Chilly winter weather at the Fort Custer Training Center in Augusta, Michigan welcomed the 17 students and trainers who arrived December 3, 2017 for a 40-hour, Phase 2, Funeral Honors course, the largest class on record.
“I was happy to hear about the large class size,” said Michigan National Guard Adjutant General, Maj. Gen. Gregory Vadnais. “It is an honor to serve a Veteran’s family in this way and I am very, very proud of the men and women in the Michigan National Guard who choose to undergo the rigorous precision training required to qualify for performing this service.”
Left to right: SGT ALICIA YOUNG, 119TH SUPPORT, LEAD INSTRUCTOR; Sitting/Prepping for next sequence: PFC AUSTIN E. SLOAN, 46 MP CO and SGT CARL LIVINGSTON JR., A CO 30126 IN RGT; Saluting: SPC JOHNATHAN A. BEERMAN, HHC 3 BN 126 IN RGT; Firing Party: PFC JOHN E. JR MCCOY, HHC 1‐125TH IN REGT; SPC TA’SEAN C. WOODS, 1433RD ENG CO; SGT POTTER DANNY G. JR 46 MP CO. Bugler: SPC HARRY M. III REYNOLDS, 46 MP CO. Training being conducted, Dec. 3-8, 2017, at Fort Custer Training Center, Augusta, Michigan. (Photo by Jonathan Allen, State Coordinator Contractor, Michigan)
The focus for the Phase 2 week was specifically on Funeral Honors Drill and Ceremony, Proper Wear of the Ceremonial Uniform, Introduction to 6-Soldier Flag Folding, and Firing Party skills and etiquette. The Phase 2 candidates learned new skills and rehearsed and re-rehearsed each concept until it was perfect. When the training portion was complete, the students took a written exam and were required to successfully test out, hands on, each of the following: 2 and 3 Soldier Detail, introduction to 6 Soldier Flag Fold, 9 Soldier Casket Detail, Manual of Arms, Drill and Ceremony, and perform a detailed uniform inspection.
“Midweek, when I walked into the armory dining area being used for the training, it was a beehive of activity,” said Jonathan Allen, Michigan’s Funeral Honors state coordinator. “Every corner of the large room was being used by trainers and trainees working on flag folding, pall bearing, and firing party sequences. The room was full of productive training going on, including periodic relaxation and muscle stretch breaks to ease tension from the precise movement training required for every portion of the Funeral Honors process.”
Each area had a trainer who kept eyes-on students, ready to provide guidance as the trainees worked to put all of the different aspects of Military Funeral Honors into practice. Trainers were glad to find that they had a class that ran the entire spectrum of experience. Some had supported hundreds of funerals, others had only started the program in the last few weeks.
(Courtesy Michigan National Guard photo)
Prior to coming to the class, each participant was required to complete the initial, two-day Funeral Honors training in order to learn the basics in a consistent way. From there, each student was paired with a mission-experienced member to maximize learning.
Sgt. Deandre Fortenberry, from the Lansing area Funeral Honors team and a traditional member of the Michigan National Guard, 631st Troop Command, said he and the other students would study the movements then go back to their rooms in the Fort Custer Education Center to continue practicing. “Seeing that level of dedication was amazing,” he said. Adding, “With the uniform inspections, you quickly learn to recognize the ‘right way’ after your uniforms are detail inspected to ensure proper set up and presentation. It is tedious but I think uniforms are the most important part of the training because in essence, you represent your county with this uniform.”
The end result of the intensive hours of training and instructors sharing their knowledge, was 100% graduation for the ground-breaking class of 13. In short, all students read about the many aspects of Military Funeral Honors, had the different duties shown to them, practiced performing them then all demonstrated their knowledge effectively and respectfully.
One student commented that “learning the correct and proper ways to perform missions has made me better equipped to perform services. Being better equipped means I perform better which means I can better honor the Veteran being buried and the family and friends attending the funeral – that’s what really matters.”
Another student summed up their experience in the course by saying they felt more confident to go out on missions.” That confidence projects as honor and professionalism that reflects positively on Funeral Honors as a whole.
After graduation on Friday, the students dispersed to their respective areas of the state. Some even went out on missions later that day to carry out what they learned in providing Military Honors for Michigan Veterans and their families.
The following instructors led the class through to successful completion: SGT ALICIA YOUNG, 119TH SUPPORT, CO LEAD INSTRUCTOR, SGT JOSHUA D. ROSE, 1437TH ENG CO TRAINER / EVALUATOR, SSG MICHAEL S. YELDING, 1463RD TRANS CO TRAINER / EVALUATOR, SPC TASHA L. FITZGERALD, 146TH MED BN TRAINER / EVALUATOR, SSG TERRENCE D. DICKINSON, 1071ST MAINT CO MFH NCOIC.
The following Honor Guard members completed the training: From the Lansing area team: SGT DEANDRE L. FORTENBERRY, 631ST TROOP COMMAND; SPC HARRY M. III REYNOLDS, 46 MP CO; SGT CARL LIVINGSTON JR., A CO 3-126 IN RGT. From the Camp Grayling team: SPC BRANDON R. COHOON B CO 3‐126 IN RGT, PFC AUSTIN E. SLOAN 46 MP CO, and SGT WILLIAM B. FOWLER, 1071ST MAINT CO. From Grand Rapids team: PFC JEREMY J. BOSCH, B CO 3‐126 IN RGT and SFC NYIBAL A. ADAMS, B CO 3‐126 IN RGT. From the Detroit team: SPC TA’SEAN C. WOODS, 1433RD ENG CO. From the Saginaw team: SGT POTTER DANNY G. JR 46 MP CO, PFC JOHN E. JR MCCOY, HHC 1‐125TH IN REGT. From Fort Custer: SPC JOHNATHAN A. BEERMAN, HHC 3 BN 126 IN RGT (*HONOR GRADUATE*); SGT TROY J. ANGELL, 1461ST TRANS CO.