Mission time. With weapons ready and game faces on, a group of Airmen took stepped out of the shadows to employ their skills in service of their country.
As they occupied their area of responsibility on the field at Sun Life Stadium Nov. 11, 2012, members of the U.S. Air Force Honor Guard Drill Team represented the excellence achieved by all Airmen who carry out the Air Force mission around the world as part of the Miami Dolphins "Salute to Service" halftime show.
"We join the NFL and Dolphin fans in saluting all our branches of military and veterans everywhere who have sacrificed so much to protect this great country," said Dolphins CEO Mike Dee.
The Airmen executed several drills in which they spun, tossed and caught their bayonet-tipped M-1 rifles, to include the "Walk Through," where the flight chief walks through a column of twirling weapons, and the "Matrix Meat Grinder," where the entire 16-man team completes a series of rifle spins, throws and catches in extremely close proximity to each other.
As they froze in unison at the end of their performance, the audience rose to their feet, offering shouts and claps of admiration that echoed throughout the stadium.
"It was an absolute honor for our team to perform as a tribute to our nation's veterans," said Master Sgt. Whitfield Jack, Drill Team flight chief. "These Airmen are by far the sharpest I have served with in my career, and I am proud of the way they showcased their matchless skills in front of nearly 40,000 fans."
That sharpness comes at a price, as each Drill Team member trains tirelessly to reach the level of excellence with which they perform.
For Airman 1st Class Korey McConnell, the intense PT sessions, long hours of grueling drills and countless scratches, bruises and sore muscles paid off as he completed his first drill performance.
"There were plenty of times during training when I was almost ready to quit," said the 22-year-old Las Vegas native. "To be able to honor veterans past and present in front of a crowd of that size for my first performance just shows how those trying times were well worth it."
This resilient, "never-fail" attitude resounds through every Drill Team member as they seek to fulfill their mission to recruit, retain and inspire Airmen around the world.
"Our vision is to honor the legacy of excellence each Airman brings to the fight," said Jack. "Each precision movement we make during a drill is a tribute those who have served our great nation."