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Special Duty: Airmen Honor Countrymen
by USAF Tech. Sgt. Jeremy Larlee - August 5, 2011

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JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska (8/1/011) -- Excellence is a trait that doesn't come cheap or easily.

For the Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson Honor Guard, the quest for perfection involves a lot of sweat and hard work.

Air Force Staff Sgt. Jorge Nunez, non-commissioned-officer-in-charge of the JBER Honor Guard, said the key to his group's success is a heavy regimen of practice.

"It is very important that we train over and over again," he said. "We want to practice to the point that it becomes muscle memory. Once everybody has it down, we strive for perfection by making every step look crisp and sharp."

The honor guard is a color guard and performs many other functions during ceremonies, but the group's primary mission is to render honors in funerals for military members. Nunez, a Danbury, Conn., native said, his group takes its role seriously during funerals.

"We represent not only our base, but the Air Force and the military, to our local community," he said. "We stress to our members it is crucial that they stay professional at all times during a detail."

The honor guard's hard work has been noticed by the local community.

David McNeil, a funeral director for the Anchorage Funeral Home, has seen the honor guard at work multiple times and he said he is always impressed.

When McNeil learned the honor guard needed a casket to practice for funeral details, he got together with his peers from other funeral homes to figure out a way to help the military unit out.

The original request was for a damaged casket, but none could be found. The funeral directors decided to buy a new one and even decorated it for the honor guard.

"It is a very basic casket, but plenty durable for them to practice with," McNeil said. "It makes me feel good to help a team of this caliber out like this. It is a privilege as a funeral home to offer such a thing."

Senior Airman Timothy Parker, a ceremonial guardsman for the honor guard, said he was drawn to join the honor guard because he was impressed by the group's discipline and camaraderie during events he had seen on base.

Parker said, it has been an extremely rewarding experience for the five months he has been part of the team.

"The honor guard is awesome," said Parker, a Louisville, Ky., native. "I wanted to be a part of such a disciplined group and I really wanted to pay respects to our fallen during funerals. This allows me to serve the community and other members of the military and their families."

Parker said, he has also benefited personally from his service.

"I have been able to develop myself as a leader and got a chance to meet new people."

During his most memorable honor guard duty assignment to date, Parker traveled to Kodiak where he assisted the Coast Guard during their 70th anniversary celebration.

Even though he was the lowest ranking military member in his group, the airman was in charge of training the detail.

Parker said his NCOIC has stressed the important of practice.

"The training is very important and if you go a long time without it you can get rusty even if you had it mastered before," Parker said. "If you are at a ceremony and you get nervous and forget something, your muscle memory will bail you out."

Nunez said, a lot of work goes into performing at details but he said it is all worth it.

"It is such a good feeling to have people come up to you after the event and tell you what a good job you did," Nunez said. "It definitely emotionally touches you - deeply. The people sacrificed so much and it makes me feel good to know that we sent them off with the respect and professionalism that they deserved."

Nunez encourages airmen interested in joining the honor guard to attend one of their Monday training sessions.

"It is a great opportunity to meet new people outside your career field," he said. "Being able to network a bit is very helpful in broadening your career."

By USAF Tech. Sgt. Jeremy Larlee
Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson Public Affairs
Provided through DVIDS
Copyright 2011

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