Tag Archives: the old guard

Old Guard Soldiers prepare for 58th Presidential Inauguration

Story by Staff Sgt. Terrance D. Rhodes

This is part 1 of 4 of a news story series

FORT MYER, Va – Soldiers from the 3d U.S. Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard) are ramping up to support President elect Donald Trump’s first Presidential Inauguration.

Traditionally, military units from each of the five branches have marched in the Presidential escort and in the Inaugural Parade. More than 2,000 soldiers from The Old Guard will support this Inauguration.

“Supporting the peaceful transition of government after a presidential election is a historic event and one that many countries do not have,” said Col. Jason Garkey, the regimental commander of the 3d.U.S. Inf. Regt. (TOG). “I have participated in two previous inaugurations (Clinton – 1997 and Bush – 2005) and they both highlighted the unique characteristics of our government and how it brings the nation together.”

Though there will be numerous representatives in this 58th Presidential Inauguration, The Old Guard will play a vital role in this event. Garkey will represents the commander of troops. The Presidential Salute Battery [PSB], Fife and Drum Corps, an honor company, along with the Army Street Cordon will be in full participation.

Military involvement in the Presidential Inauguration is a centuries-old tradition. The U.S. military has participated in this important American tradition since April 30, 1789, when members of the U.S. Army, local militia units and Revolutionary War veterans escorted President George Washington to his first inauguration ceremony at Federal Hall in New York City.

Service members involved in the 2017 Presidential Inauguration represent an integrated Total Force. Soldiers, Marines, Sailors, Airmen, and Coast Guard members proudly serving their country at home and abroad. This support comprises musical units, marching bands, color guards, salute batteries and honor cordons, which render appropriate ceremonial honors to the commander in chief.

Just as military men and women show their commitment to this country during deployments and stationed abroad, participation in this traditional event demonstrates the military’s support to the nation’s new commander in chief.

The inauguration will kick off at noon on Jan. 20. The parade will follow immediately after the ceremony at 2:30 p.m. Public entrances to the parade generally open at 6:30 a.m.

Running for a Cause – Old Guard Soldier runs Army Ten Miler in honor of cousins

By Staff Sgt. Megan Garcia

Staff Sgt. Daniel Castanon joined more than 35,000 people who traveled to the nation’s capital, Oct. 20, 2013, to run the 29th annual Army Ten-Miler.  For Castanon, this year would mark his second time participating in one of the nation’s largest races. Although he came with the goal to top his previous race record, his ultimate drive to do better than the year before would be found in two names.

Staff Sgt. Daniel Castanon poses for a photo after completing the Army Ten-Miler Oct. 20.

Staff Sgt. Daniel Castanon poses for a photo after completing the Army Ten-Miler Oct. 20.

“Mayleen Dilone and Justin Ortega” said Castanon, motor transport operator, 529th Regimental Support Company, 3d U.S. Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard). “Those are the names of my two [9-year-old] cousins who were diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes. Last year, initially, I wanted to run the race just for the experience but this year my motivation behind running it and wanting to do well was because of them.”

Castanon, who unfortunately is accustomed to having family members who are diagnosed with cancer, said receiving this kind of news was even more devastating.

“It shook up the family a little because it’s something we’re not used to dealing with,” said Castanon “When you get the babies diagnosed with diabetes it’s like you’re taking away a little bit of their childhood. They have to learn to eat differently and take insulin shots. It’s stressful and can become stressful on the parents and it’s really a life-changing thing for kids to have to deal with at this age.”

Although Castanon had already begun vigorously training for the ten-miler, he said knowing this made him push a little harder. He lost 25 pounds over a six-month period and changed his diet completely, focusing more on portion control and eliminating fast foods and sodas.

“This year it wasn’t just about finishing because it wasn’t just about me,” said Castanon. “I was running in my cousins’ names as a tribute to them. That is why I really wanted to push myself and not come in at the same time I came in last year.”

Castanon’s aunt, Hilda Aponte, said the family was ecstatic about his plans.

“We are a very big family and we are all trying to find a cure for this, so it meant a lot to our family to find out he wanted to do this in support of his two little cousins,” said Aponte. “We made shirts and everything to send to him. We wanted to let him know we were rooting for him all the way from New York.”

The day of the race, Castanon wore this shirt as a constant reminder of what he was running for and to let them know he stood with them.

“It was my way to say ‘Although I haven’t seen you all in awhile, I’m thinking of you and I’m supporting you. I didn’t raise a whole bunch of money for the cause but I wore this t-shirt with your names on it because I care’,” said Castanon.

By mile six, Castanon admitted he felt very fatigued but knew he couldn’t give up on himself or his family.

“I knew they were tracking this run and I wasn’t going to let them down,” said Castanon.

In the end, he would stay true to his word. Castanon met his goal at the finish line, beating his previous time by almost 11 minutes. He made sure to let his cousins know he accomplished what he set out to do.

“I spoke with my Aunt Hilda after the race and I told her to tell them I did the best that I could,” Castanon said. “I told her to tell them everyone who I passed that day will know their names and know that they are fighters too.”

Soldier’s Blog: Sgt. Robert Keifer

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Sgt. Robert Keifer

Hello, I’m Sgt. Robert Keifer, and I’ve been asked to write about my work here in The Old Guard, and specifically about the Military District of Washington’s (MDW) Best Warrior Competition, which I competed in, and won, last week. I’m thankful for the opportunity to serve here in our nation’s capital, as I’ve been thankful to serve previously in the 10th Mountain Division both at Fort Drum, N.Y., and Fort Polk, La.

I currently have the privilege of being a squad leader in the Presidential Escort Platoon, Honor Guard Company, where we spend our time preparing for and marching in ceremonies such as wreath layings at the Tomb of the Unknowns, arrivals for foreign dignitaries at the Pentagon, funerals for our veterans, parades, and the Presidential Inauguration. The preparations that we do to achieve the standards required for The Old Guard (read: perfection) include ongoing hours of uniform preparation, physical fitness training (going for a run past the monuments or through Georgetown are a treat and never cease to inspire me), practicing marching and rifle manual, which is what we’re doing when you hear “Right shoulder – Arms!” and other commands.

Each year a Soldier and an NCO are sent from each company in the regiment to compete for the title of “Soldier/NCO of the Year” at the Regiment’s Best Warrior Competition. Spc. Michael Sands and I were this year’s winners (he as Soldier of the Year, I as NCO of the Year) at the 3-day competition that included events ranging from land navigation to an obstacle course and an interview board. This competition wasn’t easy, and my fellow NCOs were great competitors.

The next level of competition in our region was the Military District of Washington’s Best Warrior Competition. Spc. Sands and I are also the winners for the MDW competition (though again, my fellow NCOs were great competitors), and we will go on to compete in October at the All-Army Best Warrior Competition in Fort Lee, Va. I do not take the task of representing The Old Guard lightly, and will spend the next couple months training harder than ever to bring credit upon The Old Guard. I give thanks and credit to God as “I can do all things through Christ, who strengthens me.” (Philippians 4:13)

Keifer participates in a ruck march during The Old Guard's Regimental Best Warrior Competition. He won among NCOs in the Regiment, and again against all NCOs from MDW. He will represent The Old Guard and MDW at the Army-wide competition in October.

Keifer participates in a ruck march during The Old Guard’s Regimental Best Warrior Competition. He won among NCOs in the Regiment, and again against all NCOs from MDW. He will represent The Old Guard and MDW at the Army-wide competition in October.

Continental musician reflects on 30-year Army service

Sgt. 1st Class Donald Francisco flips through one of five 3-inch binders full of signed pictures, articles, hand-written notes and a blue marker drawing of a teddy bear done by a little girl who lost her father in the war.

“These binders are full of people who have touched my life and that I have been honored and humbled to touch their lives,” said Francisco.

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Sgt. 1st Class Donald Francisco, fifer, The Old Guard Fife and Drum Corps [FDC], 3d U.S. Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard), plays during a parade in Middleburg, Va., Dec. 2011. Francisco served 22 years in the FDC and has memorized more than 700 songs. He will retire later this year. (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. James Hague)

 Francisco has provided inspiration and encouragement to these people and many others around the world through his service as an Army musician. However, after 30 years of playing, Francisco is retiring and closing a chapter in his musical journey.

“It’s surreal,” said Francisco, fifer, The Old Guard Fife and Drum Corps [FDC], 3d U.S. Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard). “I never thought it would get here and now it’s here.”

Francisco always knew that music would be an integral part of his life when he began searching for an instrument to play at the age of 12.

“I’d thought I try clarinet and sax and drum but my sister said that wasn’t me. She knew I was only trying to follow the guys,” said Francisco. “When I saw the flute, I was like I can do that, it was something different.”

He added that although some people saw the flute as a feminine instrument, he was ready to take on the challenge and received a lot of encouragement from his family along the way.

Francisco continued playing the flute through middle school and eventually landed a spot in the St. Augustine Marching 100, a prestigious high school band in New Orleans, La. After graduating in 1984, Francisco joined the Army with one simple goal in mind.

“I had a dream to play for the President one day as an Army musician,” said Francisco.

Francisco fulfilled his dream when he joined the FDC seven years into his Army career.

The FDC performs at all armed-forces arrival ceremonies for visiting dignitaries and heads of state in support of the president.

Francisco said reaching his goal to play for not one, but three presidents – Presidents George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton and Obama – was a dream come true. Where some may render these moments has highlights of their careers, Francisco said these aren’t the moments he will miss or treasure the most.

“The high profile gigs are nice but every job has significance and an importance,” said Francisco. “It was nice playing for Nelson Mandela, the Queen and the Pope, but it is just as nice playing at elementary schools where the kids like to ask about our wigs and our coats and our fifes and drums.”

The FDC wears uniforms and plays instruments patterned after Gen. George Washington’s Continental Army. Francisco said he was touched to represent an important part of our Nation’s birth to a younger generation.

“The Fife and Drum Corps is living history” said Francisco. “Sometimes people will call me an ‘edutainer’ because I educate and I entertain.”

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Francisco plays the fife while running the Army Ten-Miler in Washington, D.C., Oct. 21, 2012. Francisco played his fife during the race to provide inspiration and motivation to the runners. Francisco will officially retire later this year after 30 years of service in the Corps of Army Music. (Courtesy photo)

Francisco strived throughout his career to bring joy and happiness to those around him with his ability to play a unique instrument. Year after year, Francisco ran the Army Ten-Miler while wearing his tri-cornered hat and playing his fife in order to provide runners with the motivation necessary to complete the run.

“I’d play songs like God Bless America and If You’re Happy and You Know It Clap Your Hands and people would actually clap their hands while running,” said Francisco. “I’ll even take requests. Some people have asked me to play Happy Birthday or their service song.”

Francisco, who has close to 700 songs memorized, takes pride in being able to communicate through his music. Most importantly, Francisco said it was most helpful when dealing with an international audience.

“My music is a pedal-stool to reach out to people. I call it an icebreaker and a bridge-maker,” said Francisco. “As I’m playing, I’ll listen to a person’s language or their dialect and I’ll begin to play a song of their nationality or from their country. Those are some of my most touching moments; when I am able to reach out to a person through music without even speaking a word to them.”

Francisco said looking back he doesn’t regret the moment as a little boy when he decided to do something out of the box. His ability to always search for something different led him to the FDC and helped give him a sense of self.

“The one thing the flute has done for me is help me be secure in who I am and who I am not and that’s important for people to realize,” said Francisco.“I know what my job is and I know what it requires.”

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Maj. Gen. Michael S. Linnington (left), commanding general, Joint Force Headquarters-National Capital Region/Military District of Washington, presents Francisco his retirement award, Apr. 25, on Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall, Va. Francisco served 22 of his 30 years of service in the FDC. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Jose Torres, Jr.)

Although he has enjoyed a successful 30-year career in the Corps of Army Music, Francisco said this will not be the complete end for him.

“Success is not final and failure is not fatal; meaning that when you do fail start over,” said Francisco. “But when you are successful, don’t think that is the end. You have to continue.”

On the interment of Lt. Col. Don C. Faith, Jr.

Today I had the honor of serving as the Officer in Charge for the interment of Lt. Col. Don Faith, a Medal of Honor recipient. Lt. Col. Faith was killed while leading a fighting retreat for his forces trapped near the Chosin Reservoir in Korea in 1950.

I had originally planned to write some comments on what his service means to the nation and our Army at war; of how the sacrifice of an individual is conceivable within our profession. Each of us knows the rest of the Army team will be there to care for them and their families, and to keep on looking until we bring them home and honor them appropriately.

Last week while attending a change of command for Delta Company, 1st Battalion, 3d US Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard) I heard a speech given by Capt. Paul Benfield. His words so eloquently stated the ideas I held that I instead provide them to you below:

Lt. Col. Don C. Faith Jr. burial

A Delta Company casket team carries the body of Lt. Col. Don C. Faith Jr. to his final resting place in Arlington National Cemetery, Va., Apr. 17. Faith Jr. was killed on Dec. 1, 1950 near the Chosin Reservoir in North Korea, but his remains were not identified and returned to the United States until 2012. Faith Jr was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor for his selfless actions during the Korean War. (U.S. Army Photo by Sgt. Jose A. Torres Jr.)

“Lieutenant Colonel Faith, although physically exhausted in the bitter cold, organized and launched an attack which was soon stopped by enemy fire. He ran forward under enemy small-arms and automatic weapons fire, got his men on their feet and personally led the fire attack as it blasted its way through the enemy ring. As they came to a hairpin curve, enemy fire from a roadblock again pinned the column down. Lieutenant Colonel Faith organized a group of men and directed their attack on the enemy positions on the right flank. He then placed himself at the head of another group of men and in the face of direct enemy fire led an attack on the enemy roadblock, firing his pistol and throwing grenades. When he had reached a position approximately 30 yards from the roadblock he was mortally wounded, but continued to direct the attack until the roadblock was overrun. Throughout the five days of action Lieutenant Colonel Faith gave no thought to his safety and did not spare himself. His presence each time in the position of greatest danger was an inspiration to his men. Also, the damage he personally inflicted firing from his position at the head of his men was of material assistance on several occasions. Lieutenant Colonel Faith’s outstanding gallantry and noble self-sacrifice above and beyond the call of duty reflect the highest honor on him and are in keeping with the highest traditions of the U.S. Army.

In the chaos and danger of that retreat, Lt. Col. Faith’s body was left behind. Last year a Joint Field Recovery team located Lt. Col. Faith’s remains near the Chosin Reservoir. More than 62 years after his death, you [D Company] will perform the service that lays Lt. Col. Faith to rest with full military honors in Arlington National Cemetery.

One of my first missions in the cemetery was a full honor, two-platoon service, with the caisson, U.S. Army band, and a caparisoned horse. As we formed up in preparation, we were told that only three family members would be attending the service. One Soldier remarked, ‘there are over 75 Soldiers here, seven horses, a full band, two marching platoons, the caisson… I can’t believe we are doing all of this, this entire show, for three people.’ At which point another Soldier replied, ‘we’re not doing this for three people, we’re doing all this for one.’ I do not know how many of Lt. Col. Faith’s family members will be present for the service, but it doesn’t matter. The debt you are paying is to him, not to his family.

It has been my distinct honor and pleasure to serve here with you. I have been humbled to do so. But as I leave, I hope and pray that you will fully understand what an honor it is for you to serve here. No other nation on earth is dedicated to the mantra of “I will never leave a fallen comrade” like we are. No other nation in the world combs the battlefields of forgotten wars like we do, or reverently returns fragmented remains with full military honors to a final resting place like we do.

Whether you served 30 years or three, whether killed in action this year, or over 60 years ago, or simply lived a long life after years of service, this nation, this Army, this Company, will see that you are honored with the respect and dignity you deserve. I hope that you never forget that you were one of the lucky few who got to be part of that. That you, standing here, are the physical manifestation of the covenant the U.S. Army has made with its Soldiers past and present. A covenant which is true, real and more valuable than I think you realize right now; but I hope you don’t forget. I certainly won’t…”


Soldiers of Delta Company remove the flag from the casket of Lt. Col. Don C. Faith Jr., who was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions during a fighting retreat at the Chosin Reservoir, Korea, in 1950. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Jose A. Torres, Jr.)

Capt. Benfield summarized a few of the things that are great about our Army: the heroism of individual leaders who give their all and make the ultimate sacrifice while fighting valiantly to save their Soldiers and win the day; the understanding that we are all Soldiers for life, committed to the nation by the shared bond of raising our hands and volunteering to risk our lives for this great nation.

The role that The Old Guard plays in ensuring that commitment to caring for Soldiers is honored, even after death, as we lay our brothers and sisters in arms and their loved ones to rest in America’s holiest shrine, Arlington National Cemetery. The ceremony we performed today for Lt. Col. Faith was a great honor, as were the 10 other Army funerals the regiment supported. As a Soldier, I have always known I could depend upon those around me to fight, for the medics to care for our wounded, for our supporting arms to provide the fires, supplies, maintenance and intelligence needed to win. In commanding the 3d U.S. Infantry Regiment, I have come to understand how deep and how long that commitment really is.

-Col. James Markert, Commander, 3d U.S. Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard)

Soldiers of Delta Company, 3d U.S. Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard), finish folding a flag during the interment of Lt. Col. Don C. Faith Jr., commander, 1st Battalion, 32st Infantry Regiment in Arlington National Cemetery, Va., Apr. 17. After 62 years of being classified as “Killed in Action body not recovered,” Faith Jr.'s remains were found near the Chosin Reservoir in North Korea by a field recovery team. His remains were identified through DNA and reported to the public by Defense Prisoner Of War - Missing Personnel Office on Oct. 11, 2012. (U.S. Army Photo by Sgt. Jose A. Torres Jr.)

Soldiers of Delta Company finish folding a flag after the interment of Lt. Col. Faith. The flag was presented to Faith’s Family as a token of the appreciation of the United States for Faith’s selfless actions in Korea. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Jose A. Torres, Jr.)

Sacramento PD travels 3000 miles to train with The Old Guard

“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.”

Detective James Anderson, a traffic officer with the Sacramento P.D., waits for the command to begin folding a flag during memorial affairs training on Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall, Va., Apr. 9. Members of the S.P.D traveled nearly 3,000 miles to receive hands-on training and the expertise of Soldiers from the 3d U.S. Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard), the Army's premiere memorial and ceremonial unit.  (U.S. Army Photo by Sgt. Luisito Brooks)

Detective James Anderson, a traffic officer with the Sacramento P.D., waits for the command to begin folding a flag during memorial affairs training on Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall, Va., Apr. 9. Members of the S.P.D traveled nearly 3,000 miles to receive hands-on training and the expertise of Soldiers from the 3d U.S. Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard), the Army’s premiere memorial and ceremonial unit. (U.S. Army Photo by Sgt. Luisito Brooks)

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.

Sgt. Brent Austin, a casket team leader with The Old Guard, teaches members of the Sacramento P.D. how to properly fold a flag Apr. 9. The Old Guard's primary mission is to conduct funerals and ceremonies for fallen Soldiers in Arlington National Cemetery, Va. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Luisito Brooks)

Sgt. Brent Austin, a casket team leader with The Old Guard, teaches members of the Sacramento P.D. how to properly fold a flag Apr. 9. The Old Guard’s primary mission is to conduct funerals and ceremonies for fallen Soldiers in Arlington National Cemetery, Va. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Luisito Brooks)

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.”