It was an honor
By Senior Airman Sam Fogleman, 92nd Air Refueling Wing Public Affairs
/ Published February 03, 2016
FAIRCHILD AIR FORCE BASE, Wash. --
I will be honest, I'm not the type that "bleeds blue."
With that said, I didn't seem to be the obvious choice to fill a slot for my unit's upcoming Honor Guard rotation.
I was selected, though, and I felt relieved to have the chance to follow a temporary assignment outside of my career field. It was a weight off my shoulders from regular day-to-day life in an office space.
The first two weeks of the Honor Guard assignment are difficult, in all honesty, unless you are a Type A personality with a photographic memory. We actually had a few of them in my rotation.
The grueling repetitions of each potential ceremonial movement started to make my brain come out my ears; at least, that's how it felt. Precision, along with melodic, yet tedious, movements filled the long hours of the day during training.
How many different ways can you position a rifle? From any given static rifle position, how will you then move it to present- or port-arms? How can you raise a flag from a certain position of attention or parade rest? How are you supposed to fold the flag, either from a six-person setup or two-person setup?
Do you like sitting in a chair when your legs are tired? During training, you're not allowed to sit, except during the actual lunch break. Aside from that, you're standing the whole time, even during 12-hour shifts when Airmen show up late during a training day. For each person that shows up late, there's another 12-hour shift built into the schedule and the wingman concept digs in, ensuring your wingman doesn't "give" the team another 12-hour shift.
Somehow, the two weeks of training go by, and then you're deemed fit to represent the U.S. Air Force in the base's Honor Guard "area of responsibility." Fairchild's is roughly Washington state east of the Cascades, the northern majority of the Idaho Panhandle, and the very northeast corner of Oregon.
The two weeks of discipline training all come together once you start performing real ceremonies. While performing funeral honors and colors presentations, the meaning of the whole assignment starts to come to light.
The funeral honors, in particular, can make the most grizzled, jaded and hardened Airmen into proud members of the greater military community.
When it's your job to assist with providing the last earthly honors for a departed brother or sister in arms, it hits you in the gut that what you are doing is a big deal.
As anyone can imagine, the reactions of the member's relatives can be pretty wrenching if you dare to look into their eyes, during, perhaps, the lowest, solemnest moment of their lives.
On a lighter note, holding up a national or state flag at a colors presentation before a sporting event can also bring a tear to your eye if you're not careful (if you don't pass out from stage fright or leg-locking first).
Additionally, getting to know Airmen from different career fields is a great experience. The intermingling of personalities can go a long way to show everyone that service in the Air Force is a collective endeavor that merits honor for each departed comrade.
You'll have to work during many weekends, but the Honor Guard leadership is careful about compensating you for the generosity of your time. Do your job, and that's good enough. You'll be rewarded.
So, are you an Airman who wants a second chance at finding meaning and hope in the service for which you signed away at least four years of your life? Have a squadron commander or administrator that has their eye on you for a change of scenery? Then take them up on their "voluntelling" and give Honor Guard a shot. You'll probably be surprised at how invigorated you will become.
Possibly, it'll make you bleed blue.