The military stands on ceremony and that is never more evident than when an Honor Guard is present. The United States Air Force Honor Guard was activated in September of 1948 under the command of two officers with 98 enlisted men under them.
It was assigned to the Air Police Squadron until 1972, when it became its own separate unit. Each Air Force Base has its own Base Honor Guard, with members selected from different units stationed on the base.
The Air Force also has an Honor Guard unit that is permanently assigned to Bolling AFB in Washington, D.C. This is a three year long assignment and Air
Force members stationed around the world apply to be part of this elite unit. Members of this unit are often referred to as Ceremonial Guardsman.
The Air Force has used the Base Honor Guard for honors at military funerals since 1972; however, it wasn’t until 1995 that Air Force establish the Protocol, Honors, and Ceremonies course to ensure that all he funeral honors ceremony are performed the same each time. This course provided much needed guidance on everything the Honor Guard is tasked to do, including military funeral procedures and the uniform required. It is still used today and many times, the Honor Guard may go to Washington, D.C. for formal training at Bolling AFB. In some cases, a trainer from Bolling may be sent to provide the training.
In 2000, the Natural Defense Authorization Act was implemented, which provides for all veterans to receive military funeral honors. These honors include the folding of the United States flag and the presentation of this flag to the veteran’s next living relative. “Taps” is also performed by a member of the Base Honor Guard. Any service member who was honorably and had at least six months serviced time is considered an eligible veteran. Veterans’ funeral honors are performed by two or three members of the Base Honor Guard.
Retired members of the Air Force who completed 20 years or more are entitled to the “Standard Honors” for a military funeral. This ceremony involves six pallbearers, a six man flag fold, the playing of ‘Taps,” and the “21 gun salute.” The flag is presented to the next-of-kin and three of the shell cases from the rifle salute may also be presented.
Active-duty members receive a Full Honors Ceremony. This ceremony is performed by twenty Honor Guard members. There are six pallbearers, four color guard members, one bugler, seven members of the firing party, one NCO in charge firing party, and one officer in charge of the entire detail. A flyover may be authorized if the fallen service member was on flying status. This formation is often called the “Missing Man” formation.
The Air Force Honor Guard recognizes the service and sacrifice of fallen Air Force members and veterans in a very solemn and dignified manner. It’s a last tribute and it means a great deal to family and friends.For those that are tasked with this honorable detail, an Air Force Honor Guard ring is a great way to say thank you for their volunteer service. Air Force Rings celebrate all airmen and women.