Honor Guard NCO makes uniform changes

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Rachelle Blake
  • 55th Wing Public Affairs
After investing approximately $500, Offutt Air Force Base's Honor Guard NCO in charge saved the Air Force more than $15,000 through his innovative uniform program.

Staff Sgt. Christopher Burke's, 55th Wing Honor Guard NCOIC, vision came from the three years he spent at his last assignment prior to Offutt.

"When I first took over ... I quickly realized that I wanted to implement a lot of what I learned and saw at the Air Force Honor Guard when I was stationed in Washington D.C.," he said. "I thought the base honor guard should reflect what our parent organization was currently doing. It seemed like common sense to organize everything in such a way that would make it readily identifiable as to what I had on hand."

Before the changes were made the uniform program was far from user-friendly.

"When I first saw the uniform supply room, it was disorganized and like items were not together," said Senior Airman Tanner Rich, 55th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron communications, navigations and mission systems journeyman and honor guardsmen. "I recall that it took me about an hour to look for a pair of blues pants for my honor guard uniform, only to find out that I needed to pick up a pair from clothing issue because we didn't have my size."

Step one was get organized.

"After the vision was in my head, I had to implement it," Burke said. "I searched around online for the equipment that would suit the honor guard's needs. I found a neat organization shelf that could hold all of the items individually. I also purchased a clothing rack like you would see at any department store and organized the uniforms according to gender and size."

He also enlisted the help of his Airmen and in three days the supply room was where it needed to be.

"I reorganized all the blues blouses and pants by size, gender, and whether they were enlisted or officers," Rich said. "We put all the blouses and pants on the same clothing rack, instead of pants stacked on top of shelves and scattered everywhere.  We moved all the hats into one supply locker, organized by size, leaving two other supply lockers completely empty."

Next was building inventory.

Offutt's Honor Guard Airmen spend six months actively serving and then six months on reserve. At the end of their tenure, they turn in their uniform items for the next Airmen to follow in their footsteps.

"I have 60 guardsmen a year rotate through the honor guard," Burke said. "Right now, we probably have more than 300 various items needed to equip and outfit the honor guard members."

Not only has the effort saved money, but also man hours.

"With the room recognized, the Airmen are able to quickly find, fit, and put together their uniforms much faster," Rich said. "Now, they can in-process much faster and have more time to train and perform the honor guard mission."

For the honor guard that is what it is all about.

"I am grateful for the mission I have been entrusted to lead," Burke said. "We provide ceremonial funeral honors for all active duty members, veterans and retirees of the Air Force and Army Air Corps. The Honor Guard area of responsibility for funeral requests includes 70 Counties in Nebraska, three counties in Kansas and the entire state of Iowa, all of which comprise a tri-state area of 100,000 square miles."

For Burke, who is awaiting the approval of a naval commission, making sure his Airmen had as much time as possible to honor those who have served before, was his main priority. All it took was a little change.

"I knew that there was a better way to do things," Burke said. "While the task did take some coordination and moving pieces, I wanted to make the honor guard a better place. It makes no sense to let things go unnoticed or changed if change is needed."