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LRAFB Honor Guard enhances growth of Airmen

Four Airmen stand on stage during a ceremony

Little Rock Air Force Base Honor Guard members post the colors during the 19th Airlift Wing change of command ceremony at Little Rock Air Force Base, Arkansas, June 27, 2019. During the ceremony U.S. Air Force Col. Gerald Donohue relinquished command of the 19th AW to U.S. Air Force Col. John Schutte. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Kristine M. Gruwell)

People work in an honor guard bay.

Airmen assigned to the 19th Force Support Squadron Base Honor Guard, practice many different ceremonial procedures at Little Rock Air Force Base, Arkansas, Dec. 12, 2019. The honor guard flight develops Airmen to become disciplined when recognizing a fallen Airmen and honoring their service one final time for their loved ones. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Kristine M. Gruwell)

A man folds a flag.

A ceremonial guardsman assigned to the 19th Force Support Squadron practices folding a flag at Little Rock Air Force Base, Arkansas, Dec. 12, 2019. Guardsmen can have an array of details, such as retirements, ceremonies, parades and more. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Kristine M. Gruwell)

People practice honor guard.

U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Cameron Wood, 19th Force Support Squadron ceremonial guardsman, adjusts U.S. Air Force Airman 1st Class Justin Gibson’s, 19th FSS ceremonial guardsman, rifle during honor guard ceremony practice at Little Rock Air Force Base, Arkansas, Dec. 12, 2019. The base honor guard performs a myriad of details such as posting the colors, pre-posting, two-man and six-man flag folds, and executing rifle movements during a number of ceremonies (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Kristine M. Gruwell)

A man stands.

U.S. Air Force Airman 1st Class Ian Cleveland, 19th Force Support Squadron ceremonial guardsman, practices rifle procedure at Little Rock Air Force Base, Arkansas, Dec. 12, 2019. The base honor guard program provides a venue for Airmen who are looking for another way to serve their community while learning a new skill set. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Kristine M. Gruwell)

A man in the Air Force honor guard service dress uniform speaks with an elderly gentleman wearing an Air Force ball cap.

An Air Force veteran strikes up a conversation with a Little Rock Air Force Base Honor Guard member May 28, 2018, at Garland County Veterans Memorial and Military Park, Hot Springs National Park, Ark. The LRAFB Honor Guard presented the colors during a Memorial Day service honoring those who paid the ultimate sacrifice. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Kristine M. Gruwell)

LITTLE ROCK AIR FORCE BASE, Ark. --

Airmen have many opportunities to further develop in the operational Air Force through special duties — one such duty is the base honor guard.

The 19th Force Support Squadron Base Honor Guard teaches Airmen to uphold a deep sense of dignity and respect when paying tribute to the Air Force, Airmen and their families during the many ceremonies they perform.

It’s important for guardsmen to hold themselves to the highest standard — guardsmen of any rank represent the Air Force as a whole.

“We are entrusted by leadership to perform at the high standard,” said U.S. Air Force Airman 1st Class Justin Gibson, 19th FSS ceremonial guardsman. “On details, our team leader ensures we uphold the specifications required for the specific type of ceremony. They know what level we’re performing at and continue to enhance our development.”

The base honor guard covers the state of Arkansas and western Tennessee, representing the Air Force during active-duty, retiree and veteran funerals. They also participate in events such as military retirements, Veterans Day events and sporting events, as requested.

This program provides Airmen another way to serve their community while also learning a new skill set. Before Airmen are entrusted with this high honor, they must be selected in their unit and then complete 10 days of intense training focused on drill movements and teamwork.

“I’ve learned through my time developing here, the mission isn’t just about you — it’s about the team,” said U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Cameron Wood, 19th FSS ceremonial guardsman. “You rely on your entire team to complete the ceremony to the best of your ability.”

The training period determines if Airmen will continue to serve as a ceremonial guardsman for the following six months or return to their original duty section. Some Airmen yearn for the opportunity to represent the Air Force in the most honorable sense and find the honor guard a perfect fit.

“Honor guard was what I originally wanted to do when I joined the military, but I didn’t meet the requirements for the Air Force Honor Guard,” Gibson said. “When I was given the opportunity to volunteer for a base-level honor guard, I wanted to and have come to love it. It is humbling and an honor to pay the proper respects to families who have lost their loved ones.”

By joining the honor guard team, Airmen develop a deeper understanding of the importance of teamwork and connectedness when striving toward excellence — a lesson they can take with them for the remainder of their Air Force career.

“We don’t just make the Airmen a part of the team, they become part of the honor guard family,” said U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Christ Willingham, 19th FSS base honor guard program manager. “Since they are being taken out of their work centers, we give them a new perspective of what the Air Force stands for and how we take care of our own. They build connections with Airmen across the base that they may never have experienced otherwise. Ultimately, we give our Airmen a sense of belonging - to the service, to the team and to our family.”

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