knowing you. It was fun viewing the photos of you and Rich when I first knew you guys as dating singles at Clark and inspiring to watch the recap of your career. The last time we saw each other was at my retirement ceremony when I was leaving SEA and I hope to see you again soon...this time in SEA. God's best to you my brother.


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