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Honor guard officially welcomes new guardsmen

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Jason Wiese
  • 90th Missile Wing Public Affairs
Supervisors, commanders and family members from across F.E. Warren Air Force Base, Wyo., attended an Honor Guard Graduation in the Pronghorn Center Nov. 15 for new ceremonial guardsmen in the 90th Missile Wing Honor Guard.

To become ceremonial guardsmen, Airmen take time away from their normal jobs and work centers to train with the honor guard. The graduates performed a mock funeral ceremony for the audience in attendance to display the skills and precision they learned during training, said Tech. Sgt. Gary Wayland, F.E. Warren Air Force Base Honor Guard NCO-in-charge.

"I'd like to congratulate all the graduates," he said. "They're fantastic individuals, and they're really going to make a difference. I hope it gives them a sense of pride and accomplishment. We like highly motivated individuals who want to set the example."

Each year, F.E. Warren Honor Guard trains new guardsmen in the spring and fall and holds a graduation ceremony for both groups in the fall.

Base honor guard organizations exist to provide funeral honors to deceased.

"Our primary responsibility is to ensure proper funeral honors are paid to deceased Air Force members," said Wayland, "but we can support other services as well."

Ceremonial guardsmen also post colors at retirement ceremonies and community events in their area of responsibility, said 2nd Lt. Michael Hartson, 320th Missile Squadron executive officer and 90th MW Honor Guard ceremonial guardsman graduate.

F.E. Warren's ceremonial guardsmen provide funeral honors and other details to communities across a 95,128-square-mile area of responsibility. Over the past three years, F.E. Warren Honor Guard have collectively traveled more than 40,000 miles to attend more than 400 details.

Despite the many similar details the guardsmen support, the Airmen do not let the quality of the ceremonies degrade, Wayland said.

"Every time they go out there, they don't think it's just another detail," he said. "We're the last representation that a family is going to see of the U.S. Air Force."

It is one of the best feelings in the world to be able to represent the Air Force to the loved ones of Airmen who have passed away, he said.

That is precisely the reason it is so important for ceremonial guardsmen to train often, he said. In addition to the usual training all guardsmen receive, they put in three days of practice before any honor guard detail.

"Everyone gets those nervous feelings, but the movements are ingrained into all the Airmen," he said. "It's muscle memory."

One thing instilled in all Airmen from the beginning of military service is keeping one's bearing, or maintaining one's composure regardless of potential distractions.

Considering the serious nature of so much of their work, ceremonial guardsmen are expected to be especially good at keeping their bearing, said Airman 1st Class William Trentham, 90th Maintenance Operations Squadron missile maintainer and 90th MW Honor Guard ceremonial guardsman graduate.

It is the hardest part of being a ceremonial guardsmen, Trentham said.

"I like the ceremony of it all and what it represents -- honoring veterans and their families for their sacrifice," said Airman 1st Class Travis Joyner, 90th Munitions Squadron ammunition troop and 90th MW Honor Guard ceremonial guardsman graduate.

He said funeral details make him think about his family, a wife and three children, and how it will be him one in the casket one day.

It makes him feel good knowing professional ceremonial guardsmen will be at his funeral to honor him and pay respects to his loved ones, Joyner said.

"The point of the Honor Guard is to represent every [military] member, past, present and future," he said. "Our task is to do everything with perfect precision."

While all service members learn drill movements such as marching and facing movements, ceremonial guardsmen get to know drill more personally.

"One is intended to move troops from one location to another," Hartson said

Honor guard drill movements are intended to be the embodiment of honor, the core values and the Airman's Creed, he said. This is why their movements must be so crisp and synchronized.

Hartson was a ceremonial guardsman as an enlisted Airman, too. He has now seen the Honor Guard from the role of a follower and a leader, he said, but for the most part, it is the same job.

In fact, any guardsman can perform any of the duties for all the details the Honor Guard performs, he said. Their duties include firing party, bugle player, pallbearers and colors duty.

"We all look forward to all of them," he said.

However, guardsmen look forward to some details more than others, he said. Because most of the honor guard details are funerals, the guardsmen particularly enjoy other ceremonies with lighter atmospheres, such as weddings, which are a change of pace.

They learn their roles and drill movements during a two-week initial training course, during which Airmen spend eight hours a day training. The training focuses on teamwork, leadership, camaraderie and espirit de corps, he said.

"It becomes less of a chore or a duty," Hartson said. "It becomes more of a way of life."

Ceremonial guardsmen are required to have a fitness assessment score of higher than an 80 and be beyond moral reproach, that is, they must not have any pending non-judicial punishments or other disciplinary actions, said Wayland.

All ceremonial guardsmen get issued a ceremonial uniform at no expense to them and receive free alterations.

"When you put on the uniform, you feel a little bit more like an Airman," Hartson said.