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Perfecting the image: Honor guardsman awarded for excellence

Staff Sgt. Alonzo Clark, 319th Air Base Wing Honor Guard program manager, grips a folded flag of the United States of America to his chest June 5, 2019, on Grand Forks Air Force Base, North Dakota. Clark manages the small, eight-person team of airmen on base, which has regional responsibility of 153,000 square-miles, to include North Dakota, Minnesota, Michigan and Wisconsin. Becoming a guardsman is an earned position of honor and duty, reserved only for members who strive to preserve the U.S. Air Force heritage. (U.S. Air Force photo illustration by Senior Airman Elora J. Martinez)

Staff Sgt. Alonzo Clark, 319th Air Base Wing Honor Guard program manager, grips a folded flag of the United States of America to his chest June 5, 2019, on Grand Forks Air Force Base, North Dakota. Clark manages the small, eight-person team of airmen on base, which has regional responsibility of 153,000 square-miles, to include North Dakota, Minnesota, Michigan and Wisconsin. Becoming a guardsman is an earned position of honor and duty, reserved only for members who strive to preserve the U.S. Air Force heritage. (U.S. Air Force photo illustration by Senior Airman Elora J. Martinez)

Staff Sgt. Alonzo Clark, 319th Air Base Wing Honor Guard program manager, holds a folded flag of the United States of America to his chest June 5, 2019, on Grand Forks Air Force Base, North Dakota. Clark acted as program manager for two years, with prior experience in the 319th Security Forces Squadron. (U.S. Air Force photo illustration by Senior Airman Elora J. Martinez)

Staff Sgt. Alonzo Clark, 319th Air Base Wing Honor Guard program manager, holds a folded flag of the United States of America to his chest June 5, 2019, on Grand Forks Air Force Base, North Dakota. Clark acted as program manager for two years, with prior experience in the 319th Security Forces Squadron. (U.S. Air Force photo illustration by Senior Airman Elora J. Martinez)

GRAND FORKS AIR FORCE BASE, N.D. --

The 319th Air Base Wing Honor Guard team is a small one- made up of eight hand-selected Airmen who aim to honor, promote the mission, protect the standards and perfect the image.

Leading from behind the scenes is Staff Sgt. Alonzo Clark, installation honor guard program manager, who was recently awarded Air Combat Command’s Honor Guard Manager of the Year award April 22, 2019.

Clark, a security forces airman by trade, explained it took two tries to finally earn the position of program manager, which he credits partially to his experience in the 319th Security Forces Squadron.

Receiving the position was a good start, but he described the larger goals he saw for his two-year position.

“My goal initially was to make it the best it could be,” he said. “I wanted to transform the program and leave a legacy. Honor guard is a no-fail mission, and I felt like not everyone was aware of all it entails.”

Grand Forks AFB Honor Guard supports a 153,000 square-mile region, comprised of the entire state of North Dakota and Minnesota, and parts of Michigan and Wisconsin. In order to stay ready for events as far as 12 hours away, Clark said his team trains several hours a day and is encouraged to work on self-improvement outside of honor guard duties.

“I tell all my troops, ‘You have to leave here better than you came,’” he began. “I allot professional development time in their daily routine so they can do something productive in order to invest in themselves.”

Clark admitted he was appreciative his work was recognized by ACC, but was more proud to see the lasting impression he had on his guardsmen. Airman 1st Class Abelardo Ezquivel, 319 ABW honor guardsman between July 2018 and February 2019, spoke highly of Clark’s leadership style.

“He’s the best leader I’ve worked with,” Ezquivel said. “He doesn’t play. He’s all about striving toward perfection, effectively communicating and killing the mission.”

Ezquivel continued, remarking Clark’s impact was a great one.

“His drive is contagious,” he stated. “I hope one day I can be as good as him.”

Senior Master Sgt. Rayshawnda Davis, 319th Force Support Squadron sustainment services flight superintendent, provided some additional insight on Clark’s leadership style.

“Since fully-understanding the program, he’s been trying to make it better and ensure he’s molding well-rounded airmen,” she said. “If I had ten of him that would be awesome.”

Clark reminisced on his two years as program manager, and admitted it will be a bittersweet feeling to leave.

“I think more than anything, I’m going to miss it,” he said, pausing before he asked two questions to his successor:

“What do you have to offer the troops, and why should they follow you as a leader?”