Steel Talons double with honor

The new Steel Talons show off their skills in armed drill during the graduation ceremony Jan. 16. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Jason Colbert)

The new Steel Talons show off their skills in armed drill during the graduation ceremony Jan. 16. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Jason Colbert)

Two of the newest Steel Talons fold the United States flag showing the audience what they would be doing in a real funeral. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Jason Colbert)

Two of the newest Steel Talons fold the United States flag showing the audience what they would be doing in a real funeral. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Jason Colbert)

Seven new Steel Talons perform the firing party sequence used when firing the volleys of a 21 gun salute. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Jason Colbert)

Seven new Steel Talons perform the firing party sequence used when firing the volleys of a 21 gun salute. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Jason Colbert)

HOLLOMAN AIR FORCE BASE, N.M. -- The Holloman Steel Talons Honor Guard team graduated 24 new Talons Jan. 16, more than doubling the size of the team.

About 200 people came to the ceremony to support the Airmen who volunteered to put everything on hold to give honors to those who have served the United States.

The primary purpose of a base honor guard team is to perform military funerals for Airmen who have come before us.

"As one of the newest members, I now know what it takes to become a Steel Talon," said Senior Airman Norman Luper, 49th Civil Engineer Squadron and Steel Talon. "It takes more time and effort than what meets the eye."

What many people do not know about the Steel Talons is the guardsmen volunteer for the honor while still working at their duty stations when not performing honors in funerals or ceremonies.

"By doubling the availability of the Talons, it is guaranteed we will be able to support virtually any detail, funeral or otherwise," said Master Sgt. Paul Sanchez, NCOIC of the Steel Talons Honor Guard. "It will also significantly reduce the workload on the individual guardsmen and their work centers."

This graduating class was one of the biggest Holloman has seen, said Sergeant Sanchez. Generally, a class will have between four and eight new Talons.

"The bigger class made it harder on the trainers," said Sergeant Sanchez.

Usually there are two trainers for one class, one trainer will train for two days and the other trainer will train the other two days. However, for the recent class, four trainers took on two classes, two trainers in a morning class and two trainers in an afternoon class, for all four days.

To become a Steel Talon, guardsmen must go through a four-day training course where they learn the basics in unarmed drill, armed drill, flag folding and the firing sequence.

"Part of the training you go home with sore muscles from practicing all the rifle drills to perfection," said Airman Luper.

Guardsmen must also memorize the Honor Guard creed, which explains in detail what it is to be a guardsman.

All training culminates in a graduation ceremony where the new Talons display their skills in front of commanders, chiefs, first sergeants, supervisors, friends and family.

"The graduation is when the sore muscles become well worth the hurt because you become part of an honored tradition and are proud of it," said Airman Luper.

Steel Talons not only get the honor of performing at a funeral for someone who has fought for the United States' freedom, they also get awarded medals, have reserved parking around base and earn incentive flights in a T-38.

"While there are great incentives to being a Talon, I do not want anyone to join the team for those reasons," said Sergeant Sanchez. "A person should join the honor guard to represent and honor the U.S. Air Force and those men and women who came before us, giving us the right to wear the uniform and be free."

Sergeant Sanchez believes being a part of the Honor Guard is a passion more than a job.

"I've got the best job on the base," he said. "I get to honor our deceased veterans and retirees who gave us the opportunity to do what we're doing. I get to ensure drill and ceremony is done properly. But best of all, everyday I get to work with nothing but extremely bright, sharp, professional Airmen and NCOs, the Steel Talons."

The next Honor Guard training class will be in April.

For an application, call Sergeant Sanchez at 572-2077 or send a request e-mail to Honor.Guard@holloman.af.mil.