KIRTLAND AIR FORCE BASE, N.M. --
Service members from all over Team Kirtland dedicate 12 part-time months of their time to the 377th Force Support Squadron Base Honor Guard program.
The primary mission of the KAFB Honor Guard is to provide dignified funeral honors upon request to all honorably discharged veterans within their area of responsibility of just under 8,000 square miles of Northwestern New Mexico. In addition to funeral honors they provide a variety of details supporting base and community functions.
“We are honoring those who have, in some cases, given their lives and in other cases a good portion of their lives to their country,” said U.S. Air Force 2nd Lt. Andrew Vogel, KAFB Honor Guard Delta Flight officer in charge. “We are able to honor those who have come before us.”
During their time on the team, members are trained and placed into different flights. Each flight represents their time of either active participation, stand-by or off weeks.
To ensure missions are still getting done, during the stand-by or off weeks, the members from all across the base will return to their original work places, to exclude the few members who have a six-month permanent position to hold onto continuity and training.
Vogel feels that getting to work with Airmen from all different jobs from across the installation are one of the highlights of the job.
“There are huge culture differences across the different [careers],” said Vogel. “To get to see that and to get to relate to those in different [careers] by how they think, and live their daily lives, its eye opening.”
The flights spend a lot of time together training or working their details.
“One detail can take anywhere between four to five hours,” said Vogel. “Somedays it’s an all-day thing. Somedays we only have one detail and we dedicate the rest of the time to training.”
There are often times others don’t know what these Airmen do day-to-day.
“Most people only see retirement ceremonies, promotion ceremonies and they think, ‘that’s what honor guard does, that’s where our people are going when they leave our shop’,” said Tech Sgt. Paul Witt, KAFB Honor Guard NCOIC. “Yes, that is one of the types of honors that we render, and the most common, but there is so much more to it.”
Vogel agrees that there is so much more to being a part of the honor guard team.
“This job is super important,” said Vogel. “We have quotes all over our training room about how we treat our dead, how we operate as a country and who we are morally,” he said. “It’s super rewarding and a very honorable position to be in.”
Though the job can be difficult, it’s something that not everyone gets to experience.
“This is the best kept secret in the Air Force,” said Witt. “Yes it has its heavy moments because of our primary mission to lay our nation’s finest to rest. It’s because we are often the last face of the service that their service member served in that they will likely see.”