JBSA Honor Guard - Past, Present and Future
by U.S. Air Force Airman 1st Class Shelby Pruitt
November 9, 2019
Somber, but patriotic ... Humbling, but motivating ... Strenuous, but rewarding.
Many adjectives define the Joint Base San Antonio Honor Guard.
An outside perspective sees honor guard duty in many different ways. For each guardsman, this duty can be something totally different.
September 9, 2019 - Airman First Class Jordyn Young, 35th Intelligence Squadron cyber threat analyst, trains two Joint Base San Antonio Honor Guard trainees at the JBSA Honor Guard Squadron. JBSA Honor Guard trainers are guardsmen currently in honor guard duty who are chosen to teach others because of their exceptional performance in honor guard. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Shelby Pruitt)
To capture the entire realm of honor guard, three Airmen gave their perspective.
Airman 1st Class Peyton Cose, a 690th Network Support Squadron vulnerability analyst, didn’t seek honor guard duty. But when he had the opportunity to volunteer, it was a no-brainier.
“When thinking about it before, I would just fixate on the fact that it would be a very emotional and demanding job, so it initially deterred me from wanting to,” Cose said. “My perspective took an absolute 180-degree turn once serving in honor guard. The whole experience was so worth it after I understood our mission further, despite the freezing days in February and the scorching days in July.”
Beginning his six-month duty in February 2018, Cose started off like all other guardsmen; as a trainee learning the ropes. Then he was selected to be a trainer, in addition to leading the details as the NCO In charge of pallbearers or NCOIC of a firing party.
Being an NCOIC as an airman first class sounds odd, but for honor guard, this is normal. JBSA Honor Guard duty welcomes all ranks, in any career field, stationed at JBSA. This provides a wide range of ranks serving in a class at a time.
“After the first month or so, you start to realize that the ranks are important; however, they don’t necessarily dictate your position,” said Airman 1st Class Christian Ordaz, 75th Intelligence Squadron network analyst and current guardsman. “I really like that because you get a lot of feedback and perspectives from all ranks and it helps mesh the team together really well.”
Training to be an honor guardsmen is nothing short of grueling, from the initial two weeks of constant perfecting of flag folding, sequences and rifle movements, to the more laid-back training sessions.
Airman 1st Class Marrina Pedrego, 624th Operation Center cyber intelligence analyst, prepares for her class to start Oct. 1.
“I’m expecting it to be tough. I’ve watched several videos of what it means to be a part of honor guard and it entails a lot of hard work and dedication, a lot of sweat, and probably a lot of tears,” Pedrego said. “I think it’s going to be emotionally and physically consuming, but I’m willing to put in the work to ensure I do it right.”
Despite the arduous training and preparation it takes to become a guardsman at JBSA, the recompense seems to outweigh any obstacles faced.
“Any Airman would be lucky to get to be a part of honor guard. I had a lot of opportunities, all of which taught me more about leadership and responsibility,” Cose said. “This was a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Seeing that side of the Air Force was not something I had expected to see while serving, but now looking back, I’m really glad that I did.”
Ordaz shared how rewarding honor guard is while he currently serves.
“I am enjoying the operations office and being the liaison between honor guard and the funeral homes/requestors quite a bit because a lot of people don’t see the work that goes into coordinating these honors,” he said. “Being on details was the most fun though. You get to see the fruits of your labor by performing and showing people how hard you work all while paying respects to those who came before."
“Seeing how much the military service means to families makes me a little more proud to wear my uniform.”
Although honor guard is a very serious duty, and requires an immense amount of military bearing during services, a “work-hard, play-hard” mentality is practiced at the squadron.
September 9, 2019 - Senior Airman Chyna Roston, 559th Medical Squadron mental health technician, salutes another Joint Base Honor Guardsman while practicing for a funeral service at the Fort Sam Houston National Cemetery. Before each service performed by JBSA Honor Guard, the detail arrives early to practice the service to ensure perfection before performing in front of the family. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Shelby Pruitt)
“We are fairly close during training sometimes, we do like to be a little relaxed just because we understand our Airmen are dealing with death, but when it’s show time,” Ordaz said. “It’s show time.”
Because being a guardsmen requires Airmen to face death on a daily basis, camaraderie between the members in the classes is easy to find.
“Having such a close knit team was my favorite part,” Cose confessed. “The work was very sad, but spending all day on the road with good friends was always a plus to being in honor guard.”
While honor guard usually deals with mortuary affairs and honoring those who have fallen, guardsmen are also often requested in support of events around JBSA. Such events include Fiesta parades and events, various ceremonies, professional sports and more.
“I would say my best memory was conducting a detail in front of Gen. (David L.) Goldfein (Air Force Chief of Staff). To me, that was a little crazy because that’s history before you,” Ordaz said. “He was incredibly down to earth. He came up to us, shook our hands, introduced himself and thanked us for being out there. It was a nice experience being able to get out of our comfort zone and perform for people you don’t normally.”
Cose’s favorite memory of his honor guard time was on his final mission.
“I’ll never forget my very last detail,” he said. “We had a dignified arrival at the Houston international Airport. It was surreal and I was definitely anxious just due to the severity of a detail like this. It felt like just moments later the casket was being unloaded."
“I remember scanning the area and absolutely everyone was saluting and I could hear the mother weeping over the sound of the engines. It was a very emotional moment, but we marched to the casket, ceremoniously lifted the fallen and marched to the hearse where we loaded it. Then we turned and marched back to our van. That was it. It was a very somber, but memorable experience that I’m sure I won’t forget.”
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