To honor with dignity

  • Published
  • By Lt. Col. Matthew McGovern
  • 49th Mission Support Group commander
"To honor with dignity" -- What exactly does that mean? What does the Holloman Air Force Base Steel Talons Honor Guard do on a daily basis? The Honor Guard's primary mission is military funerals. But that is far from the limit of what they actually do. 

To sum it up in one word - "REPRESENT!" They represent the President, they represent the United States Air Force, they represent the deceased member at military funerals, they represent Holloman at local parades, banquets and other functions and they represent commanders, retirees and all units here on Holloman at change of command ceremonies, retirements and awards ceremonies. Put simply, they represent with honor and dignity. 

Individual Talons represent their sections, units, base and country at wing level showing unit and base pride at all times. They are truly the sharpest Airmen and NCOs on base. "There is truly no better way to honor those who came before us," said Brig. Gen. David Goldfein, 49th Fighter Wing commander. 

To be a Talon is to be the "best of the best," not only excelling in their primary duty, but also as a Ceremonial Guardsman. It should be understood that every Talon is a volunteer who works in their primary Air Force duties every day. Every squadron and group on base provides members to this team. Virtually every duty section on Holloman is well represented. 

But to these outstanding and dedicated young Americans, the words "above and beyond" barely scratch the surface. 

The Talons average 14 military funerals and 15 to 20 military ceremonies each month. Ceremonies average three to eight hours for each event and are often after-duty hours during the week and during the weekend. It sounds like a lot of hard work and off-duty time for each individual, however, with over 60 Talons assigned to the team, the details are spread out enough to reduce the impact on individual members and duty sections. 

To quote Master Sgt. Paul Sanchez, Steel Talons Honor Guard NCOIC, "Many of the veterans and retirees we serve stood on a line on a beach, in a desert or in a jungle under horrifying conditions. If the least we can do is stand tall and represent them well at their final repose, it is our deepest honor to do so!" 

So with all that work and all those off-duty hours, are there any advantages to serving on the Steel Talons? The incentives are many and continue to grow. Beyond the obvious enlisted performance report bullets and great additions to any Below-the-Zone and awards packages, there is also the opportunity to earn an achievement medal for each year served on the team. Each quarter Honor Guard members have the opportunity to earn incentive flights and Honor Guard quarterly awards. Additionally, Talons receive a full set of ceremonial uniforms to include ribbons and badges they may keep after leaving the team; parking spaces throughout the base and wing-wide recognition. 

However, I personally feel the biggest and most important reward a person can receive is the personal gratification and pride when serving others as a Talon. 

I've personally seen the emotions of the families that have received our national colors from our Talons. What it means to them is indescribable and what it means to the proud Talon is truly immeasurable. If reading any of this put a lump in your throat, stood the hairs up on the back of your neck, or gave you that sense of pride that you haven't felt since basic training, give Sergeant Sanchez a call at 572-2077. He's always on the lookout for the sharpest Team Holloman has to offer. 

Now, if for some reason you're still not sure, all members of Team Holloman have a fantastic opportunity to see in person what the Honor Guard is all about. Holloman was recently selected to be a tour stop for the 2007 United States Air Force Honor Guard Drill Team. 

The U.S. Air Force Honor Guard Drill Team will conduct three performances in our local area March 19. The schedule includes a 9 a.m. performance at Heritage Park, a 1 p.m. performance at Alamogordo High School and a 3 p.m. performance at the Fitness and Sports Center. 

Performances on base are open to all base military and civilian personnel and their families. Believe me, these guys really put on a remarkable show. You can also see some of their previous performances at 

The Steel Talons will host the U.S. Honor Guard Drill Team during their visit and really want to show them the Team Holloman pride. 

Please come out and help "REPRESENT!" Holloman to show the U.S. Air Force Honor Guard members this is the "Friendliest Place on Earth!"