Friendliest Place on Earth welcomes Air Force elite

1st Lt. Joshua Hawkins, Air Force Honor Guard Drill Team officer in charge, walks through the gauntlet of spinning weapons in a sequence showing the trust the team has for every member. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class John Strong)

1st Lt. Joshua Hawkins, Air Force Honor Guard Drill Team officer in charge, walks through the gauntlet of spinning weapons in a sequence showing the trust the team has for every member. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class John Strong)

A member of the Air Force Honor Guard Drill Team talks with Holloman children about being on the team and signs autographs. The Drill Team mission is to recruit, retain and inspire for Air Force Recruiting Service. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class John Strong)

A member of the Air Force Honor Guard Drill Team talks with Holloman children about being on the team and signs autographs. The Drill Team mission is to recruit, retain and inspire for Air Force Recruiting Service. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class John Strong)

The 16 members of the Air Force Honor Guard Drill Team spin the M-1 rifle with fixed bayonet during a performance at the Holloman Fitness and Sports Center football field. The Drill Team mission is to recruit, retain and inspire for Air Force Recruiting Service. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class John Strong)

The 16 members of the Air Force Honor Guard Drill Team spin the M-1 rifle with fixed bayonet during a performance at the Holloman Fitness and Sports Center football field. The Drill Team mission is to recruit, retain and inspire for Air Force Recruiting Service. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class John Strong)

The 16 members of the Air Force Honor Guard Drill Team spin the M-1 rifle with fixed bayonet in a perfect domino effect during a performance at Alamogordo High School. The Drill Team mission is to recruit, retain and inspire for Air Force Recruiting Service. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class John Strong)

The 16 members of the Air Force Honor Guard Drill Team spin the M-1 rifle with fixed bayonet in a perfect domino effect during a performance at Alamogordo High School. The Drill Team mission is to recruit, retain and inspire for Air Force Recruiting Service. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class John Strong)

A member of the Air Force Honor Guard Drill Team spins the M-1 rifle with precision and skill during a performance at Alamogordo High School. The Drill Team mission is to recruit, retain and inspire for Air Force Recruiting Service. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class John Strong)

A member of the Air Force Honor Guard Drill Team spins the M-1 rifle with precision and skill during a performance at Alamogordo High School. The Drill Team mission is to recruit, retain and inspire for Air Force Recruiting Service. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class John Strong)

HOLLOMAN AIR FORCE BASE, N.M. -- The Steel Talons Base Honor Guard and Team Holloman rolled out the red carpet, welcoming the United States Air Force Honor Guard Drill Team to the Friendliest Place on Earth March 16-20. 

The team stopped at Holloman as part of their three-and-a-half week Desert Tour for three performances that demonstrated the precision of today's Air Force. 

The mission of the drill team is to travel the globe to recruit, retain and inspire Airmen, said Master Sgt. Jacob Pullin, U.S. Air Force Honor Guard Drill Team flight chief. The drill team supports Air Force Recruiting Service by being the "Ambassadors in Blue." 

"We get out on behalf of the Air Force," said 1st Lt. Joshua Hawkins, officer in charge of the drill team. "We spread the Air Force message and the Air Force experience." 

During the team's visit to the Friendliest Place on Earth, they had two performances on base and one performance at Alamogordo High School, all of which concluded with standing ovations from the audience. 

The performances featured a choreographed sequence of weapon maneuvers, tosses and exchanges in addition to a walk through a gauntlet of spinning weapons by the drill commander. The drill team provided a four-person performance centered on a stationary drill commander, where the four team members hurled their 11-pound M-1 rifles with fixed bayonets over and around the commander. The four team members doing this sequence are the most experienced on the team. 

The routines the drill team performs are different each year, but all maneuvers are changed or passed down through the generations of members rather than written in a handbook, said Lieutenant Hawkins. 

Of the 35 Airmen that make up the Honor Guard Drill Team, many of them were recruited straight out of Basic Military Training to join the Honor Guard. Training to become an Honor Guardsmen is an eight-week course at Bolling Air Force Base, Washington, D.C., where the Airmen learn drill, discipline and how to wear and keep the Air Force uniform nice and tight from head to toe, said Senior Airman Ruben Chavez, U.S. Air Force Honor Guard Drill Team member. 

The drill team members were each an outstanding performer in the other ceremonial flights that make up the Honor Guard: pallbearers, Colors or firing party, said Sergeant Pullin. Training for new drill team members is a four to six week course in the fundamentals of precision drill, followed by a final evaluation. Once members have passed the initial training, it takes about a year of additional training for the Airmen to become a part of the performance routine. 

The drill team travels for about 150 days out of the year to many places around the world and have two to three performances a day. But, when they are not traveling, the team is at home at Bolling AFB practicing and tightening the routine for upcoming performances.
"The Airmen PT from 6:45 to 9 a.m. and then have eight to 10 hours of individual movement and team training," said Sergeant Pullin. 

The drill team's visit culminated after a long day of performances with a mixer at the Oasis Enlisted Club that brought base leadership and Team Holloman members together with the Steel Talons and the drill team to show Holloman's appreciation for the visit and performances. 

"Holloman was extremely hospitable," said Lieutenant Hawkins. "From the moment we contacted Holloman they were super supportive. They really rolled out the red carpet for us." 

Sergeant Pullin was impressed by how organized Holloman is and the strong backing the Steel Talons Honor Guard receives from base leadership. 

"It was truly an Honor to have the U.S. Air Force Honor Guard Drill Team here," said Master Sgt. Paul Sanchez, Steel Talons Base Honor Guard NCOIC. "They are truly the epitome of military drill and professionalism. They inspired our own Steel Talons and absolutely thrilled the children from the base schools and the high school downtown. They are what we should all strive to emulate." 

Team Holloman welcomed the U.S. Air Force Honor Guard Drill Team and showed them why the Holloman and Alamogordo community is the Friendliest Place on Earth.