It is required for all body bearers to memorize the following Body Bearer's
Creed at the start of training:|
- Body bearing is an art, one which encompasses heart, knowledge, strength and
- Every movement is crisp, precise and well-rehearsed, for we are a team and
together we are one.
- Appearance is important, for not only do we represent ourselves,
but also each member, past and present, of the United States Air Force.
- Regardless of the weight of the casket or the distance of the carry, the casket
will remain level.
- Effortless is our expression shown on every job for we are prepared for the task
- Reliable: we will be the last to let you down.
- Second to none, except for the one above.
"The creed is everything we do, from our uniform to the carry itself. If one
person is not completely up to par, it's not good enough," said Senior Airman
Travis Chisum, Honor Guard body bearer.
"We have to run through the job exactly how it would look at Arlington National
Cemetery," said Airman Jarrett Adair, Honor Guard body bearer. "There are a lot
of situations we have to prepare for, things that might go wrong. We need to
account for those in training so mistakes don't happen when we're at Arlington."
Starting with the basics of physical conditioning and weight training in
technical school, body bearers are trained in every aspect of the funeral
ceremony. Training gets more in depth after technical school. While learning the
different parts of a funeral they use a platform designed to replicate a
gravesite. Weighted caskets are carried around the squadron area so the bearers
can become accustomed to different kinds of weight distribution. The defined
motions of flag folding are practiced repeatedly.
One of the most important lessons body bearers learn is the military bearing
that must be maintained, even during training.
"Our creed says 'Effortless is our expression shown on every job for we are
prepared for the task at hand,'" said Senior Airman Aaron Sanders, Honor Guard
body bearer. "In order to do something effortlessly you have to be 100 percent
prepared 100 percent of the time."
"Not only do we represent ourselves, but like the creed says, every member of
the United States Air Force, past and present," said Staff Sgt. Joshua
Malyemezian, Honor Guard body bearer. "The casket may be heavy, you might be
spent, but no one should see that. I can look across the casket at the other
bearer and it's like a mirror, our expressions are the same."
Before a bearer can perform any funerals he must earn qualifications.
"It could take months or up to a year to qualify a bearer," said Airman Sanders.
The difficulties they face in training are necessary to prepare the bearers for
the difficulties they will face on the job.
From standing for hours in frigid weather to carrying caskets that can be up to
1,200 pounds over uneven ground and around large headstones, there are many
"We adapt. Body bearers are proactive rather than reactive, and rehearse ways to
adjust to unexpected circumstances that might happen during the funeral such as
an incorrectly placed flag or a rolled ankle, and overcome," said Sergeant
The non-commissioned officer in charge of the pall bearers also inspects the
path they will take to the gravesite beforehand to ensure the ground is even and
void of tripping hazards.
"My goal is to make sure the job goes well," said Airman Xavier Ballerd, Honor
Guard body bearer. "We want the family to have the best memory possible of what
the Air Force provided their loved one."
As hard as body bearing is physically, the job is also very emotionally
challenging. They're bearing a fellow Airman, one of their own.
"I have empathy for the family, I understand how they feel and I want them to
know I feel their pain," said Airman 1st Class Justin Baker, Honor Guard body
"It isn't just about the carry," said Airman Adair. "It takes a certain kind of
person to do what we do; to put feeling behind it and for it to mean something.
The creed says 'we're the last to let you down.' And that's the way it is."