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By Sergeant. 1st Class Erick Studenicka
Joint Force Headquarters

RENO – Mission: Impossible.

The title of the 1960s black ops TV series and the Tom Cruise franchise of action-spy movies could also succinctly describe the seemingly impossible task that a small number of Honor Guard soldiers perform. the Nevada Army are facing this year. With just six full-time soldiers (and one full-time civilian administrator), the honor guard expects to support 1,150 missions in 2022.

As unlikely as the upcoming total seems, it’s entirely conceivable after the team backed a record 1,013 missions last year. This total surpassed the 2019 record of 911 missions and represented a 27.5% increase over the 2020 tally of 729 missions.

Most Honor Guard missions involve military funeral honors for deceased serving military personnel or military veterans. The vast majority of Team Nevada missions involve U.S. Army veterans. By law, all military veterans discharged from duty in any status other than dishonorable are eligible to receive basic military funeral honors; a basic detail of military funeral honors includes two servicemen (one of whom must be a member of the deceased’s armed forces parent service) playing “Taps”, folding the American flag, and presenting the flag to the next of kin of the deceased.

Full military honors are reserved for certain ranks, those killed by their wounds in action, and Medal of Honor recipients. Full military honors require 7-9 personnel to act as pallbearers, fire a rifle volley salute, and perform required basic military honor duties.

With few active duty bases or soldiers in Nevada, the Department of Defense allocates the Nevada Army Guard an annual budget – arguably minimal – to support mandatory military funeral honors for veterans of the State. According to the US Department of Veterans Affairs, more than 200,000 veterans currently reside in Nevada.
The tight budget combined with Nevada’s aging veteran population has resulted in a remarkable schedule for Honor Guard Soldiers in 2021. The four Southern Nevada Honor Guard Soldiers have supported the impressive number of 765 military funeral honor missions last year; the two based in Northern Nevada supported an almost astonishing 248 missions.

The number in the south will almost certainly increase dramatically due to the Nevada Army Guard supporting the northern Arizona region this year, including funerals in Bullhead City, Kingman and Lake Havasu due the region’s proximity to southern Nevada.

The administrator of the funeral honors program retired Command Sgt. Major Jim Richardson said the recent COVID-19 pandemic was not the main contributing factor to the high number of missions in recent years.

“The growing average age of the country’s veterans is the primary reason for our expected ever-increasing numbers,” Richardson said. “Our Vietnam-era veterans are in their 70s and 80s. Even the majority of our Cold War and Persian Gulf veterans are approaching seniority.

Additionally, the Honor Guard also performs honorable transfers and often participates in community memorials, color guard events, and numerous joint military and organizational training events.

To meet mission demands, the handful of full-time soldiers are supplemented by volunteer soldiers placed on active duty for operational support orders. The Honor Guard often relies on approximately two dozen reliable volunteer soldiers who have received basic Honor Guard training to support missions.

A fact that few realize is that every Nevada Army Guard soldier is eligible to support military funeral honors missions; new volunteers will receive personalized individual training before their first missions.

Soldiers who volunteer for military funeral honors receive military pay and retirement points; soldiers who complete Level 2 Advanced Training are awarded an Honor Guard Tab and an Honor Guard Bandolier.

“Supporting military funeral honors is one of the best ways for a soldier to contribute to the community,” said Sgt. Christina Aguilar, the NCOIC of the Northern Nevada Military Funeral Honors Team.

The other full-time soldier in the north is Spc. Reid Hallam of the 422nd Expeditionary Signal Battalion. Hallam is recognized as one of the nation’s top honor guard soldiers after receiving the Distinguished Honor Graduate Award during the Level 2 National Honor Guard.
Aguilar said the Northern and Southern Nevada Honor Guard teams continue to search for new honor guard volunteer soldiers.

“We welcome everyone, regardless of past experience,” Aguilar said. “We will individually train new soldiers so that they understand and meet the basic requirements of their next mission. After initial individual training, soldiers will have the opportunity to refine their skills in Level 1 and Level 2 courses. »

Northern Nevada Guard Soldiers interested in supporting Military Funeral Honors Missions are encouraged to call Richardson at 775-291-8301; Interested Southern Nevada Soldiers should call 1st Sgt. Shawn Fidler at 702-632-4598.

Date taken: 20.04.2022
Date posted: 20.04.2022 14:12
Story ID: 418882

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