Visitors get inside view of honor guard duties

  • Published
  • By Carl Bergquist
  • Air University Public Affairs
The Maxwell-Gunter Honor Guard has traveled 78,452 miles this year. That equals crisscrossing the state more than 245 times. The group has performed 501 details and given more than 17,000 man hours. They are the face of the Air Force to the American public, and many are no older than 25 years. Their mission is to promote the Air Force, protect its standards, perfect the image of the American Airman and preserve the heritage of the service.

The group opened its doors to the base community Dec. 5 for an open house and demonstrated an full military funeral honors presentation.

"Today's presentation ... allows our ceremonial guardsmen to highlight Air Force heritage," said Master Sgt. Saskia Johnson, Maxwell-Gunter Honor Guard superintendent during a presentation. "The honor guard does amazing things, and I want to thank all base commanders for sending me your finest."

The sergeant later said for honor guard members, the duty is a "real re-bluing," and most Airmen who become involved in the organization enjoy the duty.

"Many first sergeants have waiting lists of those wanting to become part of the honor guard," she said. "They endure long hours and many missed weekends without complaint. Also, to see that the Air Force is always there for its members is great for them too."

The 42nd Air Base Wing commander Col. Kris Beasley said when the honor guard is not performing its many duties, it is training for them. He said that, during 2008, the group was involved in events that include distinguished visitors, to include the Secretary of State, retirements and funerals.

"The bulk of this job is honoring fallen heroes, and that takes a lot of time," he said. "It is the families of fallen heroes who most often see these members every day."

Colonel Beasley congratulated the honor guard on its exceptional performance during the base's recent Operational Readiness Inspection, pointing out that the honor guard spent two full days with inspectors and proved "they are the best."

In introducing the funeral ceremony for more than 50 people in attendance, Sergeant Johnson said the demonstration was the "focal-point" of the day's events.
"Every element, from the firing ceremony to the playing of Taps, evokes emotion," she said.

The demonstration began with the arrival of a hearse bearing an empty casket, which was moved to the ceremony site where Chap. (Maj.) Kleet Barclay made comments. A prayer, 21-gun salute, Taps, the folding of the American flag and its presentation to next of kin completed the demonstration. Attendees then moved back inside the hangar to meet members of the honor guard.

Sergeant Johnson said the support the honor guard receives from base commanders, command chiefs, first sergeants and supervisors is amazing, and that is influential in the quality performance of the Maxwell-Gunter Honor Guard.

"We want family members to be reminded that, to the Air Force, even after loved ones depart they are still special and always have someone," she said.