United States Air Force Honor Guard 2017: How To Watch United States Air Force Honor Guard, The United States Air Force Honor Guard is the official ceremonial unit of the United States Air, Bearers, Firing Party and Drill Team.
United States Air Force Honor Guard
The Honor Guard’s primary mission is to represent the U.S. Air Force at all public and official ceremonies within the National Capital Region and abroad when directed by the Military District of Washington, Headquarters U.S. Air Force or subordinate commands. Ceremonies include those for visiting dignitaries and military officials, funerals for deceased Air Force personnel and their dependents, wreath-laying ceremonies at the Tomb of the Unknowns at Arlington National Cemetery, White House arrival ceremonies, receptions, and other state and military occasions which comprise the Honor Guards of all five armed services (U.S. Army, U.S. Navy, U.S. Marine Corps, U.S. Air Force and U.S. Coast Guard).
The mission of the Firing Party element is to render three volleys of rifle fire at the gravesite to honor the deceased during funeral services. It is commonly thought that as there are seven members on the party (the NCOIC of the firing party is the eighth member and is known as the “NFP”) with each firing three rounds, that this composes a “21-gun salute”. However, this is incorrect. 21 rounds just happen to be the number of rounds fired. The firing party’s goal is to fire three volleys in perfect unison. The custom of firing three volleys began as a way of signaling the opposing side that the battlefield dead had been retrieved and that the fighting could resume. Seven members on the firing party is thought to originate from the idea that seven is a lucky number. Three volleys being fired is thought to symbolize the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit of the Christian faith.
The mission of the Bearers element is to participate in Air Force, Joint Service, and state funerals by bearing the remains of deceased service members, dependents, and senior and/or national leaders to their gravesites. The custom of body bearers (or pallbearers) began on the battlefield when it was necessary to gather the dead for burial. As the only wheeled vehicles available on the battlefield were usually artillery caissons, they were used transport the deceased to the grave, a custom which is practiced today in Arlington National Cemetery.