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Honor Guard
Airman 1st Class Douglals Hale, 963rd Airborne Air Control Squadron, Senior Airman Andrew Stone, 552nd Maintenance Squadron and Senior Airman Eric Crotsley, 552nd MXS, prepare to fire a volley at a funeral detail. (Air Force photo by Jennifer D'Alessandro)
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Tinker Honor Guard exemplifies AF pride

Posted 6/6/2008   Updated 6/6/2008 Email story   Print story


by Jennifer D'Alessandro
Services Marketing

6/6/2008 - TINKER AIR FORCE BASE -- As silence permeates the air and the sun continues to beat down, a single bead of sweat trickles down the face of a still Airman clad in a neatly pressed blue uniform. The eloquent melody of "Taps" begins to play and softly echoes over a fallen Airman's grave. 
   It is a time-honored tradition to serve those who have served before us. The Tinker Air Force Base Honor Guard exemplifies precision, pride and honor in every detail, whether they're providing military funeral honors, supporting a retirement ceremony, or providing a saber arch for a wedding. 
   Commonly known as the "Ambassadors in Blue," the Tinker Honor Guard represents the U.S. Air Force in different events and ceremonies. The main focus and mission of the Honor Guard is to provide military funeral honors. 
   The new "quota" system differs from the previous "volunteer only" system in that each wing is required to provide a certain number of people to serve on the Honor Guard. Each of the highly trained members of the Honor Guard are divided into separate flights. 
   The differing flights take turns pulling two weeks of on-call Honor Guard duty, two weeks on stand-by, and four weeks off. Stand-by flights are contacted during times where the on-call flight may not be able to fill funeral details with its own members. 
   During the on-call period, members perform a variety of services and civic events. Since the introduction of the quota system, the Tinker Air Force Base Honor Guard has been able to ensure a one hundred percent acceptance of all detail requests. By law, requests for military funeral honors require mandatory performance. 
   However, in the previous volunteer-only system, several color guards and other civic events had to be cancelled to ensure support of funerals. Under the new quota system, members commonly find that it's less stressful and allows them to be more focused on details in a two week span, rather than a continuous amount of time. "With the new system, I find that I am able to focus on details more successfully in those two weeks rather than possibly forgetting to fill my three details per month under the old system," said Senior Airman Michael Christian of the 960th AACS. 
   With the quota system, the Honor Guard is also able to ensure continuous and updated training of every member on the team. When not performing details, members are expected to practice movements they would perform during details. Continuous training helps ensure that every member's movements on a detail are executed to the highest precision and control. 
   Not only does the new system allow continual training, but it also provides structure. It is easier to rely on one flight to fill details, and prevents having a few members volunteer for every detail, as with the old volunteer system. 
   The amount of details the Honor Guard is required to fill has continued to grow. With an average of 45-50 funerals per month, there are also 45-50 color guards and other events per month. The amount of preparation required to properly execute every funeral and color guard detail can be a logistical challenge," said Technical Sergeant Kristen Gasaway, NCOIC of the Tinker Honor Guard. 
   The amount of time and work that goes into preparing for every funeral is considerable. Members must be at the location of the funeral to practice and become familiar with the layout. The Honor Guard members take this time to carefully prepare to ensure the proper and respectful burial of men and women who have served before them. 
   The opportunity to volunteer time and commitment to honoring those who have also served their country has allowed Honor Guard members to find a sense of pride and respect for the job they do. "It makes you realize the sacrifices they made to defend our country and what it means to serve," said 1Lt Phil Geddes of the 963d AACS. 
   The opportunity to showcase and represent the Air Force also exists. "It gives us the chance to show everyone what we can do and how dedicated we are," said Airman First Class Amber Todd, 72d MSS. The amount of training also plays a role in showcasing the Air Force. "With time to train in your two weeks on-call, you are able to build a confidence that you can perform correctly," said Captain Tim Brokaw of the 564th AMXS. "It also helps build moral within the flights," said Capt. Brokaw. 
   The quota system also allows military members from different areas interact and get to know one another. "There's a camaraderie that you will never find anywhere else," said Senior Airman Eric Crotsley of the 552d MXS. "You're able to bond with your flight more with the quota system than the volunteer system," said SrA Crotsley. 
   Different people come together and begin to build a network, creating a sense of military unity. Many members have seen improvement in their jobs away from the Honor Guard simply by building networks among their fellow flight members. 
   As members come and go through the Honor Guard, they take with them valuable lessons. The opportunity to honor those who have served this country is unparalleled. The Tinker Air Force Base Honor Guard's dedication to their mission is unsurpassed by their perseverance and commitment. 
   For more information on the Tinker Honor Guard, contact the Honor Guard office at 734-4226.

9/4/2012 2:20:35 PM ET
My father was buried on 830 with military honors. When the funeral home's car drove us up to the grave site I saw the men and women getting ready at their vehicle putting on their jackets and hats in the hot August sun. I went over to thank them and they said it was their honor to do this for us. I was very touched. I am sure it is very difficult to lay so many service people to rest many much younger than my dad and they do it with so much dignity. I will be so honored to display the flag they folded and gave to me.
Erika Haynes, Austin TX
8/1/2012 7:17:26 PM ET
My cousin was laid to rest today in Guthrie. He was a WWII vet. The honor guard from Tinker was very profesional and the service was impressive. Thank you so much.
Robert Lockwood, Oklahoma City
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