Honor Guard stays sharp with training
By Eric Brian, 45th Space Wing Public Affairs
/ Published August 04, 2011
PATRICK AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. -- Onlookers at ceremonies have often said the Patrick AFB Honor Guard (HG) is one of the sharpest, most professional they've seen.
From changes of command to military funeral details, precision marching and rifle work, flag folding and presentation of colors are the order of the day for Team HG.
Patrick HG is made up of volunteer members representing various Air Force units on Patrick AFB and Cape Canaveral AFS, who serve on one of three rotating flights, for one year minimum. The flights each serve one month on, one month standby and one month off.
Getting these Airmen trained and keeping them consistently sharp is a time consuming, behind-the-scenes effort of HG Superintendent Master Sgt. Kevin Matthews and a team of professionals. These full-time staff members augment, conduct day-to-day operations, training, and assist with details.
"We have a full gamut of people who are brand new, to people who've been here almost a year on this flight," said Tech. Sgt. Ron Brandt, a reservist who has been on active-duty orders with HG since April 2010. "We're just trying to get everyone in sync."
HG's new members must complete a two-week orientation, and at least one full-time staff member must be trained formally by the Air Force Honor Guard.
A brand new trainee, Senior Airman Richard Doughman, Air Force Technical Applications Center, is undergoing his initial training. He was being put through the paces this week. Much of his first day, Tuesday, was spent watching and learning from members who were practicing for a funeral detail Wednesday.
"It's not too bad so far," Airman Doughman said. "They're showing me a couple of the ropes. The facing movements are a bit different (for HG). I learned indoor flag folding. Tomorrow I'll learn outdoor folding."
Two other new members completed recently their orientation. Other members of the latest flight are practicing to get back up to speed.
HG is manned primarily to perform military funeral details. With the number of deaths of aging veterans of World War II, Korea and Vietnam, to funerals for casualties of today's contingency operations, HG is kept amazingly busy with funerals.
"We're on course for more than 800 funerals this year, for the first time," said Sergeant Matthews. "It was only four years ago we had 82 people assigned to HG, and we did about 400 funerals. We now are manned for 42. Numbers and manpower are cut in half and our workload has doubled."
Other ceremonies and events - on and off base - are conducted if members are available, but funeral details must take precedence. Support for off-base events is coordinated through 45th Space Wing Public Affairs.
Recent events included a flag-lowering ceremony for NASA's Merritt Island Launch Annex.
Presentation of colors is performed for events throughout the year, including changes of command, Daytona NASCAR events, baseball games, Memorial Day and Veterans Day. HG was highly involved in Air Force Week Central Florida events last year.
"When the Secretary of the Air Force came here, we did the rifle cordon,"
said Sergeant Brandt. "When people retire, we do flag foldings if we can. We assist the Navy Honor Guard with firing parties. We even have a non-official saber team for weddings."
"Many people don't realize we cover all the way from Flagler Beach to the Keys, the entire eastern half of the Florida peninsula," said Sergeant Matthews.
People may also not realize how long members serve.
"Nine out of 10 Airmen on Honor Guard don't want to come off of it. Eighteen to 20 months is average," said Sergeant Matthews. "We've had Airmen stay on for as long as five years."
The Patrick HG has been commended by onlookers as being one of the sharpest, most consistent honor guards they've seen, anywhere.
"That's what we train," said Sergeant Brandt. "We push that hard to these guys."