The Air Force prides itself on giving its airmen opportunities. For Capt. Brusle Sherburne IV, of the Air Force Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance Agency, his special job afforded him the unexpected chance meeting of a lifetime — the opportunity to brief Queen Elizabeth.
Captain Sherburne’s unique experience was re-told in an article written by Wayne Amann, of the AFISR public affairs office, and posted on that agency’s Web site.
As the first U.S. Air Force exchange officer at Tactical Imagery-Intelligence Wing, Royal Air Force Marham, United Kingdom, Sherburne is officer commanding standards and plans, responsible for the quality of the output of imagery analysts and engineers and the long term planning of the wing, wrote Amann.
His position is key to the ongoing success of CROSSBOW, the UK Distributed Ground System node, through his coordination with the agency’s 480th ISR Wing.
His job requires a full immersion into the Royal Air Force. That includes learning all its acronyms, writing annual performance reports on RAF airmen, and trying to maintain the same level of understanding of RAF policies and capabilities as an RAF officer of seven years.
Exchange officers are expected to fully integrate into their respective military. “I don’t feel like I’m an American in a Brit unit,” Sherburne said. “I barely hear accents anymore. I feel right at home with my Brit brethren.”
He was in the right place at the right time on February 3, when he briefed the US/UK relationship regarding ISR, to Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II, during a rare visit by the monarch to RAF Marham, where she is the honorary air commodore. The Queen visits every two years if possible.
“She met many people on station that day, so my interaction with her was about 30 seconds,” the Baton Rouge, LA, native recalled. “I explained the US/UK have extremely close ties, the relationship was enduring and only growing stronger.”
The brief audience with the queen left a lasting impression on the agency airman.
“She has a way of putting you at ease with her demeanor and presence,” Sherburne said. “She’s well-loved by the UK military. The RAF pulls out all the stops when she visits. There’s a reverence about her that’s hard to explain. At the same time, she’s quite personable. She made a point to shake anyone’s hand who talked to her.”
Sherburne understands the importance of being an exchange officer.
“The role of an EO is to best represent the Air Force, to live up to its standards and feel comfortable in these types of situations,” he said. “I had the pleasure of briefing the RAF chief of the Air Staff [equivalent to the chief of staff of the U.S. Air Force], last year. High profile visitors want to know your take on situations and we should feel honored to speak on behalf of the Air Force and host nation.”
Sherburne’s exchange officer experience prepared him well for his chance meeting with the queen. From April 11 to July 14, 2013, he commanded the TIW detachment at Kandahar Air Base in Afghanistan, in support of Tornado GR4 RAPTOR imagery operations, becoming the first U. S. Air Force officer to command a TIW deployed detachment.
“[It was] a great honor he was given by the RAF,” said Air Force Chief of Staff Mark Welsh during remarks he delivered at an Air Force Association Air Warfare Symposium on Feb. 20. “There’s a lot of trust being placed in him by the RAF. He’s building partnerships every day with critical allies.”
As the deployed TIW detachment commander, Sherburne and his crew of analysts were responsible for accomplishing the only true tactical reconnaissance in Afghanistan.
“I feel I can speak [on the US/UK ISR relationship] with some credibility,” Sherburne said. “Truth is they run things differently and it works well for their mission set. I’ve had the pleasure of watching both militaries getting their airmen ready for dangerous situations and harsh environments. I can’t say enough about how vital their continued special relationship is.”
Sherburne realizes meeting someone of the queen’s stature is an extremely rare opportunity. He also says his relatively short time in the Air Force has taught him to jump on opportunities that present themselves.
“[Airmen] are afforded some amazing opportunities that civilians [outside the military] are not,” he observed. “Wearing our Air Force uniform while everyone around me wears RAF uniforms has taught me the importance of not only representing myself, but my military and my country. It’s a responsibility I take very seriously,” said the article by AFISR’s Wayne Amann.