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Dec 1, 2023

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Military Funeral Honor Guard From Gabreski
Air National Guard Base Excels

New York Air National Guard’s 106th Rescue Wing Honor Guard performed 619 Military Funerals in 2013-2014

WESTHAMPTON BEACH, NY (10/28/2014)(readMedia)– The 106th Rescue Wing’s Base Honor Guard performed 619 military funerals in during the federal fiscal year that ended on Sept. 30:more than any conducted by any other Air National Guard honor guard in the United States.

The team from Gabreski Air National Guard Base is also the eighth-busiest Honor Guard in the total Air Force and the only Base Honor Guard recognized by the Air Combat Command Inspector General for its dedication to duty, training plan and administrative procedures.

The five-member team is on call 365 days a year ensuring that Air Force veterans get the military honors Congress says they are entitled to during a funeral, said Chief Master Sergeant Dustin Lance, 106th Force Support Squadron superintendent. On a recent Monday, for example, the honor guard conducted six funerals, Lance said.

By law anybody who served in the United States military is entitled to funeral honors, specified as the playing of Taps and the presentation of an American flag to the veteran’s family by a minimum of two service members.

The team handles Air Force military funerals on Long Island for the Air Force funeral team at Joint Base McGuire-Dix- Lakehurst in New Jersey, which is responsible for funeral details in New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Connecticut and Massachusetts.

Being able to call on an Air National Guard honor guard helps get the mission done, said Master Sgt. Roman Kernitski, the assistant noncommissioned officer in charge of the Honor Guard at the joint base.

“Our area of responsibility is 68,000 square miles. The 106th helps us manage the area and helps us allocate resources throughout,” Kernitski said. “They always answer our call and are eager to assist.”

“They’ve helped us tremendously with the amount of details we can do,” said Tech. Sgt Nicholas Bryon, the noncommissioned officer in charge of the honor guard at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst.

“We’ve increased their manning from two slots to five slots in the last three years,” he added. “The funerals we’ve been able to do on Long Island have increased, but our own manning here is the same. We used to have to drive to Long Island all the time, but the 106th has made our jobs easier.”

The honor guard funeral detail members perform military funeral honors for Air Force active duty, retired personnel and veterans.

Staff Sgt. Gregory Funaro, noncommissioned officer in charge of the 106th honor guard, said he is happy about how many details his team can provide.

“We’re not straining ourselves and it shows the program is growing a lot from where it used to be,” he said, referring to the increase in slots.

As members of the Base Honor Guard, Airmen are expected to uphold the standards of all in the Air Force and must epitomize perfection in dress and appearance, customs and courtesies and drill and ceremonies, Funaro said.

To ensure members are physically and mentally prepared to flawlessly execute the mission, Lance said he requires members to exercise a minimum of one hour each day.

Ceremonial guardsmen are required to be of good reputation, having integrity, ethical conduct and exhibiting standards which merit respect, according to the United States Air Force Base Honor Guard website. But members admit maintaining military bearing can be a challenge.

“What I tell them when they join the team is you never know what is going to affect you or what is going to touch you,” Lance said. “It may be that someone in your family is sick and the person that has died reminds you of them. It may be that the person who died is your age, or there is something in their life you can identify with. Regardless, you always have to keep your military bearing. It can be the hardest job in the military,” he explained.

The 106th Honor Guard members said they are honored to have the privilege and responsibility of rendering military funeral honors at interments, and showing the nation’s deep gratitude to those who, in times of war and peace, have faithfully defended our country.

Funerals typically bring together families and friends to honor and say goodbye to the deceased. Occasionally the honor guard performs at funerals with no attendees, and such funerals stand out most to Senior Airman Michael Dancona.

“The funerals that don’t have anybody are probably the most rewarding ones for me,” Dancona said. “I don’t know what the situations are for some of them, but we are there and it’s proof the military doesn’t forget about them. That makes me feel good.”