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Inspired to serve: Little Rock CGO joins base honor guard

An Airman hands over the American flag

2nd Lt. Rachel Smith, officer in charge of the Base Honor Guard, hands off the folded American flag to a Ceremonial Guardsmen acting as the next of kin in a practice exercise at Little Rock Air Force Base, Arkansas, Aug. 25, 2020. Smith is the first company grade officer in the BHG in over two years. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Isaiah Miller)

An Airman salutes the American flag

2nd Lt. Rachel Smith, officer in charge of the Base Honor Guard, salutes the flag at “table top” during a practice exercise at Little Rock Air Force Base, Arkansas, Aug. 25, 2020. Smith is the first company grade officer in the BHG in over two years. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Isaiah Miller)

Airmen fold the American flag

Ceremonial Guardsmen of the Base Honor Guard fold the American flag during a practice exercise at Little Rock Air Force Base, Arkansas, Aug. 25, 2020. The practice exercise was a replication of the BHG’s funeral ceremony in which the flag draped over the casket is folded and gifted to the departed’s next of kin. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Isaiah Miller)

An Airman participates in a practice honor guard session

2nd Lt. Rachel Smith, officer in charge of the Base Honor Guard, takes part in a practice honor guard exercise at Little Rock Air Force Base, Arkansas, Aug. 25, 2020. Smith is the first company grade officer in the BHG in over two years. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Isaiah Miller)

An Airman salutes the carriage of a casket

2nd Lt. Rachel Smith, officer in charge of the Base Honor Guard, salutes the carriage of the casket during a practice exercise at Little Rock Air Force Base, Arkansas, Aug. 25, 2020. Smith is the first company grade officer in the BHG in over two years. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Isaiah Miller)

An Airman stands at the position of attention

2nd Lt. Rachel Smith, officer in charge of the Base Honor Guard, acts as OIC in a practice exercise at Little Rock Air Force Base, Arkansas, Aug. 25, 2020. Smith is the first company grade officer in the BHG in over two years. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Isaiah Miller)

LITTLE ROCK AIR FORCE BASE, Ark. -- To be sharp, crisp and motionless: this is the vow of a Ceremonial Guardsman in the United States Air Force Honor Guard. These are the three pillars upon which the awe-inspiring ceremonial performances of the Honor Guard are built, and it is these three qualities that 2nd Lt. Rachel Smith strives to exemplify and instill in her Airmen in mind, body and spirit.

Assigned to the 314th Operations Group, Smith is a casual lieutenant awaiting to attend pilot training. In the meantime, she spends her time training with the Base Honor Guard, something she’s aspired to do since before she went to the U.S. Air Force Academy in 2016.

Inspired by the performances of the Honor Guard at public ceremonies, Smith sought to take part in that ritualistic showcase of the very substance of the Air Force, its Airmen. Not only did she want to be a part of it, she wanted to take the reins and lead the Airmen that would be serving as that beacon of honor and dignity for the world to see.

Upon joining the BHG she did just that.

On her first day of training Smith was named the class commander by the BHG program manager, Master Sgt. Chris Willingham. From that day on she set a goal for herself to be a role model for the 26 Airmen under her leadership and to maintain a positive attitude, no matter how hard the rains of hardship may fall upon her or the team.

“Being part of the BHG at this level is a great opportunity for a young CGO [Company Grade Officer] to gain not just a stronger sense of one of the noble services we provide to our fallen,” Willingham said, “this presents the environment for an officer to work hand-in-hand with enlisted Airmen and gain a better understanding of the issues they face day in and day out. These things are essential to better accomplish the mission.”

The young CGO echoed Willingham’s sentiments.

“I feel as if it’s my duty to lead the Airmen not only by rank and word, but by action,” Smith said. “It’s my mission to show off the team and how proud and great we are, but also to inspire others in any way that I can.”

And lead by example she does.

Another thing that solidified her decision to join the Honor Guard were the qualities displayed by previous mentors of hers from USAFA; mentors who were former members of the Honor Guard themselves and who served as models of inspiration for the young lieutenant-to-be.

“The way they carried themselves and the professionalism they displayed was beyond reproach,” Smith recalled with an aspirational sense of nostalgia in her eyes.

According to Smith, her mentors were kind, proud but humble and all-around exemplary human beings. These qualities undoubtedly rubbed off on her and are clearly key characteristics of the example that she sets for her Airmen.

Smith stresses the fact, however, that it is important not only to serve as a model of behavior for the Airmen, but also to form and maintain a personable relationship with them. According to the lieutenant, the bond between the officer and the enlisted member is not one that can be forged overnight. It is continuous and needs to be fortified over time.

Smith says that despite the many lessons she learned at USAFA, it was her experience in the Honor Guard that taught her this valuable lesson of leadership, as well as many others that she will continue to carry forward with her.

“I knew the Honor Guard would be a life-changing experience,” Smith said, “but I didn’t know it would be as powerful as it is.”

Smith said that a key aspect of the BHG is the continuous growth and development that one undergoes being a part of it; a growth that encompasses all aspects of life and molds one into an exemplary individual; an individual who can function both as a strong person in life and as a strong link in the chain of command.

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