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Robins Honor Guard gives back to communities near, far in many ways

Cradling the Colors

The U.S. flag is cradled by a member of the Robins Air Force Base Honor Guard during the annual Robins Air Force Base Airman Memorial Service, in the Museum of Aviation Century of Flight Hangar May 24, 2018. While its members are often seen rendering military honors at veteran’s funerals or posting colors at various ceremonies, the Honor Guard does far more, with a greater reach than just Middle Georgia.

Honor Guard training

Staff Sgt. Javaris Warthen, Robins Air Force Base Honor Guard flight sergeant/trainer, leads the training on folding the colors with members of the Honor Guard team.

Honor Guard training

Staff Sgt. Javaris Warthen, Robins Air Force Base Honor Guard flight sergeant/trainer, leads firing party practice with members of the team. While its members are often seen rendering military honors at veteran’s funerals or posting colors at various ceremonies, the Honor Guard does far more, with a greater reach than just Middle Georgia.

ROBINS AIR FORCE BASE, Ga. --

Airmen from all walks of Air Force life come together to serve on the Robins Air Force Base Honor Guard.

Robins’ 48-member honor guard is currently comprised of 26 members locally, with the remaining members geographically separated at Dobbins Air Reserve Base, Georgia, and at the Berry Field Air National Guard Base in Nashville, Tennessee.

Its 26 local members consisting of four staff members and 22 flight members, come from the 78th Air Base Wing, the 461st Air Control Wing and the 5th Combat Communications Group, with each flight member serving actively for 180 days before returning to their units and fill an additional 180 days as standby members.

While its members are often seen rendering military honors at veteran’s funerals or posting colors at various ceremonies, the Honor Guard does far more, with a greater reach than just Middle Georgia.

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ROBINS AIR FORCE BASE HONOR GUARD CHARGE:

- Handpicked to serve as a member of the Robins Air Force Base Honor Guard, my standards of conduct and level of professionalism must be above reproach, for I represent all others in my service.

- Others earned the right for me to wear the ceremonial uniform, one that is honored in rich tradition and history. I will honor their memory by wearing it properly and proudly.

- Never will I allow my performance to be dictated by the type of ceremony, severity of the temperature, or size of the crowd. I will remain superbly conditioned to perfect all movements throughout every drill and ceremony.

- Obligated by my oath I am constantly driven to excel by a deep devotion to duty and a strong sense of dedication.

- Representing every member, past and present, of the United States Air Force, I vow to stand sharp, crisp, and motionless, for I am a ceremonial guardsman.

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Master Sgt. Mark Reed, Robins Air Force Base Honor Guard’s program manager in the 78th Force Support Squadron, said the team is responsible for providing military funeral honors to veterans that have passed away within a 70,000 square mile area. 

“Our team is on the road seven days a week ensuring that no request goes unfulfilled,” he said.  “Funeral honors is an entitlement Air Force veterans earned and is congressionally mandated.  We work really hard to make sure we never have to say ‘sorry we can’t make it.’  Last year, our team successfully conducted over 1,600 funeral honors.”

The team serves 164 counties through two-thirds of Georgia, two-thirds of Tennessee and two counties in North Carolina. 

Additionally, the Honor Guard performs color guard details in teams of four at events throughout various communities, the majority of which are retirement ceremonies held at the Museum of Aviation. 

Other ceremonies include promotions, changes of command, graduations, parades, little league baseball/softball opening ceremonies, as well as college, pro and semi-pro sporting events. 

Last year, the honor guard presented colors nearly 300 times.

“While on standby, they’re called upon if the schedule gets busier than the current active members can manage,” Reed said. “Typically, standby members are called to assist when our Guard and Reserve members are working with their primary units on Unit Training Weekends.  This occurs once per month.  On UTA weekends, Robins’ members cover the entire area of responsibility as the Nashville and Marietta teams are unavailable.”

Even with all the hands-on experience, Reed said training is a constant with the group.

“Training occurs constantly,” he said. “Even after serving 180 days, the members will tell you that there is still room for improvement, so they are always working to perfect their craft.”

Beyond the pomp and circumstance of ceremonial duties, the group shows its support for the community as its duties allow.

“We always try to give back to the community to show our appreciation for the support we receive,” Reed said. “We’ve adopted a stretch of roadway on Russell Parkway that we clean up once per quarter.  We host tours of the Honor Guard facility for community leaders, school organizations, Junior ROTC, and the Boy Scouts.  We’ve linked up with the Georgia State Patrol to go over training with their Honor Guard members.”

Reed said the honor guard seizes opportunities to serve in other ways as well when it can.

“During downtime, we send people to assist with Habitat for Humanity, as well as the local soup kitchen,” he said.  “Recently, we visited the John Wesley Retirement Home to visit with residents.  It’s not always easy to get out in the community with our constant schedule, but when the opportunity arises, we jump.”

The master sergeant said his time with the Robins Honor Guard is the best job he’s had.

“Not many jobs put you in a position to deeply impact lives in the manner that the Honor Guard does,” he said.  “We are there at people’s proudest days during graduations, promotions and retirement ceremonies, and we’re also there to honor our veteran’s legacies as we lay them to rest presenting ceremoniously folded flags to grieving family members.

“Our team receives constant feedback for the job that they do in the form of verbal and written thanks, handshakes and even hugs,” Reed said.  “Airmen don’t always get to see how what they do on a daily basis affects the mission.  That is not the case in the Honor Guard.  We don’t do it for the thanks, but to give thanks.  All of the love we receive is an added bonus.