Base Honor Guard invests in future

Col. Shaun Perkowski, commander of the 167th Airlift Wing, addresses newly certified Honor Guard members upon their completion of a forty-hour training course at the Martinsburg air base, July 22. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Senior Master Sgt. Emily Beightol-Deyerle)

Col. Shaun Perkowski, commander of the 167th Airlift Wing, addresses newly certified Honor Guard members upon their completion of a forty-hour training course at the Martinsburg air base, July 22. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Senior Master Sgt. Emily Beightol-Deyerle)

Staff Sgt. Ryan Belfield, a 167th contract specialist and member of the base honor guard, salutes Col. Shaun Perkowski, commander of the 167th Airlift Wing, during a ceremony for newly certified honor guard members at the Martinsburg air base, July 22. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Senior Master Sgt. Emily Beightol-Deyerle)

Staff Sgt. Ryan Belfield, a 167th contract specialist and member of the base honor guard, salutes Col. Shaun Perkowski, commander of the 167th Airlift Wing, during a ceremony for newly certified honor guard members at the Martinsburg air base, July 22. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Senior Master Sgt. Emily Beightol-Deyerle)

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. -- The 167th Airlift Wing Base Honor Guard held a four-day, initial training course for its new members, July 19-22. 

The forty-hour course is designed to provide the necessary initial instruction in all areas of being an Honor Guard member that would allow members to perform in Honor Guard details. The training ensures that members meet the strict standards that are laid out for all Base Honor Guards by the Air Force.

The initial course is required to cover the basics in how to properly perform everything from the unique Honor Guard marching style to sensitive events such as funeral and casket details.

  While the initial training is always important to ensure that the Honor Guard is properly representing the wing, this round of training was especially important for the 167th in that it allowed the Honor Guard to train a large group of new team members, said Master Sgt. Marty Snider, the 167th Base Honor Guard noncommissioned officer in charge.

"This training is important because you need to meet that base standard as a minimum in order to be able to do your job," Snider said. "Also, you need legacy in any shop; you need that young blood to continue what is left behind. If the older generation leaves and there is no younger generation to carry on what they left behind then you will always have a continuous, revolving door."

The course is standardized for all Air Force components, active-duty, guard and reserve, a fact that allows continuity between the components and ensures all Honor Guard members are held to the same standard.

This standard is important due to the high visibility of the Honor Guard mission that often puts it directly in contact with members of the public, Snider said. Whether it is a funeral detail or a color ceremony, the Honor Guard can sometimes be the only interaction people have with the military.

"The Honor Guard is a representation of the professionalism of the wing," Snider said. "If we don't look the part when we are out there [in the community], if we don't look sharp and crisp then it reflects badly on the wing. We are the true, visual focal point of what the Air Force and the 167th stand for."

While most of the Airmen participating in the "crash course" were new to the Honor Guard, some, like Staff Sgt. Ryan Belfield, a 167th contract specialist, have been members of the Honor Guard for some time but have never received their initial certification course which was last held in 2011.

Belfield, who has been in the 167th for more than five years, joined the base Honor Guard in 2014 to become more involved in and to give back to the wing.

"The Guard gives a lot and expects very little in return," Belfield said. "I think we owe it to ourselves and to the wing to do what we can to give that little bit extra."

Belfield, like Snider, sees the Honor Guard as a direct representation of the wing making it important to ensure performance is at the highest standard.

"It is very nice to wear the [Honor Guard] uniform; it gives me a nice sense of pride to represent the wing," Belfield. "As Honor Guard members we directly reflect the image of the base so it is important to make sure that we are correctly performing all aspects of the job."