EDWARDS AFB – Seventeen Airmen became new ceremonial guardsmen during a graduation ceremony recently at the Airmen Leadership School. The ceremony took place outside on the parade field where the graduates performed a mock funeral for an active duty service member. The funeral was narrated by Tech. Sgt. Maurice Nolet, 412th Force Support Squadron, Edwards AFB Honor Guard NCOIC.
Nolet noted that almost every member of the Honor Guard has a primary job and this additional duty is no small commitment. What seems like 15 minutes to the audience can actually be much longer when preparation, travel time and lunch are considered. “It’s kind of like any other performance, a lot goes on behind the scenes that you don’t see,” said Nolet.
“It’s important that the supervisors understand the Honor Guard program is a priority for military funerals,” said Master Sgt. Harold Padua, 412th FSS, Base Honor Guard superintendent.
The Edwards Honor Guard, along with March Air Reserve Base, and Los Angeles AFB, accepts all funeral requests in Southern California.
According to Padua, they work with five national cemeteries, seven counties and over 150 private cemeteries and funeral homes. Funeral requests come in on a daily basis, sometimes with less than 24 hours notice. The group is available seven days a week and on holidays with an average of around 160 services each month for both active duty and retirees.
“It’s a very big commitment,” said Padua. “And it takes a lot for a person to keep their emotions in. When you present the flag to the next of kin, the next of kin is crying in front of you showing all kinds of emotion and you have to hold that within yourself. It’s a hard job.”
The job however is not performed alone. Each active duty funeral calls for 20 ceremonial guardsmen. The training is a week and a half long and each graduate learns to carry out each function of the ceremony. There are four basic components to an active duty service, the pall bearers, the firing party, the color guard and bugle player. All of the guardsmen follow the guidance of the NCOIC.
“The NCOIC is like the orchestrator and the ceremony is like a symphony. He has to make sure that everyone works together and make sure everyone is in the right area and understands the right cues,” said Nolet. “We have a sequence that we try to stick to that is set by the Air Force, but our ultimate goal is always to make the most positive, lasting impression to the family and this might be the only or last time they ever see the Air Force. If they request us to go at the end of an hour and a half service then we’ll wait an hour and a half.”
Congratulations to the graduates:
- Airman First Class Ryan Brown, 412th Communications Squadron
- Staff Sgt. Dustin Hoover, 31st Test and Evaluation Squadron
- Airman First Class Ambrose Ledesma, 412th Comptroller Squadron
- Airman First Class William Kiss, 412th Test Wing
- Senior Airman Caitilin Lekanof, 412th Aerospace Medicine Squadron
- Airman First Class Kevin Wren, 412th Force Support Squadron
- Staff Sgt. David Floyd, 412th CS
- Airman First Class Ariel Graham, 412th CS
- Staff Sgt. Thomas Zogal, 412th Maintenance Logistics Squadron
- Staff Sgt. Kenneth Jabala, 412th Flight Test Squadron
- Tech. Sgt. David Vellegas, 31st TES
- Staff Sgt. Steven Sellers, 31st TES
- Senior Airman Josh Herman, 412th Maintenance Squadron
- Airman First Class Nicholas Greene, 412th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron
- Airman First Class Cyrus King, 412th AMDS
- Senior Airman Luke Klopp, 412th AMXS
- Staff Sgt. Kipp Moss, 412th AMXS
- Staff Sgt. Stephen Pottinger, 31st TES
- Staff Sgt. Michael Logsdon, 412th CS
- Staff Sgt. Gregory Diaz, 411th Flight Test Squadron