The Air Force welcomed its newest members to its Honor Guard in a graduation ceremony held at Joint Base Anacostia-Bolling (JBAB).
Thirteen Airmen received their certificates and coins from Air Force Lt. Col. Timothy Thurston and Air Force Chief Master Sgt. Meshelle Dyer.
Speaking before a crowd of military families and friends, Thurston, who is the honor guard commander, said the Airmen of Class 2014-C endured a long and hard journey on their way to graduation day.
He said most of the students came to the eight-week honor guard technical training program immediately after completing eight and a half weeks of basic training. He applauded their endurance and commitment and welcomed them to “the brotherhood of the United States Air Force Honor Guard.”
Airman 1st Class Shawn Skeete-Foster, a Spanaway, Wash.-native, was excited to have made it to graduation.
“I feel great about graduating. I went through two [honor guard technical training] classes because, I guess I wasn’t perfect,” he said. “This is really a boost to my morale and my confidence.”
Skeete-Foster, who had been selected for the honor guard right after basic training, said the discipline and demands of the course is comparatively tougher than what he had experienced in basic.
“I wish basic was more like this. This [training] involves more physical fitness, more attention-to-detail, more of a sense of urgency in everything you do,” he said.
Airman 1st Class Oleg Lysenko, a native of Bartlett, Ill., had a similar view of the training he received over the past several weeks.
“It was harder than basic, I think. It had more discipline and everything had to be near perfect. There was no room for error and everything was held to a higher standard,” he said.
Lysenko said the physical fitness seemed to be a never-ending training event.
“It was constant physical training. It felt like basic was easier than this,” he said.
Fourteen days into the course, the students ran an eight-mile course that involved running past several historic landmarks in Washington, D.C., according to Skeete-Foster.
“We have a monument run in the second week. We run from the Pentagon parking lot across the Arlington Memorial Bridge to the Lincoln Memorial and then to the Washington Monument. After we reach the monument, we turn around and run back to the Pentagon parking lot along the same route,” he said.
At the graduation ceremony, four Airmen of Class 2014-C were recognized for their exemplary performance.
Airman 1st Class Damon Nin, a native of Clearwater, Fla., and Lysenko both received the Top Gun award for the highest drill evaluation scores. Airman Nicholas Ballesteros, a native of Kalispell, Mont. received the Honor Graduate Award for being the overall best honor guardsmen, and Airman 1st Class Korban Bradshaw, a native of New Milford, Conn. received the Physical Fitness Excellence award for consistently attaining high scores in all of his physical fitness evaluations.
“I was really excited about winning the best drill award,” Nin said.
The drill evaluations, according to Nin, were based on the precision and crispness of the movements through a combination of stationary and basic drill movements using the M-14 rifle.
According to Thurston, the mission of the honor guard is to represent Airmen to the American public and to the world. The training conducted during the course ensures a legacy of Airmen will continue to promote the mission, protect the standards, perfect the image and promote the heritage of the honor guard, he said.
The ceremony was held on the 70th anniversary of Operation Overlord also known as D-Day, the largest amphibious military operation in history, Thurston pointed out. He said June 6, 1944 is an important day in history recognized to remember the cost of freedom and to remember the sacrifices that are necessary to preserve the American way of life.
The ceremony’s guest speaker, Air Force Brig. Gen. James E. McClain, commander of the Air Force Medical Support Agency applauded the graduates and encouraged the Airmen to find meaningful purpose in all they do. He said purpose will provide the Airmen with the push they need to press on when faced with the challenges of life.