With the establishment of the United States Air Force in 1946, the need arose for a ceremonial unit, similar to those found in other branches of the U.S. Armed Forces. Although the first and foremost duty of such ceremonial units is to render full military honors to at funeral services conducted at Arlington National Cemetery, they are also charged with representing their respective branches at official ceremonies within the National Capital Region (comprising nearly two dozen jurisdictions in Maryland, Virginia, and the District of Columbia) and abroad when so ordered by appropriate commands. Examples include visits from foreign governmental leaders or dignitaries, presidential ceremonies and events hosted at the White House, and other commemorations, observances, or functions that call for the presence of representatives from all five branches of the U.S. Armed Forces.

The USAF Honor Guard was created as a ceremonial unit within the 1100th Air Police Squadron in September, 1948, consisting of 98 enlisted Airmen and two officers. After a brief hiccup during which the unit was disbanded due to attrition and transfers, the unit became fully functional in March, 1949 as the Air Force Ceremonial Detachment. It remained under assignment to the Air Police Squadron until late 1971, and on New Year’s Day 1972 it officially became a separate unit designated as the U.S. Air Force Honor Guard.

Because of the scrutiny under which the USAF Honor Guard operates, selection standards are rigorous. Postings to the Honor Guard are classified as special-duty assignments, and applicants who are chosen are reassigned to Joint Base Anacostia–Bolling in Washington, D.C. for a two- to three-year tour of duty. Appropriately enough, this is the home of the United States Air Force Band, which often performs at many of the same ceremonies as the Honor Guard.

The Base Honor Guard program was created to implement the guidance the USAF Honor Guard established in 1995 regarding the protocols, honors, and ceremonies related to military funerals at Air Force bases, which until that time had been handled by details made up of security police or Honor Guard trainees.

Both the USAF Honor Guard and Base Honor Guard badges feature crossed M1 Garand rifles superimposed over a Roman helmet, with the inscription of the motto “To Honor with Dignity” on the bottom half of the emblem. The USAF Honor Guard version, however, has the motto in Latin: “In Honore et Dignitate.”

Both badges may only be worn when performing Honor Guard duties; they are worn on the lower portion of the left pocket.
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