Wright-Patt Honor Guard reopens for limited duty

  • Published
  • By Amy Rollins, Skywrighter Staff

As Wright-Patterson Air Force Base begins Phase I of returning to full capacity, there is one part that resumed its mission in a big way – by honoring the life and service of a Tuskegee Airman.

On May 13, Honor Guard detail members performed their duties honoring Hilton Carter at St. Joseph Cemetery just south of Columbus along Route 23, not far from Rickenbacker Airport.

As a teenager, Carter flew in the Pacific Theater during World War II, where he became an original member of the Tuskegee Airmen, a famed group of black fighter pilots. After leaving the Air Force in 1949, he continued to serve as a civilian flight engineer, according to the Columbus Dispatch. He died May 6 at the age of 91.

The Wright-Patt Honor Guard is the most fast-paced and heavily tasked Honor Guard in the entire Air Force. Part of the 88th Force Support Squadron, its mission is to provide military funeral honors for fallen veterans, retirees and active-duty service members.

The Honor Guard travels through six states including Ohio, Kentucky, Indiana, Michigan, West Virginia and Pennsylvania, covering more than 210,000 square miles in 203 different counties. It is limited to a radius of 75 miles currently.

To be a member of the Honor Guard, one must be a highly motivated senior Airman or staff sergeant who has outstanding military bearing, is physically fit and able to lift 40 pounds, requirements state.

“We execute a time-honored tradition that we have not been able to perform due to the coronavirus,” said Senior Master Sgt. Lonnie Locklear, superintendent. “It’s that last piece you perform that gives families closure sometimes. It is paying respect.”

The team includes five active duty and four Reservist service members., he said. It operates from Bldg. 109, 5396 Skeel Ave., Area A.

“The team takes pride in what they do and they want to provide that service to the family. It has been hard to not be able to do that,” Locklear commented. “We are proud to be able to resume.”

Requests for the Honor Guard to carry out its duties come from funeral directors. With its public mission curtailed in April due to the virus, team members compiled a list of 21 requests made during that time and is now reaching out to see if their services are still wanted as long as the locations are within the radius, Locklear said.

“Our team has been fantastic during this time,” he said. “Master Sgt. Gregory Linker has ensured the team is well-trained and handling issues very well.”

Locklear said he wants the base community to know how deeply the Honor Guard is committed to its mission.

“When a service member passes, we lose a part of our military family,” he said. “We want to give them the same service that we would expect to receive. We’re carrying on a proud tradition of honoring those who came before us.”

Honor Guard members are:

  • Master Sgt. Greg Linker, superintendent
  • Tech. Sgt. Joshua Lane, NCOIC
  • Staff Sgt. Camden Bowden, flight sergeant
  • Staff Sgt. Molly Cook, flight sergeant
  • Staff Sgt. Dundrashae Plater, flight sergeant
  • Staff Sgt. Shane Ellis, flight sergeant
  • Master Sgt. Shawn McKellop, Guard/Reserve program manager
  • Tech. Sgt. Patricia Crawford, administrative support
  • Tech. Sgt. Andrae Manuel, administrative support

The team honors all social distancing rules within the states it covers, Locklear said.