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Honor guard service opens Airman's eyes

By Steve Warns | Air Force Installation and Mission Support Center Public Affairs | March 10, 2020

JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-LACKLAND, Texas —

Airman 1st Class Gage Schneck said serving in the Joint Base San Antonio Honor Guard has been the most rewarding and challenging job of his career so far.

Schneck, an administrative assistant for the commander's support staff at the Air Force Installation and Mission Support Center at JBSA-Lackland, served as a ceremonial guardsman from July 1, 2019, to Jan. 15, 2020. 

"The honor guard was a great experience, but you really have to take care of yourself because it's a hard job mentally," said Schneck, 19, a native of Paradise, Texas. "You really have to learn to balance the four pillars of Comprehensive Airman Fitness, and that’s something I brought back with me.”

The JBSA Honor Guard, part of the 502nd Air Base Wing, supports a 65,000-square-mile region and 69 counties throughout South Texas. It provides military funeral honors for active duty members, retirees and veterans who have served honorably in the Army Air Corps, Army Air Forces or the Air Force. It also provides colors support for promotions, retirements, changes of command and other basic/civic activities. 

Schneck joined the CSS office after technical training. AFIMSC needed to backfill an honor guard position, and Schneck’s work ethic made him the best candidate for the job, said Tech. Sgt. Brandi Grove, AFIMSC CSS NCO in charge.

"He hit the ground running when he arrived in CSS," Grove said. "And from what I hear, he did a remarkable job with the honor guard."

Serving in the honor guard opens young Airmen's eyes to the larger Air Force picture, Grove said, and Schneck has been one of three Airmen in the CSS office to serve with the honor guard.

"It's easier to have a new Airman volunteer for the honor guard than it is to pull a seasoned staff member out of their position," Grove said. "As an admin troop, we never really feel like we are part of the bigger picture, the good fight. I believe serving with the honor guard makes them respect the military so much more."

Schneck's performance review showed he exemplified service before self. During his six-month stint, Schneck worked weekend and holiday details while completing 90 military funerals and piloting 13 pallbearer teams, among his other honor guard duties. He also served on the color guard, presenting the colors during retirements or general officer promotions.

Schneck leaned on his wife, his family and his faith for support during trying times. He also turned to exercise to keep his mind occupied, he said.

The most memorable part of serving with the honor guard, Schneck said, was presenting the American flag to the next of kin during his first military funeral.

"It was emotional, and it was the first time I was really glad to be in the JBSA Honor Guard," Schneck said. "Reality sets in, and you realize what you're doing is not just your job, but you're doing a service to the family member who just lost somebody. You realize how much it impacts them."

Schneck, recently selected to represent AFIMSC at the next level of competition for the Alamo Chapter Air Force Association awards recognizing outstanding contributions by Air Force and civil service members throughout the JBSA area, said serving in the honor guard gave him a new perspective.

"It taught me to hold my loved ones close, be proud to serve in the military and not take anything for granted," said Schneck, who aspires to be an Air Force pilot. "It definitely matured me as a man and Airman. It's more meaningful to me now.”