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Patriotic Article
Military
By Sr. Airman Jarrod Chavana

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Airmen Honor Those That Came Before Them
(December 13, 2010)

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LANGELY AIR FORCE BASE, Va. -- Select airmen are asked each year to represent the Air Force and Langley to honor those airmen who have sacrificed and committed their lives to protecting this nation.

The Langley Honor Guard represents the 633d Air Base Wing by providing services including military honors for deceased military personnel and other ceremonies on Langley Air Force Base, the local community, Virginia and North Carolina.
These distinguished airmen are removed from their career fields for 90 days to be members of the honor guard, in which they will show the grace, humility and military bearing of the Air Force, be it at retirements, weddings or funerals. Before training Dec. 7, the troops stood in formation after learning about the day's events and recited the Honor Guard Chant:

“Handpicked to serve as a member of the Langley Honor Guard, my standards of conduct and level of professionalism must be above reproach, for I represent all others in my service.

“Never will I allow my performance to be dictated by the type of ceremony, severity of the temperature or size of the crowd. I will remain superbly conditioned to perfect all movements throughout every drill and ceremony.”
Langley airmen practice carrying the casket in windy and cold weather Dec. 7, 2010. Langley honor guard practices daily, carrying the mission of representing Airmen to the American public and the world. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Racheal Watson)
Langley airmen practice carrying the casket in windy and cold weather Dec. 7, 2010. Langley honor guard practices daily, carrying the mission of representing Airmen to the American public and the world. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Racheal Watson)
These paragraphs are just a few lines shouted with pride from the up-and-coming participants who then went on to work with an American flag draped over a casket.

“It's always difficult to learn new things and to get it precise,” said Airman 1st Class Steven Williams, 633d Civil Engineering Squadron heating, ventilation and air conditioning and honor guard pall bearing trainer. “You get frustrated sometimes with yourself and with the trainers ahead of you. In my class, we got frustrated with them because they were pushing us hard, but it was for a good reason....But you have to look past it and get focused because it's your decision to be here...”

One of the biggest factors the honor guard looks for in members is someone who embraces the Air Forces values and who is physically fit. They encourage Airmen to perform a lot of pushups and they have physical training five days a week, in which they incorporate cardio and strength training. For team building exercise, they go on runs of four miles or completely around the base.

“The distance the honor guard carries a casket varies because it varies on where the internment is located or if we are taking it into a chapel,” said Staff Sgt. Christopher Rathy, NCOIC of the honor guard. “Caskets can range from 300 to 1,000 pounds determining on the type of wood or material they are made of plus the body. A couple of classes ago, one of our honor guard members said, ‘they carried the casket more than 75 meters.'”

Another tactic the honor guard does is use push-ups as a team building tool. The members of the team can perform upward of 400 a day.

“We expect the Airmen to show the commitment, team work and dedication to work with one another,” said Rathy. “When someone messes up, we don't want the team to dislike each other. The pushups are not to punish one individual, but it's to have everyone work together. The main reason we have them do push-ups is because we want them to develop the strength to carry caskets and equipment for long periods of time.”

For the fiscal year from October 2009 to September 2010, the Langley Honor Guard performed 329 funeral details and 435 colors; on average, that's approximately two details per day.
By Sr. Airman Jarrod Chavana
633rd Air Base Wing
Copyright 2010

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