Honor Guard program managers honored to serve as focal point

  • Published
  • By Christin Michaud
  • AFMAO Public Affairs
A group of primarily volunteers and special-duty Airmen represent the Air Force to the American people during funerals and community outreach events.

Behind the scenes in a small office at the Charles C. Carson Center for Mortuary Affairs, Dover Air Force Base, Del., is the belly button for those representatives.

Master Sgt. Edwin DelCastillo and Staff Sgt. Alexandru Stoica, serve as the Honor Guard Program managers here. In addition to other duties, they are the focal point and source of information on programs and policies for 102 honor guard teams across the Air Force.
They advise on matters from funeral details and uniform items to civic events and flag questions.

In addition to advising they also oversee the Tribute Assistance Planning System, a database that tracks funeral honors for service members and veterans.

"It's an honor to be part of such a big operation," said Stoica. Adding how humbling it is to do as a staff sergeant.

One of the changes that have occurred in their time here is a decrease in the number of personnel required for funeral honors. At one point, Air Force retirees were entitled to a 7-man team to perform funeral honors. Today, with a leaner force, the policy gives commanders the latitude based on their available resources and manpower, explained Stoica. The minimum requirement is a two-man detail to present the flag and play Taps.

The requirement by law has been a two-person uniformed detail to present the core elements of funeral honors for those who served honorably, but the Air Force standard was for a team of seven to provide those honors for its airmen. The change to the minimum is a result of financial constraints in the Department of Defense.

The new policy relies on the honor guard teams in the field to communicate with funeral homes and work together to explain the funeral honors entitlements to families, according to DelCastillo.

Communication is the key to a successful program and one of the challenges. The managers are heavily engaged with the field and routinely answer queries through e-mail or phone calls on honor guard matters and policy.

The duo hosts a quarterly honor guard conference call to address any trends they see from the field.

"We're behind the scenes to make their job easier and help ensure they are 100 percent engaged when doing their details" said DelCastillo. "I'm proud to assist them."

It's a job both NCOs are honored to do. They stand ready to serve so the honor guard teams have the information they need to represent the Air Force as ambassadors in their communities.