USAF Honor Guard Drill Team represents the US at Belgian Defence International Tattoo 2024

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Geneva Nguyen
  • 11th Wing Public Affairs

As lights begin to illuminate the stage, the drill team moves into column formation. The sound of their rifles hitting the ground in unison echoes through the silence as they seamlessly transition from one move to the next with flawless coordination. Murmurs of admiration for their skills ripple through the crowd.

In the background, Gothic architectural buildings cast enchanting shadows against the night sky. It is a sight to behold as the team performs intricate spins, tosses, and weapon handling with incredible skill and finesse. Every motion is deliberate; every step is calculated to perfection.

On June 4-8, 2024, the U.S. Air Force Honor Guard Drill Team lit up stages across Belgium at the Belgian Defence International Tattoo 2024. Dating from the early 1600s, the military tattoo represents a longstanding tradition of pageantry, precision military drill, and music, embodying the camaraderie and mutual respect fostered among the armed forces of different nations, while also highlighting the exceptional service of their members.

“It’s an honor to have the United States here with us,” said Belgium Sgt. Maj. of the Army Herbart Beyers. “The people of Belgium have never seen such precision in rifle maneuvering before. You can hear people gasping every time the rifles go up in the air.”

More than 10,000 spectators, locals and tourists, gathered at performance venues all across Belgium to witness the show.

The event was organized by the Belgian Defence and spanned across five Belgian cities: Eupen, Louvain, Antwerp, Tournai and Brussels. The 2024 show also featured 250 international musicians and performers from other countries such as the Netherlands, Germany, France, and Switzerland.

“International cooperation, essential for liberty” was this year’s central theme, which was especially relevant in the current global context.

“Our international cooperation and commitments within the European Union and NATO assure us of that security and liberty,” said Ludivine Dedoner, minister of Belgian Defence. “After more than two years of war in Ukraine and other flaring conflicts around the world, such as the war in Gaza, we realize that we need to work actively and in solidarity for our safety and freedom every day.”

The show was a unique co-production between the Belgian Defence and the five participating cities. With this tattoo, the Belgian Defence wants to emphasize that cooperation is one of the most important basic pillars of the organization, both nationally and internationally.

Twenty-one members of the Drill Team traveled to Belgium as the Air Force’s ambassadors in blue to represent the Department of Defense.

Through the combination of military precision and artistry, the Drill Team entertained audiences with their dramatic exhibition of precision military drill. The team’s performance culminated with a finale where the flight chief walked through a narrow gauntlet of spinning rifles affixed with bayonets.

“Perfecting every movement with precision required extensive training and intense dedication from everyone on the team,” said U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Peter Mask, commander of the U.S. Air Force Honor Guard. “The average age of the Airmen on the Drill Team representing the U.S. here in Belgium are in their early 20s. The fact that they are able to flawlessly execute such a complex routine shows the highest level of discipline, and I’m so honor to be their commander.”

The Drill Team is located at Joint Base Anacostia-Bolling in Washington, D.C. The mission at JBAB is to deliver worldwide, premier ceremonial honors, mission support, and contingency operations from our Nation’s capital. By performing in Belgium, the Drill Team fulfilled the missions of both the U.S. Air Force and JBAB and in the process, creating a stronger bond between the United States and its allies.

“The Honor Guard’s presence on an international stage represents our priority of the projection of soft power,” said U.S. Air Force Col. Ryan A.F. Crowley, commander of Joint Base Anacostia-Bolling and the 11th Wing. “Not only is this an excellent opportunity for our team to obtain worldly knowledge, but it also hits on the Air Force’s priority of strengthening our allies and partners. We couldn’t be more proud of the effort to pass on the traditions and values during this Tattoo.”

The Drill Team will return to Europe in September for an international military tattoo in the Netherlands.