New military funeral policies begin this week



by Donovan Jackson
Air University Public Affairs


7/2/2013 - MAXWELL AIR FORCE BASE, Ala. - -- Due to the sequestration's effect on monetary resources, the Air Force is adjusting requirements for military funeral honors for retirees, now reduced to a two-person Air Force honor team rather than seven.

Previously, the Air Force would provide a two-member team for veterans, a seven-member team for retirees and a 20-member team for active duty. The change is an update to Air Force Instruction 34-242, Mortuary Affairs Program.

Changes to the funeral operations were initiated Monday at Maxwell.

"With the recent changes to the Air Force policy, we will probably have to (reduce) the 40-member team," said Maj. Lloyd Olinger, Force Support Squadron operations officer. "Because of this, we will end up returning Airmen back to their assigned units to perform their primary AFSC (Air Force specialty code)."

However, the change does not affect funeral services offered to active-duty personnel, active-duty members of the Air National Guard and Reserve and Medal of Honor recipients. They are all entitled to full military funeral honors, consisting of a 20-person detail of six pallbearers, eight-person firing party, a bugler, four-person color guard and a detail officer or Non Commissioned Officer.

Along with decreasing the number of Airmen to perform funerals honors, Olinger said that Maxwell will be saving money in the process, as it costs up to $500 to outfit an Airman in the honor guard uniform. He also mentioned that Maxwell will save money by using more fuel-efficient sedans for funeral transportation rather than the commonly used vans.

The Maxwell honor guard provides close to 650 funeral honors a year.

"Within the last 390 days, we've sent teams out on 300 of those days," said Olinger. "There are days that we send three to five teams out due to the high volume of funerals, which can comprise of anywhere from 15 to 20 Airmen. With the new policy, this would be cut to 10."

Despite the new changes to the funeral policy, the pride of serving on the honor guard team remains untouched.

"Whatever I am told to do, I will do," said Airmen 1st Class Brandon Lewis, 42nd Medical Group, resource management technician. "I know that the cuts are coming, but I've always been the type to adapt. Serving for the honor guard gives me a great sense of pride and accomplishment, especially since I am helping to lay a fellow brother to rest."