by Tech. Sgt. Jared Marquis
21st Space Wing Public Affairs
8/19/2015 - THULE AIR BASE, Greenland -- "(Service
member) did, with my royal permission, enter this dread region of the
earth by crossing the Arctic Circle. Having endured the rigors of winter
storm conditions with frequent hurricane-force winds, seasons of
24-hour daylight and 24-hour night, mukluks, icebergs, 'Archies,' iron
pants, and the like; and having served the minimum apprenticeship north
of the Arctic Circle, with the Armed Forces of the United States of
America, is hereby accorded the honor as a Knight of the Blue Nose. All
Frigid Brothers and Sisters are commanded to give this distinguished
personage due recognition under penalty of banishment from the Arctic
Order, Knights of the Blue Nose."
(Signed) Supreme Exalted Potentate of the Arctic Region
Being inducted into the Arctic Order, Knights of the Blue Nose, is the
method of recognition for all those who survive a short tour at the Top
of the World. It is a well-deserved honor, as it requires the honoree to
forgo months of sunlight, warmth, outside human contact, and reliable
internet. It is definitely one of the more unique farewells a service
member will receive.
"To me it's one of the really nice traditions we do here as part of the
Thule family," said Lt. Col. Stacy Clements, 821st Air Base Group deputy
The ceremony itself takes place shortly before the honoree departs on
the weekly rotator, yes, there is just the one. The member is taken to
the front of the room, and while the induction is read, his or her nose
is painted blue, symbolizing the physical reaction to the extreme arctic
cold they have become so accustomed to.
Following their induction, they are presented with gifts as friends and
coworkers who know them best recount stories of their exploits at the
Air Force's northernmost installation.
It is a time-honored tradition that, according to Clements' research,
has been around in some form or another since Airmen began serving at
She said she suspects it was adapted from the U.S. Navy, who recognizes sailors who cross the Arctic Circle as a Blue Nose.
"Here it's a little different," she said. "We don't just give it to you
because you come here. You have to stick with us for the winter."
Every ceremony is slightly different in scale and size, Clements said.
For some people, it is a small affair, with only those they've grown
close with. For the vast majority, it is a base event where everyone is
invited. This speaks primarily to the closeness of the Thule community,
she said. At any one time, there are only around 150 Airmen stationed at
Thule, so chances are the departing member has become close with
members in and outside their unit.
One of the more unique Blue Nose ceremonies recognizes those leaving the
12th Space Warning Squadron. Not only is it a small ceremony, primarily
attended by 12th SWS personnel, there are other differences.
"At 12th SWS, Blue Nose ceremonies are a much more personal occasion due
to the 12th SWS-specific challenges and trials each member of the
squadron faced together with the departing member," said Lt. Col. Marc
Brock, 12th SWS commander. "The site is separated approximately 12 miles
from the main base, and the mission differs greatly from the 821st
ABG's, and the number of personnel at 12th SWS is considerably smaller.
These conditions combine to make (12 SWS) closely-knit and we feel, to
an extent, like family; something especially important in an environment
where members' families are thousands of miles away."
This closeness is especially evident in the painting ceremony.
"Each member of 12th SWS gets the opportunity to place their individual
blue-painted mark on the departing member as a personalized goodbye
message" Brock said. "These range from writing small words or messages
(Ex: "U.S., eh?" on a recently departed Canadian Forces 12th SWS member)
to painting a picture (a shining sun, an ice berg, a cloud, etc.) or
adding new facial features (cat whiskers, freckles, dimples, etc.).
When the member's set foot on the plane and depart a place they likely
will never see again, they do so knowing that the hands of the entire
squadron carried them there with fondest farewells."
Whether the ceremony is a large affair, or a group of close-knit friends
and coworkers, it truly is a unique way to say farewell.
So, to all ye who know nothing of the rigors of the dreaded arctic
region, tis a challenging place to serve. Yet, once ye have, ye will
forever be accorded the honor as a Knight of the Blue Nose.
(Editor's note: This story is part 4 of a 4 part series about life at the Top of the World: Thule Air Base, Greenland.)