Honor Guard: a look behind the scenes

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Madelyn Waychoff
  • USAF Honor Guard Public Affairs
In the public eye, Air Force Honor Guard ceremonial guardsmen are crisp, precise, sharp and professional; but without the support of the behind-the-scenes workers at the squadron, there would be no ceremony to perform.

''Our people behind-the-scenes handle every aspect of the ceremonies, funerals and other events we do," said Capt. Derek Ketelsen, Honor Guard director of operations. ''So when the actual event takes place, our Airmen only need to worry about going out and fulfilling their mission. They are the part of the mission you don't see, but who, if we didn't have them, we would sink."

The supply office, armory, scheduling office and barber shop are just of a few of the many support functions that keep the honor guard running. With its unique mission, the guard requires an extensive inventory of weapons and supplies, as well as a need to keep Airmen looking sharp.

The barber shop allows guardsmen and chaplains to receive haircuts whenever needed.

''Some of our guardsmen need haircuts twice a week, which would be very expensive" said Staff Sgt. Lacey Webster, barber shop NCOIC. ''But this way we can keep them looking sharp at no cost to them."

Along with the barber shop is supply, which initially issues guardsmen, chaplains, White House social aids and Pentagon joint security task force personnel equipment worth up to $3,000. After the initial issue, which includes ceremonial uniforms, BDUs and shoes, Airmen can exchange worn out or unserviceable items on a one-for-one basis. In all, the supply controls $500,000 worth of uniforms and equipment.

The armory and flag room, on the other hand, maintain all equipment in a locked safe room, issuing rifles, swords, pistols, flags and streamers only for ceremonial purposes.

''We have to account for every one of our weapons, especially because some are still fully functional," said Airman 1st Class Palmer Durrence, Honor Guard armorer. ''We have about 520 weapons worth $2.3 million, including rifles, swords, sabers and pistols. Our job is one of the most important: there are almost no ceremonies that don't require a weapon of some sort."

Each guardsman is assigned a specific weapon and is responsible for the maintenance and upkeep, but all major repairs or problems are fixed within the armory.

The flag room houses more than 600 flags representing more than 200 nations, as well as 109 streamers representing campaigns the Air Force has been involved in. In all, the flag room holds about $1.5 million in equipment.

''The flags are very important, they represent the pride we have in our job and the Air Force, as well as respect for other countries," said Senior Airman Roger Kemp, flag room Airman in charge.

Apart from maintaining or issuing equipment, no ceremony could be performed without a schedule. The scheduling office handles more than 150 ceremonies a month in which they must assign guardsmen equally for jobs based on their element and qualifications.

''We are on call 24 hours a day to ensure all missions are accomplished," said Tech. Sgt. Joshua Hodgin, scheduling NCOIC. ''We are at every fallout to make sure all personnel assigned are there, as well as the transportation. Overall, we are the backbone of the Honor Guard."

Without each of these missions no ceremony could fully be performed.

''There is an immense amount of time and work that goes into each 45-minute ceremony," said Captain Ketelsen. ''All the support, training, meticulous accountability and grueling hours our behind-the-scenes workers do keep our mission running smoothly. Without them our mission would stop."