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NEWS | Aug. 27, 2013

Promote, protect, preserve and perfect: Langley Base Honor Guard

By Airman 1st Class Victoria H. Taylor 633rd Air Base Wing Public Affairs

With a crisp, pressed uniform adorned with insignia, decorations and accoutrements, she takes each step with sharp and persistent elegance toward the crying woman. In the crowd around her, mourners begin choking back tears overcome with emotion. With a bent knee, the Airman speaks in an unwavering, articulate voice.

"On behalf of the President of the United States, the Department of the Air Force, and a grateful nation, we offer this flag..."

Behind the steadfast gaze is an Airman fighting to hide her own feelings of grief in order to let the family know their veteran's service is honored. U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Teresa Aber, a ceremonial guardsman with the Langley Air Force Base Honor Guard, handed the flag to the woman, performed a precise facing movement, and blended back in with the flight.

As a ceremonial guardsman, Aber's mission is to represent the Air Force and uphold a legacy of Airmen who promote the mission, protect standards, perfect the image and preserve the heritage of the Air Force Honor Guard.

The Langley AFB Honor Guard is composed of volunteers, who set aside their normal duties to become the face of Langley. Upholding the Air Force Honor Guard's standards is not something that comes naturally during the 90-day rotation, and as any ceremonial guardsmen can attest, reaching perfection requires hard work and dedication.

During the process of becoming a ceremonial guardsman, Airmen are taught to show the utmost grace, humility and stoic military bearing. The first two weeks are meant to be the most strenuous, and are spent learning new facing movements, the basics of military ceremonies and honing the ability to perform the tasks required of all guardsmen.

"Base Honor Guard is about being perfect every single time, so the initial two weeks of our 90-day rotation was all about training," said Senior Airman Rahjanaye Bailey, Langley Base Honor Guard ceremonial guardsman. "Frustration was high through the early stages of training, but once the flight finally perfected the movement or the drill we were working on and all the different individualities came together to reach that goal, it was a huge morale booster."

However, once those two weeks are over, the training does not stop.

"We are continuously learning new things," said Aber, who serves as the Base Honor Guard's head trainer. "I've never been to two ceremonies that were alike, so we are always learning to be flexible and prepared for any situation."

The Air Force Honor Guard standardizes all ceremonies for base honor guards at different installations, meaning each ceremony, including posting of the colors, pall bearers, firing party and retirement, will be performed with the precision required of all guardsmen, while adhering to Air Force traditions.

"The difference between our normal jobs and volunteering for Base Honor Guard is that we were once told to stand out from our peers to make a name for ourselves," said Airman 1st Class Robert Long, a ceremonial guardsman. "Honor guard is faceless. We are trained to be the same in order to honor the flag, which in turn honors the Service member."

To help guardsmen develop camaraderie, the program is taught by senior guardsmen and appointed trainers. The trainers provide hands-on experience and understanding to help ease the transition of new Airmen.

Like any other duty, serving on the Base Honor Guard has challenges and rewards, said Airman 1st Class Ross Heintzkill, a Base Honor Guard head trainer, who explained the trials he faced during his experience.

"The Base Honor Guard program has taught me a lot about what it takes to lead," said Heintzkill. "Taking what needs to be taught and breaking that up into ways that will fit everyone's personalities, as well as being proficient in my own drill movements and everything that was still expected of me was an interesting twist to the task I was assigned to do."

Being an honor guard member has its responsibilities, from folding the flag during a retirement ceremony, to giving the final salute to the flag at a memorial service for a military member who gave their life for their country -- these events alone are believed to give purpose to what the ceremonial guardsmen of Langley do.

"I waited two years to be able to volunteer for this duty, and I feel that being the sharp, crisp and professional guardsman is a remarkable way to give back," said Bailey. "You are there to honor another Service member's contribution by honoring the flag, and I want them to know how much we appreciate their service."

For Airmen wishing to become a part of Langley's Base Honor Guard, contact 764-7181.
For more information on the USAFHG, visit www.honorguard.af.mil