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AF Honor Guard Seeks Experienced NCOs

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Madelyn Waychoff
  • Air Force Honor Guard Public Affairs
A rich tradition flourishes within the Air Force, one of looking out for and taking care of others. Whether it be family members of deployed troops or a grieving Airman who has lost a loved one, Airmen go out of their way to help others in times of need. And within the Air Force there is an assignment, with which many may not be familiar, that takes this tradition to a higher level - ensuring all Airmen, past and present, are buried honorably and respectfully in recognition of their service to their country.

"This assignment gives a new meaning to service," said Senior Master Sgt. Ian Morley, Air Force Honor Guard Operations superintendent. "It gives Airmen the opportunity to truly serve others and show until the end the great pride the Air Force has in all the Airmen who served. It's a unique assignment, and not one to be taken lightly, but one that you can walk away from with a lot of pride."

The Air Force Honor Guard, located on Bolling Air Force Base, Washington, D.C., is a small, selectively manned unit of just over 200 people, most of whom are young Airmen straight from basic training. Its primary mission is to render final military honors to Airmen and their family members in Arlington National Cemetery. On top of this, ceremonial guardsmen represent the Air Force at official military and civilian functions throughout the National Capital Region and around the world, welcoming foreign heads of state and military leaders.

Because of the number of young Airmen assigned, the Honor Guard is constantly looking for noncommissioned officers - both senior and junior NCOs -- to come to the unit as ceremonial guardsmen and supervisors.

"This assignment is a fine opportunity to practice leadership skills at all levels; the impact you can have on these young Airmen is truly amazing." said Chief Master Sgt. Robin Johnson, Air Force Honor Guard chief enlisted manager. "Our discipline and level of commitment here is the same ethos that is found in other units; however, the opportunity to perform honors for our service fallen at Arlington National Cemetery is truly selfless. We need experienced leaders to come here understanding this is a selfless assignment."

Because the Honor Guard has a different mission than any other squadron in the Air Force, some unique challenges must be faced daily by the senior leadership. Hours are not steady and can range from early 4 a.m. fallouts to performances lasting until late at night. The number of young Airmen assigned requires leaders to be strong, supportive mentors willing to guide and lead.

"At the Honor Guard you are the 'face' of the Air Force," said Senior Master Sgt. Jacob Pullin, former Air Force Honor Guard Drill Team superintendent. "This job is not for the weak at heart. There have been plenty of challenging moments for me - both from a leadership standpoint and in the job itself. Be it the early morning wakeups, the cold and bitter winter, the hot and humid summers, the late evenings or the challenging decisions I was faced with daily. But I am moving on a better, more patient senior NCO who truly understands the magnitude of my position and how it affected those around me."

But while the job may be challenging, those who come to the Air Force Honor Guard find they leave having gained much as leaders and as Airmen.

"Here you have the opportunity to experience events no other unit in the Air Force can provide, as well as to watch the Airmen you have mentored and guided grow and become strong leaders because of you," said Master Sgt. Steven West, Air Force Honor Guard Drill Team superintendent. "One of my best experiences was standing at the head of President Ford's casket in the very quiet, empty Capitol Rotunda at 11:59 p.m. on New Year's Eve listening to the celebrations outside while standing tight inside. It's experiences like that you can't get in any other job."

It is this understanding that senior NCOs can help pass to younger Airmen.

"The senior NCOs here are amazing leaders," said Senior Airman Christopher Cenatiempo, Air Force Honor Guard Firing Party trainer. "They have made a huge impact on me and helped me through some difficult times when I didn't know which way to go. They show they care about us Airmen and are always willing to sit down and listen to us, no matter how busy they might be. I know that because of their mentorship and guidance I've been a better Airman, and I will be a better NCO."

So for those who wish to take part in this rich tradition, one that few can claim to have been a part of, consider the Air Force Honor Guard and carry on the tradition of taking care of others and recognizing their service.

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