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Oregon Airmen train for base honor guard duty

Oregon Air National Guardsmen practice folding a flag during 4 days of Honor Guard training at the Portland Air Naional Guard Base on February 24th, 2010.  (U.S. Air Force photograph by SSgt John Hughel, 142nd Fighter Wing Public Affairs)

Oregon Air National Guardsmen practice folding a flag during 4 days of Honor Guard training at the Portland Air Naional Guard Base on February 24th, 2010. (U.S. Air Force photograph by SSgt John Hughel, 142nd Fighter Wing Public Affairs)

Portland Air National Guard Base, Portland, Ore. -- Holding a folded American flag at eye level, an Oregon Airman pauses for a moment as he slowly inspects the colors.

Staff Sgt. Justin Meininger is one of 12 airmen of the 142nd Fighter Wing taking part in Air Force honor guard training here at the Portland Air National Guard Base.

With a need for more honor guard members in the Air National Guard, two instructors from the McChord Air Force Base Honor Guard team in Washington State spent four days training the Airmen.

The team covered everything from basic foot movements to the precise elements of the overall ceremony.  The important thing is for Honor Guard members to avoid anticipating commands, said Tech. Sgt. Bonnie Longie, of the 62nd Force Support Squadron at McChord Air Force Base.

"The biggest challenge is reprogramming our teams to be ceremonial guardsmen with elements like facing movements at a 45-degree stance learned in basic training are now taught to a closed foot stance," said Longie.

Working as a team, each member needs to move on the command so that the overall effect is exact and sharp, she said.  Longie also worked with the Montana Air National Guard during her 17 years in the active Air Force.

Helping Longie was Staff Sgt. Aaron Stamm, also of McChord AFB.  He quietly pointed out simple details such as hand positions and head movements, which enhance the polished look of the honor guard detail.

"When you bring up the salute, hold it for three seconds and then bring it down for the same count," Stamm told the group.

The reason for this type of training comes out of the increase in requests for honor guard ceremonies.  Training teams such as Longie's help fill the need to incorporate National Guard and Reservists into the honor guard pool, in order to handle the increasing demands being placed on their active duty counterparts.

"Honors are due to increase and peak in the next few years as we are losing are World War II and Korean War era veterans," said Longie.

The training at the Portland Air National Guard Base was equivalent to over 30 hours of actual training.

Many of the members of the base honor guard have participated in ceremonies both on and off base, but have not had the type of focus and attention to detail that the McChord trainers provided, said Master Sgt. Linda Baugher, superintendent for Sustainment Services Flight of the Force Support Squadron.

Senior Master Sgt. Tim Lear, the 142nd Fighter Wing Headquarters First Sergeant said the training is important to bring an honors team together as one. Coming together for several days is unique for traditional guardsmen who normally only spend one or two hours a month training in honor ceremonies, he added.

"This training has been great and the repetition only reinforces what we already do", said Lear.
Longie said sending members off properly to their final resting place with dignity, honor and grace is the goal of every honor guard member.

"It means so much to the members of the family that their nation is saying good-bye to their loved ones with precision and passion," she said.