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Roche receives Order of the Sword

By Staff Sgt. C. Todd Lopez

ANDREWS AIR FORCE BASE, Md. (Sept. 15, 2003) -- Secretary of the Air Force Dr. James G. Roche was inducted into the Order of the Sword during a ceremony here Sept. 13.

Roche became the eighth Air Force-level inductee into the order, and the second secretary, since the "Royal Order of the Sword" ceremony was revised, updated and adopted by Air Force noncommissioned officers in 1967.

Staff Sgts. Daniel Perry (front) and Ray Bradshaw bear the Air Force sword for the Order of the Sword ceremony Sept. 13. Several hundred airmen gathered here to honor and pay tribute to the 20th secretary of the Air Force, Dr. James G. Roche. The Order of the Sword is the highest honor Air Force noncommissioned officers can give to an individual and is patterned after two orders of chivalry founded during the Middle Ages in Europe. Perry is assigned to Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, and Bradshaw is assigned to Kadena Air Base, Japan. U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Jim Varhegyi.

Among the crowd of more than 800 present at the ceremony were former Secretary F. Whitten Peters, himself an Order of the Sword inductee, and Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. John P. Jumper. A number of former chief master sergeants of the Air Force also attended the event and were joined by the man who currently holds the position.

"The thoughts that come to mind are those that speak of a great compassion and care he has for our airmen," said Chief Master Sgt. of the Air Force Gerald R. Murray. "It is a common sight to see our secretary surrounded by airmen at a base or a venue asking them how they are, what concerns they have and what can be done better in our Air Force.

“Airmen know that when he asks, he also listens, and when warranted, he acts to make changes to make … lives better and help us to do our mission more efficiently,” Murray said.

During the ceremony, Roche was presented with a copy of the citation, a painting by German artist Hans Roth featuring images of the secretary during his tenure with the Air Force, and a scroll with the names of those who attended. He also received a symbolic "Alfonso the 10th"-style sword, crafted in Toledo, Spain.

"Fellow airmen, I am genuinely humbled to stand before you tonight and accept this honor," Roche said. "I can assure you that tonight, your decision to honor me with this modern order of chivalry has left me at quite a loss to express my profound sense of pride, humility and also delight.”

Roche also praised the enlisted force for the work they do for the Air Force and for the country.

"The success of our Air Force in accomplishing our mission, and the rightful position of respect that we hold in the hearts and minds of the American people, is because of you, and the more than 700,000 active duty, Guard and reservists you represent," Roche said. "The American people trust your competence in conflict. Can there be a higher level of trust? I can't think of one."

One of the secretary’s accomplishments during his tenure with the Air Force was allowing senior enlisted airmen to enroll in the Air Force Institute of Technology. He also struck an agreement with Army officials to provide the Air Force with nearly 8,000 Army guardsmen to backfill critically short security requirements, as well as secured 100-percent tuition assistance for airmen. He allowed first sergeants to extend their special duty tour beyond three years and established a new standard for junior-enlisted dormitories.

Roche's induction into the Order of the Sword comes as members of Congress begin to consider his nomination to become Secretary of the Army. President George W. Bush announced his decision to nominate Roche for the Army’s top post May 7.

The Order of the Sword, a military ceremony, has been conducted since its original inception in 1522. It is conducted by noncommissioned officers to honor those who have made significant contributions to the enlisted corps.