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NEWS | Aug. 15, 2013

Two local honor guards consolidate, form one unit

By Robert Goetz Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph Public Affairs

Joint Base San Antonio is undergoing a transformation that is affecting units at all four locations, but two of those units are well on their way to integration.

Honor guard members from JBSA-Lackland and JBSA-Randolph now constitute a combined 32-member honor guard, which performed its first consolidated detail last week at a funeral for an active-duty member at the Central Texas State Veterans Cemetery in Killeen, Texas.

"We're operating as one team, but at different locations," Master Sgt. Nidia Hodge, Randolph Honor Guard superintendent, said.

Although the honor guard is now one unit, the spirit of the JBSA transformation resided in both entities even when they were separate units.

"We've been working together for some time," Hodge said. The effects are minimal according to Hodge.

In the past, the Randolph Honor Guard's area of responsibility covered 44 counties and 41,000 square miles stretching from outside Bexar County east to Houston and south to the Rio Grande Valley, while the Lackland Honor Guard's AOR encompassed 25 counties in a 25,000-square-mile area from Bexar County north to Central Texas.

However, both honor guards often requested support for assignments in their own AORs, according to Hodge.

As a result of transformation, the consolidated honor guard is now officially rendering military honors at funerals and special events throughout the combined area of 69 counties and 66,000 square miles.

A 20-person team completed the detail last week in Killeen, leaving 12 members to attend to other events, Hodge said.

"That allowed us coverage for six additional details," she said.

Hodge said active-duty funerals require the presence of a full honor guard consisting of the color guard, which displays and guards the U.S. flag, Air Force flag and flags representing the offices of visiting dignitaries and other nations; body bearers who escort and carry flag-draped remains to burial sites and fold the flag for presentation to a family member; and the firing party, seven-man teams that fire three volleys in unison.

The new composition of the honor guard will not typically affect everyday activities, Hodge said. Lackland and Randolph members will usually stay at their respective locations to practice and perform daily duties.

However, members may have to travel to another location for 10-day training sessions, she said. Training sessions require a minimum of six participants at one location, so if that quota cannot be met, those members will travel to the other location.

"If there is a training session at each location, trainers will make sure the sessions are conducted in the same manner," she said. "They will all be done the same way."

Starting Oct. 1, honor guard members will have a 90-day commitment, followed by 90 days on standby, before returning to their units, Hodge said.

She said the honor guard will experience "growing pains" at the outset, mainly because of the distance between the locations, but the eventual goal is to work from one location.