Preserving legacy with change: Attack Wing's Honor Guard youth, enthusiasm breathes new life into time-honored tradition

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Andria Allmond
  • 111th Attack Wing Public Affairs
The 111th Attack Wing's rejuvenated honor guard conducted its initial run-through Jan. 9, at the base basketball court here.

And being green might play an important role in exemplifying blue of the Pennsylvania Air National Guard.

"I think [younger members] bring a fresh role to honor guard," said Airman 1st Class Phillip Justus, a 111th ATKW Communications Flight network administrator and new base honor guard member. "We can inspire younger people when we're in the public spotlight...we're representing military youth at events."

The Pa. ANG installation has been undergoing sweeping changes, from airframe withdrawal to mission restructuring, over the past few years and the honor guard has followed suit. While still steeped in tradition, these modernizations serve to ensure the Wing remains relevant in today's military and distinguishes its members as critical players in many realms of military involvement--combat, humanitarian and symbolic.

"So, we're standing up new missions, like the [remotely-piloted aircraft] mission, and reinventing the honor guard, but we also have a very rich heritage that I think we have a responsibility to honor," said 1st Lt. Gordon Beecroft, the 111th Operations Support Squadron chief of intelligence operations and the honor guard's officer in charge.

"From the honor guard's perspective, the men and women who have served over the last 90-plus years here still need to be respected, whether it's veterans that retired in the past 10 years or veterans that retired 30 years ago."

Beecroft continues by saying that the honor guard here wants to regard that legacy, while at the same time, have the opportunity to shape their own future. That future lay upon the shoulders of less-experienced Guardsmen being trained by veteran members.

"The younger members bring enthusiasm and passion right out of the gate," said Beecroft. "We see that they have a desire to execute those maneuvers and it brings youthfulness and energy to the group."

So, just like the fledgling RPA mission of the 111th ATKW is slated to take off, so is that of the revamped 111th ATKW Honor Guard.

During the opening exercise, the currently 17-member team assembled to learn basic movements under the watchful eye of Senior Master Sgt. John Heidrick, the 111th ATKW vehicle maintenance manager and 111th ATKW Honor Guard NCO in charge.

Heidrick has been an honor guard member for 17 years, serving as NCOIC for 11 years. Like Beecroft, he sees the future of the 111th ATKW Honor Guard in the new faces that appeared at that first training.

Heidrick said that the idea of being part of something bigger then oneself, as well as the gratification obtained from being part of the prestigious honor guard, is what attracts younger members. He also pointed out that the new members help to refine the skills of more seasoned members.

"They're brand new--they know nothing," he said. "Everyone who's been on the honor guard before has had to reach back to the basics to start from ground zero again and build up.

"Now that we have a lot of new members in, we're all training the same. And when you train the same, you perform the same - the flow is there. These younger members are our fresh start."