Air Force Featured Stories

386th AEW Honor Guard braves the elements, honors the past

  • Published
  • By Master Sgt. Eric M. Sharman
  • 386th Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs
“The level in which I perform will never be dictated by the type of ceremony, the severity of the temperature, nor the size of the crowd.”

This, the fifth line of the honor guard creed, takes on a significant meaning in a location where triple-digit heat is common. It was the stern reminder used by the 386th Air Expeditionary Wing Honor Guard lead trainer, Staff Sgt. David Adolfo, on a particularly warm day at an undisclosed location in Southwest Asia known as “The Rock”, when his team hesitated to train outside when the indoor facility they normally use wasn’t available.

Recently, the team faced an environmental challenge at the closing ceremony of the National Police Week Observance here, at the end of May.

“It seemed like as soon as the ceremony was about to start, a dust storm kicked up,” said Tech. Sgt. Tiffaney Cleckley-Cooley, the 386th AEW Honor Guard NCO in charge, “So not only was it extremely hot because it was in the afternoon, but it was in the middle of a severe dust storm.”

Being in honor guard, these airmen have to have keen bearing. No matter what comes their way they have to have their composure, and keep it together.

“The way we are doing it here, is that in practice we require them to keep their bearing, and we throw different circumstances and situations at them, like someone messing up the national anthem.” said Cleckley-Cooley.

Deployment challenges

In addition to weather extremes, day-to-day operations for an honor guard team are different than at a permanent stateside location. For instance, the duty uniform is worn in lieu of a ceremonial uniform.

“In a deployed environment we do not wear the traditional ceremonial uniform.” said Adolfo, comparing deployed operations to home station.

Another limiting factor of performing honors in a deployed environment is time.

“In the deployed location, members come and go, so getting everyone up to speed and performance ready is difficult. Members volunteer to train after work and perform details during duty day as allowed,” said Adolfo.

So with limited training time, the honor guard still manages about 50 details per rotation, with a volunteer staff of 10-15 Airmen.

“It’s really challenging because we only have two hours a week to train together,” said Senior Airman Antonio Jones, a recent training graduate and ceremonial guardsman. “This is my first experience in an honor guard, but I’m using this opportunity to get some training for when I go back to my home base.”

Made of the right stuff

Ceremonial guardsmen are a picture-perfect example of individuals who are highly motivated, maintain exceptionally high standards of conduct, both on and off-duty, and exude enormous amounts of pride in all they do.

“I look for members who are disciplined, coachable and can take criticism. Members have to display good conduct and behavior because they represent every member past and present. This mission requires a servant’s heart and someone who can perform flawlessly under pressure,” said Adolfo.

One team,one standard

In keeping with Air Force tradition, all ceremonies performed by the U.S. Air Force are standardized. This includes the highest visibility ceremonies performed by the U.S. Air Force Honor Guard to every ceremony performed at base level, to include change of commands, posting of the colors, funeral honors, and squadron retreat by each of our Active Duty, reserve and Air National Guard Base honor guards.

“To me, serving in the honor guard is an opportunity to represent the Air Force as a staunch professional honoring our nation’s flag and all that members past and present have done in order for me to be able to wear the uniform,” said Adolfo. “I appreciate their sacrifices, every day.”