For many peopleeven some in the militarythe work they do is just a job. For the members of the NAS Patuxent River Color Guard, the time they spend honoring their country, fellow Shipmates and flag is devoted to some of the most meaningful work they can do. Fourteen volunteers from tenant commands across the installation share the duty and honor of participating in Color Guard. The group practices each Tuesday afternoon at the Drill Hall, and provides its services at ceremonies, funerals, parades and other events aboard NAS Patuxent River and throughout Southern Maryland.
Color Guard coordinator Electronics Technician Petty Officer 1st Class Frank C. Wilson admits that he first became a part of Color Guard, "for selfish reasons. I was aboard the USS Dallas, and we did it to go to NASCAR races," Wilson said. "I enjoy the drill part of itthe pomp and circumstance."
Wilson recruits fellow Sailors to participate in Color Guard, and schedules the events at which they will appear. He has led the NAS Patuxent River Color Guard since July 2009. Generally, he asks for two weeks' notice before an event, so that he can plan for each volunteer to find a comfortable spot in the rotation, "although for funerals, obviously, we don't get that," Wilson said. Summer weather brings with it a heavier schedule, with the team averaging two performances per week between April and October.
Aviation Electrician's Mate Petty Officer 2nd Class Timothy Goolsby provides instruction for new volunteers and helps everyone polish their performance at the weekly practices. His main concern is that volunteers join the team for "the right reasons. It's more than just a bullet on their eval, time off work or a way to slack off," Goolsby said. "It's about pride in youself, pride in the Navy, pride in showing an example of what the Navy is and about how much they care about their community."
The rewards, Goolsby said, are powerful.
"When I do a parade I see a lot of times when a Vietnam veteran in a wheelchairhe looks like his leg is gonna break, but he still stands up. That keeps me coming back," Goolsby said. "The Navy is an extremely tradition-rich branch. That's one of the reasons I wanted to join. We still hold a lot of those traditions, 200-plus years later. When the national anthem is being sung--I've been doing this for years, and I still get goosebumps."
The ceremony follows a standardized and recognizable format, which Goolsby says is easy to learn, although funerals do present individual challenges.
"Every cemetery, every funeral home is different. You have to come up with a game plan each time," Goolsby said. "You're in the Navy? You know how to march. You can sharpen that over time, but it's not hard to get it."
Though the basic routine is something any Sailor can learn quickly, experienced volunteers are always welcome. Aviation Electrician's Mate Airman Crystal A. Ybarra qualifies. At her last duty station, NAS Jacksonville, Fla., Ybarra was voted Student Drill Master for all three Naval Aviation Technical Training Center performing units: the Flying Rifle Drill Team, Cracker Jack Marching Unit, and Naval Aviation Vocal Team. Those performing units were, Ybarra said, "a mass demonstration of military might and military pride." Here at Pax River, "the hope is that we create a small but mighty team. We're always looking for experienced volunteers. It's not a requirement, but a benefit."
Pax River's Color Guard volunteers their time to make ceremonies memorable on and off the installation. Want to volunteer? Contact Electronics Technician Petty Officer 1st Class Frank C. Wilson at frank.c.wilsonnavy.mil or 301-342-3881.