Honor Guard: A Lasting Impact

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Delia Marchick
  • 341st Missile Wing Public Affairs
Part of the honor guard creed states, "Never will I allow my performance to be dictated by the type of ceremony, severity of the temperature or size of the crowd."

Malmstrom Air Force Base Honor Guard members regularly face severe cold, wind and snow while performing their mission throughout the entire state of Montana. They also have the second largest area of responsibility of all of the Air Force base honor guards. This means they support more than 125 funeral homes across a 157,000 square mile area in Montana and northern Wyoming.

The base honor guard is made up of four flights: Alpha, Bravo, Charlie and Delta. Every week a different flight is on duty. They alternate duty weeks so that they all serve 12 duty weeks in a year. They train Mondays and Tuesdays and then they are released to their duty sections for the rest of the week while they remain on call or standby for honor guard missions.

The honor guard's duty week missions all depend on the number of requests for honor guard support. They receives anywhere from three to five details a week to a heavier week of eight to ten requests.

Even with the number of requests, large area of responsibility, travel time, road conditions and weather, honor guard members find the job rewarding.

"The best part about being in the honor guard is being able to serve those families of the veterans that have passed away and give them the funeral they deserve," said Senior Airman Kathleen Hastings, 341st Security Forces Squadron standards and evaluations member. "It doesn't matter what detail you perform, you get this sense of pride when people thank you."

Hastings is on her second year-long contract with the Malmstrom Honor Guard and stood in as the acting NCO in charge for Charlie Flight. Tech Sgt. Nichole Evenson recently took over the NCO in charge position for Charlie Flight.

"To me it's one of those jobs that you might not ever get to experience again but leaves a footprint on you and makes you appreciate what you are doing for your country more," added Hastings.

Evenson served in the honor guard early in her Air Force career and it left such an impression on her that she volunteered for honor guard again.

"It has a huge impact, especially on the families that are left behind," said Evenson. "It's just so powerful and in the 13 years that I have been in it's the most honorable thing that I have done. Just being there for the families and being part of the last positive remembrance of their family member. I just think it's powerful."

The honor guard members are expected to learn many commands, procedures and responsibilities but the most important is to provide military funeral honors.

"The reason honor guard exists is because there was a congressional mandate that stated that veterans being laid to rest will receive at a bare minimum, two things: the folding of the American flag and the playing of taps," said Master Sgt. Michael Wright, 341st Force Support Squadron Malmstrom Honor Guard superintendent. "As a result of that law, bases all around the country had to stand up base honor guards. The U.S. Air Force Honor Guard couldn't handle the entire country."

"There are three types of mission that we do," said Wright. "Tier one is funerals, which take precedence over everything. Tier two is military events like retirements and color details.  The third tier is civilian events. If we get requests that overlap and I do not have the manning to cover the second or third tier events then I have prioritize and cancel or reject the requests."

The Honor Guard fulfills the congressionally mandated missions of the 341st Missile Wing. They also have to maintain the minimal manning at all times. The Honor Guard is always looking and for sharp Airmen to join their team. For more information about joining the honor guard visit http://341fss.com/hgjoin.