Ceremonial guardsmen ready at moment's notice

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Katherine Windish
  • 11th Wing Public Affairs
The United States Air Force Honor Guard's main mission is to provide military honors for those who spent their lives in service of their country. The Honor Guard trains its Airmen constantly to prepare for this mission. The recent funeral of Senator Edward Kennedy displayed the mission readiness of our ceremonial guardsmen.

"When a statesman passes, we are immediately notified by the joint service point of contact at Arlington," said Diane Munson, director of plans and programs for the Air Force Honor Guard. "We have just a few hours to get the required number of ceremonial guardsmen to Ft. Myer."

After the Honor Guard has been notified, they perform a recall from a roster listing members who have been qualified as both body bearers and guard of honor. These guardsmen are prepared to depart on a moment's notice. Their bags are always packed and standing by.

"Everything needs to be ready to go," said Ms. Munson. "Their minds need to stay focused on the mission, just as if they were getting deployed. Cases like these are too high profile for there to be any mistakes."

After the recall this time, 13 ceremonial guardsmen gathered in the Honor Guard Ceremonial Hall to rehearse.

"We were called at around 3 p.m. Wednesday and everyone was ready to go within a couple of hours," said Ms. Munson. "They trained in C-Hall until moving to join the other joint service ceremonial guardsmen at Ft. Meyer and slept there on cots. They were at Andrews Air Force Base by 3:45 a.m. to fly by military air to Boston."

In Boston, Senator Kennedy's body was laid in state at the John F. Kennedy Library. Members of each service stood as Guard of Honor, rotating half-hour shifts for 36 hours.
A small ceremony took place in Boston on Saturday morning, after which the remains were flown to Andrews Air Force Base. Senator Kennedy's remains were then transferred for travel to Arlington National Cemetery. The military honors, joint service interment ceremony took place at 7:30 p.m.