Thursday, September 17, 2009

Oregon Funeral Honors Team goes for three in a row

The Oregon National Guard Funeral Honors Team runs through a grave-side practice during the national competition at Fort Myer in Washington D.C. The competition, which involves National Guard teams from across the country, concludes today, with the winners being announced at the banquet this evening.

WASHINGTON D.C.--The Oregon National Guard Funeral Honors Team has won the national competition for two years running, since the event began in 2007.

This year, they hope to make it three in a row, says the State Military Honors Coordinator for Oregon, Mark Brady.

“This is an excellent opportunity to showcase how well the Military Honors program has trained its soldiers nation-wide and to the level of service that our country’s veterans and retirees deserve,” Brady said.

According to Brady, Oregon’s state program began in 2004. By the following year, the team had conducted 415 honors for veterans or retirees. By 2006, that number had grown to 2,350 events, and in 2008, 3,400 veterans received honors from the Oregon team.

As veterans continue to age into their 70s, 80s and 90s, Brady expects that number to increase in 2009.

“I anticipate that we will provide honors for over 3,500 this year,” Brady said.

While the program boosts the skills of Oregon’s honors team, the group’s training non-commissioned officer thinks all soldiers benefit from participating in their respective states’ programs.

“I believe that this competition increases the proficiency of the program overall,” said Sgt. Timothy Tompkins, Oregon Honors Team Training NCO.

But there’s a lot of planning and practice before they even think about the competition, adds Brady.

Each of the seven regions submit videos to the National Guard Bureau for evaluation and consideration. From that group, the best team from each region is invited to attend the national-level competition in Washington D.C.

Each team competes in several categories, including physical fitness tests, in-ranks inspections—which last over two hours, and an Honorable Transfer test, which involves moving a casket from an aircraft to a vehicle, and vice-versa.

“This is such an exceptional program, and the soldiers and NCOs are of the highest caliber that I have had the opportunity to work with,” Brady said.

Several different inspections ranging from three-man urn sequences to seven-man full-honors, a written test on military honors, and individual “board” interviews with a general officer are also conducted.

But competitions aside, the soldiers on the team keep their perspective—to honor their fallen comrades and veterans who served their nation.

“The dignity and professionalism of these soldiers truly honor the fallen soldier or veteran,” Brady adds.

This year’s competition is held September 13-17, in Washington, D.C., with the winners announced at a banquet Thursday night.
Story by Tech. Sgt. Nick Choy,
National Guard Bureau Public Affairs Office

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