EGLIN AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. --
One of the largest flights of Airmen ever graduated Team Eglin’s Honor Guard program here March 1.
The increased class size, 18 up from 14, is due to the added responsibilities the Honor Guard has taken on. Eglin now supports all military funerals and Honor Guard duties in additional 12 counties located at and around Tyndall AFB.
The new duties move Eglin’s area of responsibility from 17,000 square miles to 24,000 spanning three states. It increases their driving time by an hour to approximately 3.5 one way.
Eglin and Hurlburt Field’s Honor Guard picked up those duties almost immediately after Hurricane Michael in October 2018. This increased the workload from an average of 10 funeral details per week to 15. The Eglin and Hurlburt teams split the month in half to provide the required details. For the last four months, the teams supported as best as possible with the available manning.
The increased number of Airmen in this graduating flight helps with those manpower shortfalls.
“We’ve adjusted the curriculum, training schedule and flight size to meet the workload and the extra travel times,” said Master Sgt. Sergio Garcia, Honor Guard superintendent.
The Honor Guard service term moved from eight months to six months beginning with the just-graduated flight. The next flight training begins in the next two weeks, instead of having two months between flight training. Garcia said Eglin units were understanding and supportive of the increased effort even though it means dedicating more Airmen to obligations away from their primary duties.
Tyndall’s Honor Guard detail region was split between Eglin, Robins and Moody AFBs in Georgia.
“I’ve had to rely heavily on the leadership of the senior team members,” said Garcia, about the additional details. “They’ve bought in and believe in the program even though it means longer hours and days.”
In addition to the manning, the Honor Guard did not have some of the logistical abilities to meet the new requirements. The team added vehicles and gas cards to meet the new needs and distance demands.
With 325th Fighter Wing focused on getting their primary mission up and running, Garcia said it could be one to two years before an Honor Guard is stood up again at Tyndall.
“We would’ve supported (Tyndall) in any way we could to make sure families got the honors they deserved,” said Garcia. “Now we have the manpower to support those families properly… with Honor.”