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New Airmen become Honor Guard

EGLIN AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. -- The solemn sound of Taps subsides as a silent crowd observes the methodical folding of an American flag. An Airman kneels to recite the message of condolence while presenting a perfectly folded flag.

Trainees graduated from the Honor Guard’s 120-hour training course March 1 during a ceremony here.

The graduation ceremony included a full military honors funeral demonstration conducted by 20 Airmen, the non-commissioned officer in charge, pall bearers, a firing party, flag detail and a bugler.

Higer spoke of the Honor Guard’s importance in the military and the role they play.

“Honor Guardsman Class 17 Alpha are joining the ranks of the folks that pay an important and historically linked tribute to the citizen Soldier of the United States and for that, I pay you my deepest respect and gratitude,” said Col. Matthew Higer, 96th Test Wing vice commander. “You can be proud of what you do and who we are as an Air Force.”

Honor Guard members volunteer and are handpicked to represent every member, past and present, of the Air Force. They are charged with perfecting all activities throughout every drill and ceremony, regardless of the type of ceremony, severity of the weather, or size of the crowd.

The Honor Guard performs at special functions, changes of command, awards and retirement ceremonies. Congressional law also mandates every military member who served honorably is eligible to receive military funeral honors, if requested.

“The most important part of the Honor Guard mission is the ultimate and final payment of respect to someone that has served our nation in uniform,” said Higer.

Over the past 59 days, Eglin’s Honor Guard performed 90 ceremonies, to include 59 military funerals, according to Master Sgt. Anik Emery, 96th Force Support Squadron Honor Guard superintendent.

“They have all earned the right to wear the prestigious honor guard duty badge on their uniforms,” said Emery. “Each of these Airmen have vowed to stand sharp, crisp and motionless for they are now ceremonial guardsmen.”

Training included rifle runs, six-mile runs and carrying caskets filled with sand. The last two weeks of training were rigorous to prepare trainees for the physical requirements needed to conduct ceremonies and build teamwork, said Honor Guard graduate, Staff Sgt. Elena Konter, 96th Medical Operations Squadron cardio pulmonary technician.

“The last two weeks were really difficult and we all lifted each other up,” said Konter, who performed as the NCO-in-charge during the demonstration. “It’s important for us to have that team work, continuity and trust to be able to bring those full honors to the family and the service member.”

Konter’s grandfather, a Vietnam War veteran, passed away before she joined the military. She credits the Honor Guard’s military funeral honors ceremony as part of the reason she joined the Air Force.

“Regardless of his rank, they performed with the highest respect and honor to him. They were flawless in my eyes,” said the Fairhope, Ala. native. “I want to bring honor to someone else’s family, just like it was brought to mine.”