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The PA Bunch: Service, detail, honor

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Kelsey Martinez
  • 910th Airlift Wing Public Affairs

Completely frozen in time; the sound of dozens of people weeping and wailing at the loss of a loved one is unnerving.

As the Honor Guard performs a series of carefully orchestrated movements, the time between each feels like an eternity.

Down on bended knee, amid the weight of grief, a man with a weathered face, dressed in an immaculate uniform with sharp white gloves presents a crisply folded U.S. flag to the next of kin. 

Struggling with the words that he learned in training just the day before, 2nd Lt. Scott D. Allen recites, “On behalf of the president of the United States, the United States Air Force and a grateful nation, please accept this flag as a symbol of our appreciation for your loved one’s honorable and faithful service.”

Choking back tears while rendering a final salute, he turns to depart.

Regardless of what aspect of life he is required to tend to, Maj. Scott D. Allen, the 910th Airlift Wing public affairs officer at Youngstown Air Reserve Station, Ohio, continues to work meticulously in and out of uniform.

“In high school, I was part of the drill team,” he said. “I took a lot of pride in the uniform we wore and what we did.”

Allen attended The Citadel in Charleston, South Carolina, in hopes of being a Marine Corps officer after graduation.

“Unlike high school, I had to be focused and disciplined in college,” he said. “That was something I really struggled with at the time.”

The struggle challenged him to reassess his direction in life and led him to enlist in the Air Force Reserve in the summer of 1990.

“My dad always encouraged me to join,” he said. “I always looked up to him and his work in construction, so with college plans changing, and being fresh out of basic training, I decided to follow his example.”

Allen developed a passion for woodworking at the age of 16, working with his father, a construction superintendent at the time.

“My dad taught me that if something’s worth doing, it’s worth doing right the first time,” he said. “Otherwise, you’ll have to do it again.” 

Allen found himself doing all types of woodworking over the years from cabinetry to building houses honing in on his attention to detail and precision. 

“When I worked as a carpenter, it was all about attention to detail,” he said. “I may have taken more time to finish the job, but I made sure that I was being thorough every single time.” 

Returning to his high school roots, Allen joined the base honor guard to perform military funeral honors and color guard details and has been honorably serving for over 16 years.  

“It was very difficult, emotionally, in the beginning,” he said.

Due to the nature of the service, there is bound to be a wide range of emotions and responses from the family members. 

“It is so important to remain emotionally separated and focused,” he said. “However, you don’t want to seem emotionless because these are real people dealing with real loss.”

Allen expressed that there is an extensive amount of precision in the timing of commands, movements, playing of taps and folding of the flag, that it is imperative to be meticulous in execution to show the utmost respect during the service to the family and represent the military well. 

“We make sure to fold the flag properly. Period. It is folded with bearing and precision,” he said. “There are two very important components to a flag that is folded properly; one, there is no red showing, and two, it is tightly tucked.”

Performing over 500 ceremonies, Allen knows all the points to hit to ensure a perfectly-folded flag is passed on every time, along with the attention to detail required in having a pristine uniform.

“This brings comfort and closure to the families, so it has to be done right,” he said. “In moments like these, we are the ones representing the Air Force.”

Allen began his career with the 81st Aerial Port Squadron at the 315th Airlift Wing, Joint Base Charleston, South Carolina, where he spent his first six years. It wasn’t until he moved to Ohio five years later that he realized he needed to reenlist in 2001.

“The military is something I’ve always gravitated towards,” he said. “I needed to do more for my family and I knew I would be able to do that through the Air Force.”

Allen reenlisted as a C-130 loadmaster with the 773rd Airlift Squadron. 

“Being a loadmaster gave me a renewed sense of needing to make a career out of the Air Force,” he said. “It made me dig deeper.”

Allen then decided to apply for the Deserving Airman Commissioning Program in 2003 and was selected to attend the Academy of Military Science at Maxwell Air Force Base in Montgomery, Alabama.

“It changed everything,” he said. “It gave me the direction, focus and stability in my life that I needed.”

Since then, he has held positions in the 76th Aerial Port Squadron and the 910th Mission Support Group and now works as the 910th airlift wing public affairs officer. 

“Looking from the outside in, I realized it (public affairs) was a really cool job,” he said. “It was a natural progression into public affairs from my previous positions given all that I had learned about leadership and community in the military.”

For Allen, it was important for him to be a part of telling the Air Force’s story. 

“I love this job because it puts me in a position where I feel my strengths are benefiting the office to find the resources and equipment we need,” he said. “It feels great to be able to improve the office that has such an important mission…telling our Airmen’s stories.”

Whether it is cutting a piece of wood to within 1/32 of an inch, taking the hurdles and obstacles out of the way of his Airmen or putting on the uniform and folding the flag perfectly, Allen has continued to make precision and attention to detail his priorities.

“Precision equates to correctness, attention to detail equates to accuracy, and as a public affairs specialist correctness and accuracy are imperative,” he said. “This is how you earn the trust of Air Force leadership so that we are able to tell the Air Force story to the public.”