An Air Force Ball to remember

U.S. Air Force Col. Pete Bilodeau, left, 52nd Fighter Wing commander, and U.S. Air Force Airman Basic Trevor Hume Wolanske, a vehicle operator from the 52nd Logistics Readiness Squadron, cut the cake in commemoration of the Air Force’s 67th birthday during the Air Force Ball in Club Eifel at Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany, Sept. 13, 2014. Bilodeau and Hume Wolanske, as both the installation’s most senior-ranking and junior-ranking Airmen, respectively, cut the cake per Air Force tradition. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Timothy Kim/Released)

U.S. Air Force Col. Pete Bilodeau, left, 52nd Fighter Wing commander, and U.S. Air Force Airman Basic Trevor Hume Wolanske, a vehicle operator from the 52nd Logistics Readiness Squadron, cut the cake in commemoration of the Air Force’s 67th birthday during the Air Force Ball in Club Eifel at Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany, Sept. 13, 2014. Bilodeau and Hume Wolanske, as both the installation’s most senior-ranking and junior-ranking Airmen, respectively, cut the cake per Air Force tradition. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Timothy Kim/Released)

SPANGDAHLEM AIR BASE, Germany -- At most birthdays, people celebrate with a party, a cake and blowing out candles. For the Air Force, this is true, especially as most installations around the world observe its anniversary with an Air Force Ball. Spangdahlem Airmen observed the Air Force's 67th birthday with a formal celebration at Club Eifel, here, Sept. 13, 2014. 

At these events, Airmen participate in an age-old military tradition: the senior-most ranking Airman and the junior-most ranking Airman cut a birthday cake during the event. At Spangdahlem, U.S. Air Force Col. Pete Bilodeau, 52nd Fighter Wing commander, and U.S. Air Force Airman Basic Trevor Hume Wolanske, 52nd Logistics Readiness Squadron vehicle operator, represented those two roles, respectively.

Hume Wolanske, a native of Westminster, Massachusetts, said he has never attended an Air Force Ball before. But when he did for this occasion, he got to sit at the front of the room at the same table with the wing's leadership.

"The Air Force Ball was an amazing experience for me," Hume Wolanske said. "To be the lowest-ranking person on base and have dinner with the highest-ranking officers on base was - to be honest - a little nerve-wracking at first. As soon as I sat down with the colonels and the chief, they made me very comfortable in a place where I really didn't know too many people."

Not only did Hume Wolanske sit with the wing commander, he also met U.S. Air Force Col. Lars Hubert, 52nd FW vice commander, U.S. Air Force Chief Master Sgt. Brian Gates, 52nd FW command chief, and Herr Klaus Rhodens, Spangdahlem mayor.

Already adding to an eventful night, Sept. 13 also represented Hume Wolanske's father's birthday. The wing commander called Hume Wolanske's father from his phone, wished him a happy birthday and led the audience in singing the birthday song.

"Going in that night, I didn't expect to have the wing commander call my father and personally wish him a happy birthday," Hume Wolanske said. "I couldn't have been more grateful, because all my father wanted as a present was a phone call from me. I was able to exceed that expectation with help from Colonel Bilodeau; he had more than 300 people sing happy birthday to him ... priceless."

Hume Wolanske said he was humbled by being introduced to the entire base during the ball and getting coined by wing leadership. He said it was something not everyone gets to experience as a first-term Airman.

"Sitting with the highest-ranking Airmen on the base, you realize they're human beings like you and me," Hume Wolanske said. "I was - and am - completely honored to have had that experience, as not many people can say that as an E-1, they sat down with the commander and the command chief, and just had a regular conversation with them."

Hume Wolanske said he didn't plan on attending the ball but was glad to be invited to do so.

"That's what being an Airman is all about - being ready at all times for anything that would be thrown your way," he said. "It could be something like having dinner with the commander, but someday it could be a short-notice deployment that I may get tasked for, and that is why we are all trained and ready."

Hume Wolanske may be the lowest-ranking Airman on base, but he said the Air Force Ball showed him how the Air Force and its traditions do not discriminate against those of lower rank.

"It was certainly a humbling experience," he said. "This experience has shown me that a colonel has time to talk to and get to know an airman basic on base."