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Honoring Excellence: A look inside Minot Honor Guard

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Luis Gomez
  • 5th Bomb Wing Public Affairs

The Airmen who comprise the Minot AFB Honor Guard stand out for their dedication to a distinct mission: delivering premier ceremonial honors, inspiring the nation, and representing all Airmen. This elite team, comprising airmen, non-commissioned officers, and officers from the 5th Bomb Wing and 91st Missile Wing, emulates the USAF Honor Guard's high standards with their commitment to excellence and precision.

For Airman Marianna Alcauter, 5th Logistics Readiness Squadron fuels distribution operator, joining the Minot AFB Honor Guard was initially a career move. However, it quickly became a passion as she went through her training.

"Originally, it was just to benefit my military career. I wanted something that looked good on paper,” said Alcauter. “Then I started falling in love with it. We do these cool ceremonies and big events that people remember for the rest of their lives."

Alcauter reflected on the diversity that being in the Honor Guard has exposed her to. She described how the environment is similar to Basic Military Training, bringing together a large group of Airmen, regardless of their Air Force Specialty Code to unite under one mission. Despite the initial overwhelming feeling and awkwardness that can come from that kind of culture clash, Alcauter found camaraderie and a sense of family within the team.

"My class was really funny, and we bonded under the pressure of trying to learn and being overwhelmed,” said Alcauter. “It turned into a family within the first week."

Attention to detail and maintaining a level head in the face of adversity were two of the most important skills during Alcauter's journey into the Honor Guard.

“The training was intense, but it was nothing I couldn't handle,” said Alcauter. “The military bearing and sharp movements were always the same; it’s just the footwork is a bit different. I'm excited to finally put everything into practice.”

After training for a little over three weeks, Alcauter finally had her first drill on July 3 presenting the colors during a retirement ceremony.

For Airman 1st Class Keion Johnson, 5th Security Forces defender, his path to becoming an honor guardsman began when he felt inspired during his time at Minot AFB’s First Term Airman Course.

"I saw the Honor Guard come in, and they looked clean,” Johnson explained. “My best friend also did it and told me how good it was. I wanted to try something outside of my career field."

The attention to detail and precision required was a challenge, but one he embraced wholeheartedly.

"It took a lot of work and repetition, but it was worth it,” said Johnson. “The camaraderie and recognition around the base are significant rewards."

Johnson extended his initial three-month term to six months, reflecting his commitment and passion for the role.

"Some of the proudest moments are when people thank you after a detail,” said Johnson. “It feels good to be recognized and to know that you're representing the Honor Guard well.”

Tech. Sgt. Lance Vandervoort, 5th Force Support Squadron Honor Guard program manager who oversees all training for the Honor Guard at Minot AFB, and who was recently recognized as the Air Force Global Strike Command OAY Honor Guard program manager of the year, emphasized the diverse and rewarding nature of the role. 

"We pull from the entire installation, scheduling and performing colors and funerals across North Dakota,” said Vandervoort. “The weather can be challenging, especially in winter, but we make sure our guardsmen are properly outfitted.”

Vandervoort highlighted the unique bonds formed within the team, despite the diverse backgrounds of its members. He noted how by the end of their three-week training course the guardsmen are like best friends.

“We had a member's birthday today, and a former member came in with a cake,” said Vandervoort. “It definitely builds friendships and bonds that last well beyond Honor Guard duty."

The Honor Guard's mission is not only about precision and excellence but also about personal growth and confidence.

"We build people up, especially those who are more introverted. This job puts you in front of grieving families or large audiences, and it requires confidence," Vandervoort explained. "The best candidates are those comfortable with being uncomfortable because this position will put you in a lot of challenging situations."

Through their dedication and hard work, the members of the Minot AFB Honor Guard exemplify the highest standards of military excellence, honoring those who have served and representing the Air Force with pride and dignity.