By Julie Lucas
NAS Jacksonville Public Affairs
When there is a need for military funeral service and numerous other types of ceremonies, the Naval Air Station Jacksonville (NAS Jax) Honor Support Team (HST) is available to fulfill that need.
Commander, Navy Region Southeast is the regional coordinator for the Casualty Assistance Calls program and Funeral Honors Support program. Assisting the next-of-kin of military members who have passed away is an emotionally-filled process that culminates with the arrangement of funeral honors support for deceased active duty, retirees and veterans.
The HST currently has 17 members with two of them being permanently assigned to the Jacksonville National Cemetery.
To become a member of the HST, Sailors are selected for four-month TAD (temporary assigned duty) orders from various commands aboard the station. Each team member is cross-trained to perform every function.
"This has to be one of the most humbling duties our Sailors have to fulfill," said BMC Paul Supnet, HST lead chief petty officer. "Being able to provide flag and rifle services for our fallen brothers and sisters is a responsibility that all Sailors should perform. It's not only tradition but an honor to our Sailors and other military members who have served."
The NAS Jax HST also provides funeral honors at other cemeteries in Florida and Southeast Georgia. For one member of the team, this was a job has been an eye-opening experience.
"The duties that I normally have in the Navy and what I'm doing now is so different," said PR3 Al-Michael Whyte. "While being a part of the team, I've learn how to shoot a rifle and been able to perfect facing movements."
Funeral honor support consists of, but is not limited to:
â€¢ Setting up the squad
â€¢ Graveside services for casketed or cremated remains
â€¢ Firing of the rifle volley
â€¢ Folding and presenting the flag
Members of the team practice daily and ensure their uniforms are squared away at all times so they are ready when the call comes in. The team at the Jacksonville National Cemetery estimates 40 minutes every day is spent working on their uniforms before services, which could be nearly every day of the week.
HST Leading Petty Officer EN1 Glenn Strode is in charge of scheduling, supervising training and performing honors.
For active duty military funerals, the detail requires eight personnel including pallbearers, riflemen for a 21-gun salute, flag folders and a bugler. The team also supports Navy celebrations and community events, such as changes of command, retirements and other ceremonies.
"HST is an excellent opportunity to represent the Navy in front of the community, your peers and your superiors," said EN2 Valerie Jackson. "You feel a great sense of pride knowing you were the face of the Navy to families who have lost loved ones. By doing funeral services, you see how much the Navy matters in people's lives."
To learn more about serving with the special unit, call 542-2330.
Honor Support Team provides service for ceremonies
By Julie Lucas