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Honor Guard recruits airmen

WASHINGTON -- President George W. Bush and Mwai Kibaki, Kenya's head of state, pass in front of the Air Force Honor Guard during an arrival ceremony on the south lawn of the White House recently.  (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Stacey R. Thomas)

WASHINGTON -- President George W. Bush and Mwai Kibaki, Kenya's head of state, pass in front of the Air Force Honor Guard during an arrival ceremony on the south lawn of the White House recently. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Stacey R. Thomas)

BOLLING AIR FORCE BASE, D.C. (AFPN) -- Air Force Honor Guard officials are always looking for motivated and dedicated airmen and noncommissioned officers for what they call the world's best job.

Located here, the 250-person unit seeks airmen E-4 through E-7 for their experience, said Chief Master Sgt. Michael Buckley, the Air Force Honor Guard’s chief enlisted manager.

“We value the wisdom and experience airmen … will bring to our unit,” said Buckley. “Right now, (about) 70 percent of the airmen here have volunteered to come while in basic training.”

According to Buckley, the unique mission of the unit is what draws people.

“Rendering military honors for Air Force personnel and their family members during funeral services at Arlington National Cemetery (Va.) is our primary mission,” he said.

Additionally, the Air Force Honor Guard represents every man and woman in the Air Force, past and present, in ceremonial functions in the nation’s capital, including arrival and departure ceremonies for both national and foreign visiting dignitaries here, the Pentagon, the White House and nearby Andrews Air Force Base, Md. Honor Guard members also participate in wreath-laying ceremonies at the Tomb of the Unknowns in Arlington National Cemetery and at change-of-command and retirement ceremonies.

But beneath the glamour, pride and prestige are a few sobering points, said Buckley.

“The Air Force Honor Guard is not for everyone,” he said. “It takes a person with a lot of heart, lots of desire and commitment. This job can be challenging. There are some days you come to work at 5 a.m. and don’t leave until 7 p.m. There are some winter days you are participating in funerals in 20-below-zero temperatures and summer days when the heat index is 112 degrees and you are standing for two hours. We get rained on. We get snowed on. We get sunburned. It takes a lot to stand out there, motionless, by choice.

“It’s not for the faint-of-heart, but it is for the men and women who want to know the feeling of walking away from a funeral with a feeling of pride,” Buckley said. “Knowing that the person you’ve just laid to rest gave their life for their country -- whether they served honorably, died in the line of duty or were related to someone who served honorably -- and you have the distinct honor of burying them under the cloth of honor. If you can do that, this job is for you.”

For more information about the Air Force Honor Guard, call (202) 404-6265 or DSN 754-6265 or visit the Honor Guard Web site at www.bolling.af.mil/orgs/OG/HG/index_HG.htm.

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