The U.S. Air Force Honor Guard: Do you have what it takes?

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Marleah Miller
  • 11th Wing Public Affairs
After starting the day with physical training at 5 a.m., 17 Airmen post up against the walls of a narrow hallway. With pressed uniforms, a blocked hat in one hand and a canteen belt in the other, they await daily inspection.

These Airmen are beginning another week of technical school, training to become members of the United States Air Force Honor Guard on Bolling Air Force Base.

For eight weeks, trainees learn what it takes to be a ceremonial guardsman. While perfecting dress and appearance, customs and courtesies, and through hours of practice and drill movements, trainees are molded physically and mentally to flawlessly execute the Honor Guard's mission.

Not just anyone can become a ceremonial guardsman. In addition to physical requirements, candidates are interviewed.

With the responsibility of representing the Air Force at various National Capitol Region ceremonies, such as at the White House, Pentagon, National Mall, Arlington National Cemetery and the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, a ceremonial guardsman must be the sharpest of the Air Force.

Airman basics straight out of basic training through ranks up to technical sergeant go through the same technical school to become a ceremonial guardsman.

"It's rigorous training with physical training every day; almost like a basic training lifestyle," said Senior Airman Schadrac Joseph, U. S. Air Force Honor Guard course supervisor.

Whether it's trainees who have just left basic training or prior-service trainees from another job, they must learn 'the Honor Guard way.'

"We re-teach everything," said Senior Airman Joseph Thompson-Sexton, U. S. Air Force Honor Guard technical school instructor. "Trainees learn how to prepare their uniforms and how to wear their uniforms; the Airman Battle Uniform, service dress, ceremonial uniform and even PT gear."

Their ceremonial uniform is similar to the Air Force service dress; however, the ceremonial uniform contains medals in the place of ribbons and is distinguished by silver lining around the wrists and down the outside of the legs. This uniform is mostly worn at official and public ceremonies, including many Presidential events, state funerals, and Arlington National Cemetery funerals.

Throughout the eight weeks of technical training, trainees continue to be evaluated to determine whether they are qualified to be a ceremonial guardsman.

"They go through four different main evaluations before they can graduate," said Airman Joseph. "Drill one (their basic drill movements) are the left-face, right-face and about-face drill movements for the honor guard, which is different from what the regular Air Force would do. Each movement is fluid and must be executed with precision."

Once trainees learn the basics, they're evaluated on what they learned. Once passing the test, it's on to drill two - their next evaluation. As the trainees pass each evaluation, rifles, joint service drills and marching with rifles is added.

Members interested in Honor Guard service are recruited from basic training at Lackland Air Force Base, San Antonio, Texas, or transferred from their current Air Force career field.

"We look for people who can professionally represent the Air Force," said Airman Thompson-Sexton.

Keeping with heritage, the pressed uniforms, blocked hats, sharp drill movements and unbreakable bearing; the United States Air Force Honor Guard sets the bar high for any Airman interested in joining.

"The Honor Guard is a great place," said Airman Joseph. "To me, it sets a lot of people's careers real well. The Honor Guard couldn't do anyone wrong but put them in a better position for their next job."

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