Team Kirtland Honor Guard innovates to streamline process

  • Published
  • By John Cochran
  • 377th Air Base Wing Public Affairs

The spirit of innovation is alive and well in the Kirtland AFB Honor Guard, where team members have come up with more efficient ways to meet mission requirements and save time.

Master Sgt. Paul Witt, Kirtland Honor Guard superintendent, is in charge of the base’s 21-Airman ceremonial unit. He and his team revised a process that used to take 3 ½ hours and whittled it down to 15 minutes. Although limited by COVID-19 restrictions in 2020, they typically perform at about 500 events per year.

“Our primary purpose is to provide unfaltering, dignified military funeral honors for Airmen who have honorably served their country. Additionally, the Honor Guard supports many other special occasions, such as memorials, military retirements, changes of command, award banquets, weddings, and various civic events,” Witt said.

The process they’ve innovated covers munitions accountability for the blank rounds the Honor Guard Airmen fire at events.

“When I first got here, two years ago, we were tracking it on paper. It got troublesome. The next step I took was developing a spreadsheet. We posted it on our shared drive, where our multiple custodians could have access. It made that part easier. Every time we’d go out and fire, we still had to fill out an expenditure request form to submit to the 377th Maintenance Squadron for accountability, so we were doing a spreadsheet and the form. It was much better, but it wasn’t where it could’ve been,” the Marysville, Ohio, native said.

“On my first six-months (assignment duration) team, we had Lt. David King. He had worked with Tech. Sgt. (Phillip) Prather (377th Force Support Squadron section chief, force management team) on the Enlisted Force Distribution Process application for the promotion system. After he had demonstrated the program he’d done for Sgt. Prather, I asked him if we could automate our process. Within a week, he came back with a product. I reformatted the spreadsheet to include all the static fields, and within a day, he had it back to me. Then, the inevitable happened – the form changed. He revised the code and we were back up and running. We’ve had no discrepancies, no surprises on any inspections, and it’s made life so easy,” he said.

1st Lt. David D. King, currently serving as a mechatronics systems engineer with the Air Force Research Laboratory at Kirtland AFB, previously served as a member of the Team Kirtland Honor Guard. He explained his role in the innovation.

“I was assigned to the honor guard for six months full-time, so I worked with Master Sgt. Witt on a daily basis. He worked with the documents and knew I had some programming experience, so he proposed the problem to me and we came up with the solution together. The end product of the munitions accountability process consists of PDFs reporting the munitions expended at each event. To make creating the PDF reports easier, Witt and I teamed up with a two-part solution. He created an Excel spreadsheet with fields for all the data required for the PDFs, as well as formulas that automatically calculated the remaining rounds based on the initial lot size. I then wrote an Excel macro (some code with instructions to perform simple, sequenced operations) that opens a blank munitions report PDF, fills in the data from the spreadsheet in the appropriate PDF fields, and saves the PDF document. Now, instead of filling in 14 PDF fields by hand each time, only three fields need to be updated for each event in the Excel file, and then with the click of a button in Excel, the PDF report is filled in and saved. After creating this product, a completely new expenditure form was fielded. The code was simply adapted to work with the revised PDF document, and the product was up and running for use by the next day.”

King sees wider application of the method to benefit other organizations.

“The big thing to take from this is that we saw a process with room for improvement and, using a program as ubiquitous as Microsoft Excel, we were able to streamline a workflow with a few lines of code. It just took some time researching solutions online to write a script that automatically generates PDFs from Excel data, greatly reducing the time required to perform the task. This workflow is very common across the Air Force, so I’d encourage anyone with a similar process to learn these freely available skills online, and expedite their own tasks across their office. While I do have an engineering background and some prior coding experience, it’s certainly possible for anyone able to do a web search to learn the skills necessary to write scripts to automate repetitive tasks. I’d be happy to share with or help anyone across the base interested in learning these tools or implementing something similar in their office,” he said.

For more information about the Kirtland AFB Honor Guard, go to their website: