Base honor guard looking for a few good Airmen

  • Published
  • By Maj. Shane Balken
  • 28th Bomb Wing Public Affairs
Friends and family of a military member being laid to rest brace themselves in anticipation of the crackle of gunfire following the honor guard commander's order.

Three succinct rifle reports fill the air.

It's a simple command as seven Airmen fire three volleys each with ceremonial rifles, but one that will likely last with a veteran's family for a lifetime.

The Air Force core value of service before self runs deep in many Airmen who serve this nation. Having sworn an oath, they dedicate their lives to giving back to their country. It is this selfless service to others that makes one group of Airmen volunteers on base very special ambassadors - they are the Ellsworth Honor Guard.

Staff Sgt. Bobby Pantfoeder, Ellsworth Honor Guard NCO in charge, said with the exception of himself, the Ellsworth Honor Guard is made up entirely of volunteers from units across the base. Due to the high demand of their presence, Pantfoeder said they are in need of more members.

"We currently have 20 honor guard members and we could use another five to 10 more," said Pantfoeder, who heralds from Greenville, Texas and has served in the Air Force for nearly 10 years. "Following completion of a two-week training period, our members rotate on-call duties to support various functions."

He said the Ellsworth Honor Guard is working to lessen the impact on team members and their duty sections, adding that there are no out-of-pocket costs to join the honor guard, and all uniforms are provided.

Last year the Ellsworth Base Honor Guard supported more than 100 funerals, with the summer months being their busiest time.

In addition to providing support for funerals, Pantfoeder said the Ellsworth Base Honor Guard supports a variety of events and activities ranging from presenting the colors at the start of Rapid City Rush hockey games to training with the Pennington County Sheriff office's honor guard, to participating in mock driving under the influence demonstrations at area high schools. Additionally, they also support retirement ceremonies and base functions.

But, he said without question, the most important function the Ellsworth Honor Guard serves is providing military honors at funerals.

"It's an incredibly humbling experience," said Pantfoeder, who has been a member of Ellsworth's honor guard for nearly four years.

Recalling his first funeral service as a bugler during a service in Alliance, Neb., Pantfoeder said he was initially very nervous, but that nervousness quickly turned to adrenaline and he knew this was something he wanted to keep doing.

"There is no greater feeling than presenting a flag and talking with a spouse and family members to convey our gratitude for someone's service to their country," said the 30-year-old Pantfoeder who comes from a military family. Both of his parents were Airmen, and he said it was just natural that he followed in their footsteps.

"I really wanted to give back to those who got us where we are at today," Pantfoeder said.

The rewards for being a member of the base honor guard are mostly intangible, but if Airmen are looking for the same sense of pride and internal satisfaction, Pantfoeder encouraged them to consider joining the Ellsworth Base Honor.

For more information on joining the Ellsworth Base Honor Guard, call (605) 385-1186.