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Honor guard recognizes those who epitomize excellence

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. -- Senior Airman Shawn Hardee of the 30th Space Communication Squadron stands in as a proffer for the Centurion Award ceremony on Nov. 6. The Centurion Award is presented only to those who have accomplished at least 100 service details for the Vandenberg Honor Guard team. (U.S. Air Force photo / Airman First Class Ashley Reed)

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. -- Senior Airman Shawn Hardee of the 30th Space Communication Squadron stands in as a proffer for the Centurion Award ceremony on Nov. 6. The Centurion Award is presented only to those who have accomplished at least 100 service details for the Vandenberg Honor Guard team. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Ashley Reed)

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. -- Airmen from the Vandenberg Air Force Base Honor Guard  post colors as tradition at the start of the Centurion Award ceremony on Nov. 6. The Centurion Award is presented only to those who have accomplished at least 100 service details for the Vandenberg Honor Guard team. (U.S. Air Force photo / Airman First Class Ashley Reed)

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. -- Airmen from the Vandenberg Honor Guard post colors as tradition at the start of the Centurion Award ceremony on Nov. 6. The Centurion Award is presented only to those who have accomplished at least 100 service details for the Vandenberg Honor Guard team. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Ashley Reed)

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. -- Airmen from the Vandenberg Air Force Base Honor Guard  stand in formation during the Centurion Award ceremony on Nov. 6. The Centurion Award is presented only to those who have accomplished at least 100 service details for the Vandenberg Honor Guard team. (U.S. Air Force photo / Airman First Class Ashley Reed)

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. -- Airmen from the Vandenberg Honor Guard stand in formation during the Centurion Award ceremony on Nov. 6. The Centurion Award is presented only to those who have accomplished at least 100 service details for the Vandenberg Honor Guard team. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman First Class Ashley Reed)

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. -- Col. Michael Fortney, the 30th Space Wing vice-commander, tells the importance of the Honor Guard program and guardsmen at the end of the Centurion Award Ceremony on Nov. 6. The Centurion Award is presented only to those who have accomplished at least 100 service details for the Vandenberg Honor Guard team. (U.S. Air Force photo / Airman First Class Ashley Reed)

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. -- Col. Michael Fortney, the 30th Space Wing vice-commander, tells the importance of the Honor Guard program and guardsmen at the end of the Centurion Award Ceremony on Nov. 6. The Centurion Award is presented only to those who have accomplished at least 100 service details for the Vandenberg Honor Guard team. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Ashley Reed)

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. -- Senior Airman Shawn Hardee of the 30th Space Communications Squardron (left) and Senior Airman Joe Ruiz of the 576th Flight Test Squadron silently stand as proffers for the Centurion Award ceremony on Nov. 6. The Centurion Award is presented only to those who have accomplished at least 100 service details for the Vandenberg Honor Guard team. (U.S. Air Force photo / Airman First Class Ashley Reed)

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. -- Senior Airman Shawn Hardee of the 30th Space Communications Squardron (left) and Senior Airman Joe Ruiz of the 576th Flight Test Squadron silently stand as proffers for the Centurion Award ceremony on Nov. 6. The Centurion Award is presented only to those who have accomplished at least 100 service details for the Vandenberg Honor Guard team. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman First Class Ashley Reed)

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. -- As guests took their seats, Staff Sgt. Najja Williams barked a command, which echoed in the vast, cold space of the Vandenberg Honor Guard training facility.

Honor guardsmen stepped into formation; the heels of their low quarters made the click-clack sound of steel on concrete. They fell into place like gears in a machine, stern and proud at the start of the ceremony to recognize some of their most dedicated team members.

Ten Airmen received recognition on Nov. 6 for performing 100 Honor Guard details. Sponsored by the Vandenberg Chief's Group, the Centurion Award is given only to those who reach a specifically defined and measurable level of service, said retired Chief Master Sgt. Norm Marous, the event emcee.

Staff Sgt. Danny Twyman, who joined Vandenberg's Honor Guard team in May 1999, received the first Centurion Award. As the longest serving Vandenberg honor guardsman, Sergeant Twyman already fulfilled the requirement by 2002; at that time there was no special acknowledgment. While the team gave tokens of appreciation to those who completed 25, 50 and 75 details, people rarely completed 100. Sergeant Twyman and 10 others received recognition with the Centurion Award for their dedication to duty, honor and commitment.

Others who received the award were Sergeant Williams, the leader of the formation, and senior airmen Kevin Joseph, Oscar Magana and Nicole Deaver. One by one, they crisply fell out of formation and received their awards. They also had their names inscribed on a master display, along with the names of four other Airmen no longer at Vandenberg and one who had already received his award.

In a surprise presentation, Chief Marous received the Centurion Award for performing more than 100 details and serving as an honor guardsman for 43 years, said Chief Master Sgt. Darryl Powell, the immediate past president of the Vandenberg Chief's Group.

The retired chief spoke about two factors that influence the future of the honor guard program. In a deep, resonating voice, he talked of cuts to the military budgets, which, in turn, affect the honor guard program. While the numbers of veterans who pass away is increasing, he said, budget cutbacks make it so less people are available to honor them in funerals.

"With the numbers as they are, we need all the help we can get," Chief Marous said.

As the chief spoke, the formation behind him stood steady, but not completely the same. Several Airmen in the formation just recently committed themselves to the team. Hatless and not yet wearing the ceremonial uniform, the new members represented the future of the program. The commitment to Vandenberg's Honor Guard is a year-long contract. All are set to receive achievement medals for their selfless service after they fulfill their contract and complete 30 funeral details.

Between them and the audience sat two funeral caskets used for training. Austere and draped with the American flag, they symbolized the significant duty performed by the Honor Guard.

"Right over there, you can see the importance of what our Honor Guardsmen do," said Col. Michael Fortney, 30th Space Wing vice-commander. "These training aids really hit home about what these people are here for--to honor with dignity."