Stand proud with the Patrick Honor Guard
By Theresa Amlong, 45th Services Division
/ Published November 22, 2006
PATRICK AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. -- In his off time, Airman 1st Class Marcus Torbert pursues modeling. Staff Sgt. Jennifer Drake has performed professionally on Broadway. Yes, they definitely lead exciting lives. However, for one week per month, they do something that each are proud and thrilled to do: they don crisp blue uniforms and spotless white gloves while performing at such venues as the Daytona 500 or Orlando Magic games as part of the base's Honor Guard Program.
In addition to carrying out funeral honors and posting the Colors at retirement and Change of Command ceremonies, Airman Torbert and Sergeant Drake are two of approximately 80 members of the Patrick Air Force Base Honor Guard who get the chance to participate in high profile, nationally televised sporting events. Drake regularly performs the National Anthem before games at Space Coast Stadium. This month, the team presented colors at the opening ceremony of the Geo Spatial Intelligence Agency and met the founder of Google Earth.
"Ninety percent of the Honor Guard is composed of volunteers," said Master Sgt. James Hawkins, Jr., the Honor Guard superintendent. "The members are broken into four teams, each of which has duty for one week out of the month, Monday through Sunday. Prior to duty week, they are on standby flight and can get tasked to help out, though this does not happen often."
Any active duty Air Force member up to the rank of captain can volunteer to join Honor Guard, but the request must be approved by their supervisor. There are quite a few incentives to joining the Honor Guard as a volunteer besides attending Orlando Magic and Miami Heat games.
"Members are entitled to one free haircut per month during duty week, and receive reserved parking spots at the Riverside Dining Facility, Commissary, BX and The Tides Club, even in their off weeks," said Sergeant Hawkins. "Each is entitled to an Achievement Medal upon completion. They also receive separate recognition at the Quarterly Awards Breakfast and Annual Awards Banquet."
Attending ceremonies as far south as the Keys, north past Daytona Beach and west to Claremont, members travel in a new 18-passenger, specially designated bus complete with DVD, TV monitor and GPS. "We usually travel in civilian clothes and our new bus has a convenient changing room in the back so we can put on our Honor Guard ceremonial uniform before we arrive," said Sergeant Hawkins.
"Whether performing funeral honors, or presenting colors at sporting events, being able to give back to those who served before us is extremely rewarding," said Sergeant Drake. "There is a lot of camaraderie and teamwork among the Honor Guard."
Volunteer Staff Sgt. Andre Caskey, 45 Space Communications Squadron agrees. "To represent the Air Force in this way - the uniformity and the dedication - is what I really like."
To gain that crisp uniformity and level of professionalism the Honor Guard members display as they present and post Colors, they must attend on-going training. "There is a checklist of items on Honor Guard movements," said Sergeant Drake. "Training gets the team locked on - synchronized."
Training is important as each team commits to approximately 60 military and civilian events per year.
While the tradition and honor of wearing that ceremonial uniform is important to all the members of the Honor Guard, the civilian events are an added bonus for volunteering. "I was never a fan of NASCAR before," says Senior Airman Terrynce Jones. "But now that I have presented Colors at the races and saw how fast those cars are, it's a whole different story."
To become a member of the Patrick Air Force Station Honor Guard Program, call Sergeant Hawkins at 494-7477.