VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE -- The United States Air Force Honor Guard has led the way as representatives of all Airmen since May 1948 when the creation of the elite ceremonial unit was instated.
The U.S. Air Force Honor Guard established the protocol, honors and ceremonies course and instituted a base honor guard program in 1995, changing the previous method of providing military funeral honors for those who died in the geographic area of an Air Force base.
“Vandenberg’s Honor Guard was established to promote military tradition and history,” said 1st Lt. Andrew Forsythe, 18th Space Control Squadron orbital analyst and Vandenberg Honor Guard officer in charge. “It is the link between the past, present and future for military and community members.”
Vandenberg’s honor guard is comprised of four active flights and one reserve flight with a total of 50 Airmen from all different units, squadrons and associations on base.
“When I first joined Honor Guard I started as a ceremonial guardsman,” said Staff Sgt. Marcus Hardy, 30th Medical Group bioenvironmental engineering apprentice and Vandenberg Honor Guard flight chief and lead trainer. “I then quickly moved up to flight trainer and eventually lead trainer implementing all the basic skills when Airmen first join. Now, I am the lead trainer and also the Flight Bravo flight chief.”
As trainers utilize guidance from higher up, Vandenberg instills what the U.S. Air Force Honor Guard team does for their guardsmen in training here.
“We get most of our guidance through the Air Force Honor Guard that provides us with an actual trained and regimented structure on how to provide military honors at funerals across the entire country and abroad,” Forsythe said. “Now everything is standardized, and the honors we are preforming for our fallen don’t lack in any way.”
It’s important for guardsmen to hold themselves to a higher standard than other Airmen because guardsmen of any rank are representing the Air Force as a whole during events.
“We can be the first, last and only interactions that families have with the military,” Forsythe said.
Guardsmen can have an array of details, such as retirements, ceremonies, parades and more, during their monthly guard week. Branching out from the core purpose of honor guard, supporting funerals, guardsmen also support other key events on base.
“During our details week, guardsmen come in and train for what details are scheduled that week,” Hardy said. “We tend to have events projected out for the upcoming months and if there aren’t any details during our week, we train on upcoming details so we continually use and sharpen our skills.”
Airmen can volunteer or be chosen to be a part of honor guard on a one year contract. Those who love what they do in honor guard may even extend their contract or be a part of the alumni flight after their contract is over, which allows the Airman to go back to their unit but also continue to provide support for details without the monthly commitment.
“I have been doing honor guard since December 2016,” Hardy said. “I renewed my contract for a second year because honor guard gives me a true sense of the Air Force mission.”
Airmen receive more than just recognition on their performance reports during their time in Honor Guard.
“My favorite part of honor guard is the lasting impact we make for those involved,” said Senior Airman Zacarra Davis, 30th Security Forces patrolman and Vandenberg Honor Guard ceremonial guardsman, who won 2018 Vandenberg Ceremonial Guardsman of the Year. “Seeing the direct and immediate impact has affected me the most because when I’m at an event and either handing off the flag or carrying a casket, not only do I see the amount of people there, but I see the impact that our group leaves with everyone in attendance of the event.”
With no preliminary requirements, Airmen of any rank can be a part of their base honor guard program.
“Honor guard is probably the best and most meaningful thing an Airman can do in their Air Force career,” Davis said. “As long as you’re doing it, do it from the heart – don’t just do honor guard for the potential benefits you may receive. Let it form you into a better Airman throughout your entire career.”