Behind the scenes of the Air Force 60th Anniversary Tattoo

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Madelyn Waychoff
  • Air Force Honor Guard Public Affairs
With each step made in precision, each beat right on, the Air Force Honor Guard and Air Force Band march onto the Air Force Ceremonial Lawn, showcasing the Air Force's Airmen and airpower through a series of marching orders, rifle manuals and foot-stomping music. But the 60th Anniversary Air Force Tattoo couldn't have happened without hours of practice and extensive behind-the-scenes work from Airmen at every level on base.
"In a ceremony this big, and the level of perfection we demand in every ceremony we do, the behind-the-scenes work up was intense," said Capt. Derek Ketelsen, Air Force Honor Guard Operations commander. "All the participants had a vital role, and all those not directly involved in the ceremony were still key in making the event go off."
Planning for the tattoo has been ongoing for six months, and many squadrons on base played a vital role in ensuring the ceremony went off without a hitch. The 11th Civil Engineering Squadron performed lawn and building maintenance, while the 11th Logistics Readiness Squadron provided transportation for guests to the event. The 11th Security Forces Squadron provided security and maintained perimeters, while many other offices on base and from the Pentagon provided additional support.
In terms of the band and honor guard's roles, practices have been ongoing for more than a month, with additional work contracting support for lighting and risers. During their practices the honor guard flight has been rehearsing "G's and B's," or guns and blades at each available opportunity over the last month to showcase rifle manuals, on top of already being committed for funerals and ceremonies. Key performers and senior leaders spent off-duty hours ensuring they knew their sequences before practicing with full flights, and two weeks before the performance practice sessions were held almost daily to ensure the tattoo went off without a hitch.
"Some rehearsals lasted six hours, including some until almost midnight," said Captain Ketelsen. "We used almost every available ceremonial guardsman, including some from our support flights and Pentagon tours. We had everyone working overtime to make sure all commitments were still met and each Airman was outfitted with what they needed for their jobs, as well as the tattoo. Some Airmen were even pulling double duty, meaning as soon as they came back from one job they had to prepare for a rehearsal or another job."
But to those involved, the time and effort put in was worth it when performance time comes around.
"The time we put in takes a toll, but everyone has a good attitude and is keeping upbeat. I know when we get out there we're all very proud to be a part of this," said Senior Airman Travis Perry, honor guard supply troop. "It gives you an appreciation for what we get to do here."
To give the families and friends of those involved in the ceremony, and anyone else from the general public, an opportunity to see a "performance" a special dress rehearsal was held Saturday night. The dress rehearsal included all components of Sunday's performance, including the flyover, but also gave those involved the opportunity to work out any last glitches. Sunday's performance was invitation only.
The Air Force Tattoo is an opportunity to highlight troop readiness and excellence, and is an annual event at Bolling. The official military tattoo comes from King William III's British Army's deployment to the Netherlands in the mid-17th century. The king would send drummers out to the towns at 9:30 at night to let the soldiers know it was time to return to garrison. It was known then as Doe den tap toe, and encouraged innkeepers to turn off the taps and stop serving alcohol. Since, the tattoo has become more of a show, with a show of military precision and performances by various musical and entertainment groups.