Honor Guard helps lay President Ford to rest

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Madelyn Waychoff
  • Air Force Honor Guard Public Affairs
It's what many Airmen work for, day in and day out -- the chance to actually do what they have been training for, and to carry out their mission to the fullest. For members of the Air Force Honor Guard here at Bolling Air Force Base, this is that day.

These honor guardsmen helped the nation pay its final respects to former President Gerald Ford. The 38th president was honored with a funeral service at the National Cathedral here Jan. 2. Services will continue at the Ford presidential museum in Grand Rapids, Mich.

The role of the honor guard began as soon as news was heard that President Ford had died. The guard maintains a 24-person state funeral flyaway team, which is always on standby. They deploy to wherever needed when notified a president or senior statesman has died.

In the case of President Ford, the Airmen were sent to California the morning of Dec. 27 to assist the other services with the transfer of President Ford's body to the church in Palm Desert, Calif. While his body lay in state, Airmen and other servicemembers served as a Guard of Honor, maintain a vigil over the president's body at all times.

The flyaway team also assisted with the airfield transfer to the VC-25, and then redeployed to Michigan to await the president's arrival at his museum.

In Washington, out of the 250 ceremonial guardsmen, 24 were flyaway team members and more than 80 Airmen were involved in the funeral. Six Airmen were chosen as pallbearers for the president.

Other guardsmen formed cordons through which the former president was carried, stood in formation outside the Capitol, held vigil over the president's body and carried the flag, along with Navy, Marines, Army and Coast Guard members.

"This is what we train for," said Senior Master Sgt. Andre Karr, honor guard acting director of operations. "We train with the other services every quarter, and even when we are in the middle of executing a funeral we are still training.

"This is the epitome of what being in the honor guard is, the height of any ceremonial guardsman's career and it is an honor just to be a part of it."