Wing Honor Guard Welcomes New Members

  • Published
  • By TSgt. Dan Heaton
  • 127th Wing Public Affairs
Folded flags. Twenty-one gun salutes. The playing of "Taps."

A half-dozen Michigan Airmen reviewed the most solemn of military traditions and ceremonies this month at Selfridge Air National Guard Base and have joined the roster of the 127th Wing's Honor Guard. The Honor Guard carries in the American, Air Force and other appropriate flags at ceremonial functions around the wing and is also on call to provide funeral honors to Air Force veterans and retirees in the area.

"The honor guard is a very visible component of the wing," said Master Sgt. Celeste McGowan, the manager of the wing's honor guard program. "They are often called upon to represent not only the wing, but really the entire Air Force when one of our local veterans passes away."

While all Airmen in the Air Force learn the basics of military drill and ceremonial protocol during their initial basic military training and in their professional military education courses, those who desire to be a part of the honor guard receive additional training in flag etiquette and funeral protocol to ensure that the highest standards are maintained.

At Selfridge, the honor guard program holds a 3-day class for those who will serve as part of the detachment. The class is held once or twice a year, depending on demand. During the class, potential new members of the honor guard, as well as current members, review the proper way to present and fold the flag and other ceremonial duties. The class concludes with a final test, during which a funeral is simulated, complete with a casket and volunteers playing the role of a grieving family.

Typically there are about 10 active members of the 127th Wing Honor Guard with another two dozen or so wing Airmen who have received the training in the past available as needed. In the training class in early February, six 127th Wing Airmen earned their certificates to serve as members of the wing honor guard. Several other honor guard members also participated in the training, to keep their skills fresh.

In a typical month, the local honor guard provides honors at about 20 funerals of Air Force veterans in the metropolitan Detroit area. The 127th also occasionally supplements the active duty Air Force honor guard that services the Great Lakes National Cemetery, operated by the U.S. Dept. of Veterans Affairs, in Holly, Mich.
The Honor Guard is also called upon frequently to present the colors at local change of command ceremonies, military retirements and periodic patriotic community events.

According to Air Force policy, a member of the honor guard "is an individual of good reputation, having integrity, ethical conduct and exhibiting standards which merit respect; responsible for protecting and overseeing the maintenance of standards on and off duty. It is truly an occupation which requires outstanding devotion and commitment to duty. By maintaining our history and exceptionally high standards, Honor Guards will continue to remain an icon of excellence."