“It would be a tragedy if we lost an officer in the line of duty, but it is our job to be prepared to render that officer their due honors just in case the worst happened,” said Sgt. Michael Lange, a member of the Sacramento Police Department Honor Guard [SPDHG]. “In order to provide the families with the best service, we had to learn how from the very best.”
Soldiers assigned to the 3d U.S. Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard), trained the SPDHG on memorial affairs, Apr. 8-12. The police officers, who traveled nearly 3,000 miles, learned the details of flag folding, casket carrying and the duties of a firing party during the five-days of instruction on Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall, Va.
“We are getting training that normally takes a few weeks in just a few days,” said Lange. “When we head back, the goal is to be able to guide the rest of the team on what we learned here.”
However, this wasn’t the first time the Sacramento police department’s honor guard sought the expertise of the Soldiers.
“Six years ago we came here for training, and I remember just how great it was,” said Lange. “The guys with The Old Guard were very good and knowledgeable at what they do.”
Old Guard Soldiers practice for many hours during the week in order to perform hundreds of funerals and ceremonies in the National Capitol Region and throughout the nation.
Sgt. Brent Austin, casket team leader, Honor Guard Company, 3d U.S. Inf. Reg. (The Old Guard), said it means a lot that other agencies look to Honor Guard Company to prepare them for ceremonial and memorial events.
“It is humbling to see all these people seek us for this training, and it really pushes us to remain passionate and on our toes,” said Austin. “It’s great to meet people who are from other parts of the country. We all have the same mission: to honor the fallen and their families.”
Austin has had the opportunity to teach various law and public services departments over the two and a half years he has been with The Old Guard.
“It blows me away that people see and appreciate what we do so much,” said Austin.
Austin explained the importance of working with other organizations to help facilitate and improve their memorial affairs teams.
“If we can provide local responders with the tools to complete a funeral honorably, then I have done my job,” said Austin. “It is really important that we recognize those who have given their all in the line of duty.”
Throughout the week of training, the Sacramento Police Department spent nearly every moment soaking up the information the Soldiers had to offer.
“The most challenging part of the week was learning how to time the firing of the rifles just right,” said Lange. “I know that these Soldiers didn’t get this good overnight, so I know we have hope. We just have to continue to practice this.”
Lange also said that during the lesson on flag folding, he realized all of the small details that go into getting the flag to look just right.
“The sequence has a lot of steps, but by the end of the day we basically had it down solid,” said Lange. “I know with more practice we would be even better.”
As the week of training came closer to the end, Lange said his team once again understood why these Soldiers are considered the best.
“The Old Guard really cares that we learn everything that we came here to learn,” said Lange. “The Old Guard sets the highest standard when it comes to funerals, so we just want to emulate them.”