By Senior Airman S.I. Fielder, 347th Rescue Wing
/ Published February 24, 2006
MOODY AIR FORCE BASE, Ga. --
Their commitment is intense; their movements are precise. Their mission: to honor those who have served this country.
The Airmen who carry out the duties of the Knights of Honor, Moody’s Honor Guard, go through extensive training in order to perform the ceremonial moves at more than 350 ceremonies a year across Southern Georgia and Northern Florida.
Although each Airman’s reason for joining may be different, the Knights of Honor understand the importance of their mission, said Senior Airman Margaret Mora, 347th Operations Support Squadron. It’s a position allowing them to make an impact on other’s lives.
“It makes me really proud to do what I do,” said Airman Mora, who has been an honor guardsman for almost nine months. “(The families) are really grateful for what we do, and it feels good to make a difference in someone else’s life.”
To get the chance to make this impact, the Airmen must be recommended by their squadron commander and first sergeant. They must also meet or exceed standards of dress and appearance, attitude, performance and discipline.
“I didn’t know how I would stack up against my peers because the honor guard is supposed to be ‘the best of the best,’” said Staff Sgt. Michael Youngblood, 347th Maintenance Operations Squadron. “I was really nervous my first day of training.”
During the first few weeks, the Airmen must learn the proper type of movements for each type of ceremony, said Master Sgt. David Mays, NCO in charge of the Honor Guard. The details include funerals, changes of command, retirements, posting the colors, weddings, parades and saber teams.
“A lot of movements we do are different than what you are accustomed to when you come out of basic training or technical school,” said Sergeant Mays, a native of Forsyth, Ga.
To ensure each movement is crisp and perfect, the team goes over how the ceremony is laid out step-by-step. If the Honor Guard is not out on a detail, then they are training, said Sergeant Mays.
“One downside is the extra time it requires to make the team better,” said Sergeant Youngblood, who was also on the Dyess Air Force Base, Texas, Honor Guard team. “Yet, the team is only as good as the weakest link.”
Although the Airmen are from different career fields, Moody’s team hasn’t had a problem with cohesiveness. The type of people who volunteer are serious about the job, said Sergeant Mays.
“From day one, the Airmen start out together to help foster teamwork and show it’s important to grow as a cohesive unit,” he said. “It just falls into place.”
Another factor helping everything fall into place is the individual attitudes of the Airmen. Sergeant Youngblood said although he was hesitant at the beginning, he wouldn’t change his decision to serve on the Honor Guard for the world.
“It’s not hard to stay motivated because when you do your best it effects others,” said Airman Mora, a native of Harriman, Tenn. “It’s a different environment over here. When we’re on a detail, we have our mindset that everything is serious.”
One of the more serious details is a funeral. The honor guardsmen don’t get very much notice, so it’s hard to make future plans in their personal lives, said Airman Thomas.
“The only major downside is I wasn’t able to go home for Thanksgiving or the holidays,” said the native of Birmingham, Ala. “That’s just a small price to pay.”
However, during a military funeral, the Airmen are proud to get the chance to honor the veteran or retiree. The most memorable experience of most honor guardsmen is when they are the NCO in charge of a funeral detail, said Airman Thomas and Sergeant Youngblood.
“You’re the one making sure that everybody is going to do a good job,” said Sergeant Youngblood. “You hand the flag off to the widow, and the family is just in awe of the whole ceremony.”
Being involved with the funeral ceremonies can sometimes put extra emotional strain on the team members. One way Sergeant Mays helps the Airmen deal with emotional hardships is by talking with them. Not only do they discuss the emotions that may be felt, but also the importance of maintaining discipline and military bearing, he said.
“The base honor guard is the last of the military these family members may see,” he said. “So, it’s really important to go out and do the best we can. We try to make a sad situation a little better.”
No matter what type of ceremony or when it is, the Knights of Honor make sure they perform each movement in perfect harmony and take pride in the uniform they wear each day.
“The honor guard is a good experience to give any Airmen hands- on experience,” said Airman Thomas. “It really exemplifies what ‘the best of the best’ means.”