LAUGHLIN AIR FORCE BASE, Texas --
The Laughlin Air Force Base Honor Guard is a team of specially selected and trained Airmen representing the United States Air Force at ceremonial events. They perform various duties, including marching in parades, presenting the colors at events such as change of command ceremonies, and providing funeral honors for fallen Airmen. The Honor Guard is considered the face of the Air Force, and their mission is to showcase the pride, precision, and professionalism of the United States Air Force. Their role demonstrates military customs and courtesies that are essential to military life.
Walking into the first-term Airman course, Airman 1st Class Erik Palaca, 47th Operation Support Squadron aerospace operational physiology specialist, took a seat among his fellow Airmen. The week-long class aims to introduce Airmen fresh out of training to base services and opportunities. The final PowerPoint of the day appeared on the screen, "Laughlin Air Force Base Honor Guard." The final instructor walked in and introduced himself as a member of the base honor guard. He was impeccably dressed in his blue uniform; the brass buttons and ebony black shoes gleamed in the fluorescent light of the classroom. He began the class by speaking on the importance of the honor guard and the role they play in representing the Air Force at ceremonies and events. He then played a video of the honor guard in action, performing a rifle drill and a flag-folding demonstration. The clear and crisp demonstration piqued Palaca's interest to try and join the ranks of these selected few.
Today, Palaca is one of the most experienced members of the team. Having seen his fair share of new members, he notes important characteristics of ceremonial Guardsmen.
"Patience is definitely a characteristic one would need," said Palaca. "Learning all the movements, waiting for the detail to start, or having the mental fortitude to carry out our mission is vital."
The Laughlin Air Force Base Honor Guard is a proud and respected component of Team XL, responsible for representing the Air Force both locally and abroad. Staff Sgt. Christian Ramos, 47th Force Support Squadron Base Honor Guard program manager, leads the program with seven ceremonial Guardsmen.
"Essentially, we have the important task of representing our base and our nation professionally and respectfully," said Ramos. "We are responsible for performing ceremonies such as color guards, rifle details, and flag folding at base events, retirement ceremonies, and funerals. We take great pride in our role, knowing that we are paying tribute to the service and sacrifice of those who have served before us and those who continue to serve today."
To become a member, Airmen must undergo a week-long training course. The course introduces them to meticulous and precise instruction in drill and ceremony, marching, rifle manual, and other necessary skills to execute their duties. After earning the right to wear the ceremonial uniform, members attend regular practices. This ensures they can perform their duties with pinpoint accuracy and perfection, no matter the kind of ceremony or event they participate in.
"We ensure our honor guard team is always representing the Air Force through these practices," said Ramos. "We push one another for perfection, we aim to look perfect, and most of all, we aim to represent every member, past and present, of the United States Air Force. It's not just something we do, but it's something we love to do."
To interested participants, Ramos offers his insights.
"This is a great program,” Ramos said. “Honor Guard helps many Airmen by acting as a stepping stone in their careers and improving their standards of professionalism. Our members find themselves doing more than what they thought they could do and facing things they thought they couldn't face."
The Laughlin Honor Guard team is comprised of Airmen with strengths, weaknesses, fears, and struggles. But when it comes to performing their duties, they work together as a cohesive unit, supporting each other and facing challenges together. The team operates on a deep sense of camaraderie and works together to achieve its mission.
"I feel that the team, no matter who joins, accepts anyone who joins very quickly," said Palaca. "Even though we all joke around, everyone understands what is needed and when to be serious. We're all different ranks, but we come together to improve one another. Everyone puts their best in, and we have a great performance in the end."
Being a part of Laughlin’s Honor Guard is a challenging but rewarding experience that requires dedication, hard work, and attention to detail. It is a unique opportunity for Airmen to serve their country meaningfully and develop valuable skills that will serve them well throughout their careers.