JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska —
JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska – During what would typically be a third-quarter graduation ceremony, the Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson Honor Guard inducted six Airmen into the elite program during a small but solemn COVID-19 influenced ceremony, Aug 26, 2020, at JBER, Alaska.
Due to the coronavirus pandemic, the program has undergone some restructuring. With a combination of innovative thinking and strong determination, the program’s current Airmen and leadership made huge changes toward improving the layout of the training facility and updating the equipment to enhance training and operations. Other changes involved limiting class sizes and reducing manning during normal training sessions.
“Under normal circumstances, our quarterly-driven training program typically sees 15-20 new graduates every three months. Now we are graduating six-member classes every other month and holding continued training for existing members every other Monday,” said U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Rian Hudson, JBER Honor Guard program manager. “While COVID-19 has caused us to change some of the ways we operate, our team strongly desires to provide ceremonial honors for those who have served honorably in the United States Armed Forces.”
During the seven day course the graduates learned how to perform the honor guard’s primary mission: a six-man funeral sequence and firing party. Along with that, they have been constantly drilled on dress and appearance, customs and courtesies, military bearing, memorization of the Honor Guard charge, and the all-important message of condolence spoken to the next of kin of fallen military brothers and sisters as the folded flag is handed to them.
Though the primary mission of the U.S. Air Force Honor Guard program is to employ, equip and train Air Force members to provide professional military funeral honors for active duty members, retirees and veterans of the United States Air Force, graduates are trained to perform retirements, change of command, induction and reenlistment ceremonies as well.
“Being part of Honor Guard is a humbling and exceptional, personal and professional opportunity,” Hudson continued. “As a sharp visual representation of the United States Air Force, it directly gives way to improving oneself while giving back to the community and base in a profound way. As the new program manager, I knew our manning numbers could potentially drop because of the pandemic. In my Honor Guard experience, I didn’t want to see a decrease in capabilities as a result.”
Currently, the program is open to all active-duty enlisted Airmen, E1-E6, whose units can support a decrease in manning. Airmen are expected to commit to and actively support the program for one year.
Throughout the 12 months, two 30-day windows of sustained active service immediately followed by 30 days of stand-by service is expected. In addition to the active service and standby schedules, weekly on-going training occurs every Monday for four hours.
“Being part of Honor Guard is being a part of something bigger than yourself,” said U.S. Air Force Airman 1st Class Fuatapu Hook, new Honor Guard graduate. “I have several family members who are military. They deserve to be laid to rest with honors and serving in this capacity gives me the chance to be part of all my family members funeral services. For me, it’s a faithful way of sending them off and thanking them for their service.”
To learn more about the JBER Honor Guard, visit https://www.jber.jb.mil/Services-Resources/Honor-Guard/ or submit a request to email@example.com.