Honor amongst Airmen

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Camilla Griffin
  • 355th Fighter Wing Public Affairs
Master Sgt. John Brown, 923rd Aircraft Maintenance Squadron first sergeant, played a key role in Air Force Honor Guard. Brown uses the leadership skills he learned in AFHG now as a first sergeant.

Brown arrived at Bolling Air Force Base, Washington D.C. as an airman first class in October 1998. At the time he joined AFHG he was an Air Crew Life Support journeyman. He spent six years as an Air Force Honor Guardsman where his primary duties were pall bearer, lead narrator, and eventually the non-commissioned officer in charge of plans and programs where he created the first official AFHG training manual.

When Airmen arrive at AFHG technical school, they are trained on every aspect of HG, which consists of firing party, weapon movements, pall bearers, posting and presentation of the colors and more. Even though Airmen are assigned one main role, they are trained in all HG duties.

As AFHG, there are unlimited amounts of opportunities available to the Airmen who decide to take part in this special duty.

When Brown is asked about his time in the AFHG, he describes it as the greatest experience of his Air Force career thus far. Some of the memorable events Brown took part in were Senior Airman Jason Cunningham's and Airman 1st Class John Levitow's funerals, as well as funerals for Medal of Honor recipients. Cunningham received the Air Force Cross posthumously for saving 10 people and making it possible for seven others who were killed to come home. Levitow received the Medal of Honor for removing a Mark 24 flare from an aircraft while suffering from 40 shrapnel wounds.

Brown was also privileged enough to march in President Bush's first inauguration.

"The things that we were able to see and be a part of, you just don't get that opportunity anywhere else in the Air Force," Brown said. "On any given day you could be at the Pentagon performing a ceremony and walk down the hall by the secretary of defense or walk past the secretary of the Air Force or the chief of staff of the Air Force."

Days started at 4 a.m. for Brown. If there were ceremonies that day, he would suit up, prepare for open ranks and head down to Arlington National Cemetery. If it was a training day, he would draw up a training plan for the day and get the equipment needed.

The transition from AFHG to communications was difficult for Brown. When he joined AFHG, it was a two-year special duty tour. He stayed for three consecutive tours. He didn't know at the time that staying meant he lost his previous Air Force Specialty Code and career field. After six years of AFHG, Brown had to cross train into a new AFSC or go back to his job and start over from scratch. He elected communications and retrained as a technical sergeant select and arrived here at D-M.

Retraining as a technical sergeant was difficult for Brown, who was now in charge of a section he didn't know anything about and had to lead Airmen and junior NCOs in the right direction. His chief at the time told Brown what he brought to the table was attention to detail and that's what he wanted him to share with his troops. The chief knew the pride in doing the job right and the professionalism he exuded would benefit everyone else.

Brown was recruited into the AFHG by Chief Master Sgt. Timothy Dickens, AFHG superintendent. Within two months of Chief Dickens' tour of Holloman Air Force Base, N.M., Brown had an assignment to AFHG. He was not required to submit a package. The instructors at AFHG technical school treated him differently because he was hand-picked by Chief Dickens. Being hand-picked was a badge of honor and from that day forward Brown did his best at everything, because he knew what it meant to be selected by the chief.

Brown became a supervisor during his time in AFHG. Once he completed Airman Leadership School, he was given eight Airmen. He learned quickly what it meant to be a supervisor and how to be involved in his Airmen's lives.

He attended professional development classes over his time in AFHG and learned that he does not need to be liked by his subordinates, but rather teach them and hold them to the standards of that unit. If they could not uphold that standard or refused to, then his job was to help get them out of the way of the individuals that are there for the right reasons.

He now uses these skills in his role as a first sergeant. He sees that not everyone is cut-out for the military.

"One of my duties that I do not take lightly, is sometimes we have to get the individuals who don't belong, out of the way of the individuals that are trying to do things right," Brown said. "Those individuals will eventually drag down not only those peers around them that are trying to do the right thing the right way, but they will also drag down your unit. That was something I learned as a member of the Air Force Honor Guard. As an NCO in that unit I learned that it was my job to uphold the standards and enforce them."