Honoring the fallen, guarding the colors

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Brandon Valle
  • 90th Missile Wing Public Affairs
The final notes of taps ring through the air. A casket, draped in the American flag, sits amid a group of people. Airmen dressed in ceremonial garb present a final salute. The echoes of gunfire reverberate out over the base.

On Sept. 11, 24 Airmen were welcomed into the base honor guard. Though it was just a mock funeral ceremony, the newest Airmen of the F.E. Warren Ceremonial Honor Guard treat the event with the honor and dignity they would for a real funeral.

"It feels amazing to now be a part of the honor guard," said Airman 1st Class Asa Ward, 790th Missile Security Forces Squadron Security Support Team and new ceremonial guardsman. "Before I joined the military, I wanted to be a part of the honor guard."

The graduation ceremony was held at the base's cemetery and required the new ceremonial guardsmen to execute the funeral detail for family, friends and base leadership.

"The graduation is a symbolization of crossing over to be a part of the team," said Tech. Sgt. Bryan Sodders, base honor guard NCO-in-charge. "It is a major stepping stone for the Airmen because we only make up one percent of the base populace."

The Airmen completed a two-week course where they covered the basic protocols of honor guard such as firing party, colors detail and flag folding. They were led by seven experienced honor guardsmen, including Senior Airmen Thorne Tayamen, 90th Security Support Squadron Academy Flight assistant NCO-in-charge and senior instructor for the class.

"I was in charge of teaching the Airmen how to do colors detail as well as bearer's detail," he said, "but I also over looked each individual component to ensure the other instructors did their job correctly. I paid attention to all the little details to ensure our new Airmen are prepared to do details."

The base honor guard performs details, such as funerals, throughout Wyoming and parts of Nebraska and Colorado, covering approximately 95,000 square miles, the second largest area for any guard in the Air Force.

Sodders said each ceremonial guardsman team is ready to perform details at any time and have the knowledge and know-how to answer any questions put before them.

"Now that the new Airmen have completed their course, they will replace everyone whose contract is getting ready to expire, essentially taking their spot," Sodders said.

The Airmen in the base honor guard are in a constant rotation, he said.

Everyone but the security forces Airmen operate under a one year contract, working a total of three months over the year. Airmen from the security forces group fulfill their whole three month obligation at once, Airmen from the mission support group work as ceremonial guardsmen for one month at a time and Airmen from other groups on base come in for a week at a time over the course of a year, Sodders said.

Airmen perform approximately 100 hours-worth of details during their contract, which includes travel to and from events as well as performing the requested details.

"In-order to be a part of the program, an Airman's leadership must submit their name," Sodders said. "I send out an email to the group chiefs, who get in contact with their squadron leadership and they pick their best representatives."

The base honor guard averages just 40 assigned Airmen, with about 9 available each week for details.

The Airmen selected to be a part of the ceremonial guardsmen feel a sense of purpose in what they do, Tayamen said.

"I love serving in the honor guard," Tayamen said. "I like having that sense of dedication to honor the fallen, no matter if they are a veteran or a retiree, and knowing that their families are gratified that we were there to make sure their loved ones last and final words are said with military honors."