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Air Force Honor Guard instills value and hones skill of base guardsmen

Tech. Sgt. James Balajadia, 27th Special Operations Wing base Honor Guard noncommissioned officer in charge, renders a salute while participating in a mock funeral at Cannon Air Force Base, N.M., April 17, 2019. To showcase everything they had learned, the Cannon AFB Honor Guard team performed an active duty funeral in front of base personnel. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Lane Plummer)

Base Honor Guardsmen, 27th Special Operations Wing, present arms at Cannon Air Force Base, N.M., April 10, 2019. After firing blanks for a fallen Airman, the firing party team presents arms while Taps is played. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Gage Daniel)

Base Honor Guardsmen, 27th Special Operations Wing, pulls a casket off a mock-up casket stand at Cannon Air Force Base, N.M., April 10, 2019. During a funeral, one person (predetermined and always the same position) must step forward and begin to pull the casket out for the rest of the team to hold on to. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Gage Daniel)

Base Honor Guardsmen, 27th Special Operations Wing, hold a flag together at Cannon Air Force Base, N.M., April 10, 2019. During a six man flag-fold, the Airmen handling the flag must carefully handle, fold, dress and pass off the flag to ensure a sharp ceremony and crisp flag. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Gage Daniel)

Airman 1st Class Daniela Bejarano, Air Force Honor Guard, corrects an Airman's stance at Cannon Air Force Base, N.M., April 10, 2019. The Air Force Honor Guard visited Cannon AFB from April 8 through April 17 to help train and hone their skills. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Gage Daniel)

CANNON AIR FORCE BASE, N.M -- Recently, the Cannon Air Force Base Honor Guard had the opportunity to train with the Air Force Honor Guard to perfect their movements and knowledge of their duties.

“It was a complete turnaround of our team,” said Tech. Sgt. James Balajadia, 27th Special Operations Wing base Honor Guard noncommissioned officer in charge. “We’ve made drastic improvement in just two weeks of training. Our standards have increased, a new bar has been set and a new foundation has been instilled within us.”

The Air Force team began their training by breaking everything down into the fundamentals of Honor Guard movement. This included facing movements and precise positions of hands on rifles, flags and even the position of attention.

“They taught us by showing us the correct way to do the things we had misinterpreted from our instructional binder,” said Airman 1st Class Andrew Terry, a base Honor Guardsman. “They watched our every move and critiqued us accordingly to ensure we were performing at their standard.”

Overall, the experience helped the base Honor Guardsmen come together to conquer a new challenge that, in the end, made them an even more professional team than they were before. They plan to use what they learned to continue growing as Airmen and Guardsmen, remaining sharp, crisp and motionless.

“We are going to completely restructure how we train our future Airmen to match what we have learned from the Air Force Honor Guard,” Balajadia said. “But we didn’t just learn drill movements; they taught us the mindset of a guardsman.”

These guardsmen are taught being exceptional means having exceptional bearing and accepting the responsibility of being in a duty that requires a high level of attention to detail and no room for error.

“We are going to carry the mindset they taught us,” Balajadia said. “Though we have seen it ourselves through funerals, colors and other details, they shared their experiences, related to us, and made it all mesh and come together. They showed us the bigger picture and gave us a deeper connection and bigger sense of pride in what we do.”

However, being in the Honor Guard is more than just perfecting every movement, every flick of the wrist with a rifle in hand, it’s about making a lasting impression. For some, the Honor Guard is the last memory of the military they have.

“In the Honor Guard, I’ve found more meaning to being a part of the Air Force,” Terry said. “I’m at ceremonies presenting colors for the national anthem, I’m there when they publish the orders for a retirement and I’m there handing off the flag to the next of kin when a service member who once paved the way for me passes away. I get to physically be a part of people’s lives, careers and lasting memories.”

Every member of the Honor Guard wears a nameless uniform, making them indistinguishable from one another, all working as one unit and one team to create and shape a lasting memory for anyone who encounters them.

“We are all the same in uniform and all you know is we are the Honor Guard,” Balajadia said. “The impact we leave is an intangible satisfaction of giving ourselves to others. Rain or shine, we are guardsmen.”