JOINT BASE CHARLESTON, S.C. –
As their commander gave his orders, the rifles started spinning and the U.S. Air Force Honor Guard Drill Team’s performance began. Their uniforms remained in impeccable shape. Not a thread was out of place as their white-gloved hands supported the 11-pound weapons, tossing the rifle into the air and catching it in perfect synchronization. This professionally choreographed routine was nothing short of show-stopping. The crowd flocked toward the team in awe of the weapon maneuvers, precise tosses and complex weapons exchanges during the Joint Base Charleston 2018 Air and Space Expo.
“We travel all around the country, and sometimes overseas, to do drill performances to recruit, retain and inspire,” said Tech. Sgt. Jeremy Gustch, the NCO in charge of the U.S. Air Force Honor Guard Drill Team. “We're traveling around trying to get the next generation of Airmen into the U.S. Air Force, we're trying to retain those members that are in the Air Force - showing them what our Airmen are capable of - and then inspire not only future generations but our past generations, those who have already paved the way for us.”
In addition to the weapon maneuvers and exchanges, the Drill Team also demonstrated what they call “the Gauntlet,” a routine where the commander marches up and back through spinning weapons, displaying the trust and confidence he has in the team’s skills and precision.
“The team did great today. They do great every time. We train eight hours a day, five days a week, just doing this: throwing the weapons and perfecting those movements,” Gustch said. “Sometimes there might be small fumbles here and there, but you're always going to have that. It’s what you do afterwards to come back from that. The show goes on and we do another performance the next day, or maybe multiple that same day. After a performance, it just feels great. We get a chance to talk to all the people that come to these events, take pictures with kids, let them feel how heavy the rifle is – that it’s real, it has a real bayonet on it, and how dangerous it really is.”
The hard work and dedication these Airmen put in showed. They exhibited precision, synchronization and flawless technique, all while maintaining their stern military bearing.
“This was my first performance. It was very nerve-racking to start off with. There's a lot of people out here and it kind of gets to you,” explained Airman 1st Class Kevonn Williams, U.S. Air Force Honor Guard Drill Team member. “Other than that, I was pretty calm and composed. I’ve trained for this day for a long time and I was prepared to be here. This is one of the biggest parts of my Air Force career, and I'm definitely glad to be here. We represent the precision the Air Force has, and we show that with our drill movements.”
The Drill Team showcased their skills in front of more than 80,000 attendees at the air and space expo. Amazement showed on the faces in the crowd as the Drill Team performed their routine.
“When I first came here, I didn't expect it to be so precise,” said Elexuas Hicks, a viewer from Alabama. “It was nice to see them perform and you would think they're nervous, they're going to mess up, but no! They did fantastic, no one flinched, and no one dropped a weapon. It all was smooth and precise.”
The Air Force Honor Guard has served as a tool to recruit, retain and inspire Airmen since their establishment in 1948. The drill team is one resource they use to accomplish that mission.
“We're going out traveling and trying to recruit new members of the Air Force. We're also trying to keep people in the Air Force,” Gustch stated. “We also want to inspire, because there's a lot of people whose only time seeing the military is coming out to an air show to see the aircraft flying around. They also get a chance to see us on the ground showing that precision, inspiring the youngest generations as well as those who fought in World War II, Korea and Vietnam, showing them we're still the best in the world.”