By Texan Mosaic Staff
Honor is something those in law enforcement and other service organizations hold to the utmost priority and officers from across the region got a real feel for honor at the first Honor Guard Academy hosted at South Plains College last week.
“This is the first time we’ve ever done it and the second time it’s been hosted,” said Kenny Burns, department chair and professor of law enforcement at SPC.
Burns said the academy came to SPC through a partnership with the Department of Public Safety. The course was taught by representatives of Border Patrol, DPS and the Lubbock County Sheriff’s Office.
Officers participating in the academy learned the appropriate formations for all things required of honor officers, from funeral processions, appropriate formations and handling of flags, among others.
Participants spent three hours in the classroom daily and the rest of time, some days until after sunset, working on drills and practicing the skills they had learned.
“It’s a lot in 40 hours,” Burns said.
Sgt. Robles with DPS said it was decided the academy would be held at SPC this year for several reasons, mainly because the facilities were accommodating and the availability of staff.
“Kenny Burns reached out with an invitation and has been more than accommodating,” Robles said. “We had access to classrooms and facilities…SPC has been the nicest place. Everything we’ve needed was there.”
Robles has been involved in Honor Guard since 2009 and said the point of hosting an academy is to get officers from across the region on the same page about proceedings.
“You run into the same problem and spend a lot of time learning to do something so everyone is on the same page,” Robles said. “It’s a lot more efficient to get everyone doing it the same way and everyone from multiple agencies come together to perform the final honors in an official manner.”
Robles said he and the instructors at the Honor Guard Academy, along with fellow officers, take Honor Guard seriously because honor is the least they can offer to those who have lost their lives in the line of duty.
“They deserve it,” Robles said. “We’re in front of the family on their worst day and we want to make sure that officer and that family is recognized in a dignified and professional manner. The work we put in right now pays dividends when we are able to pay those final honors.”
Officers who participated in the academy were impressed with the professionalism of the academy.
“They really drive it home that what we’re doing is important,” said Fernando Gomez with the Lea County Sheriff’s Office. “It’s important to not just law enforcement, but for the family members of the officer we are there to honor.”
Jeremias Rodriguez with the Levelland Police Department said he enjoyed the comradery of working alongside fellow officers from across the area.
“We were able to practice and train side by side with officers from other agencies,” Rodriguez said. “I always say, we may wear different badges but we have the same purpose. This brought us together.”
Officers also got to learn from some experienced and veteran officers from across the state.
“The instructors were very intelligible,” said Jasmine Sanchez with the Lea County Sheriff’s Office. “They watched us and pulled us aside if we needed additional help. It felt very honorable and I was proud and happy at how it all came together.”
To conclude the week’s training, officers participate in a mock funeral Friday in formal Class A Uniforms. The dress rehearsal was hosted at Krestridge Funeral Home and at the City of Levelland Cemetery.
Officers from the Levelland Police Department, Hockley County Sheriff’s Office, Lubbock County Sheriff’s Office, Texas Tech Police Department, Stephenville Police Department, Midland Police Department, Lubbock County Fire and Rescue, Lea County, Lovington Police and the New Mexico State Police participated in the academy.
Burns said he hopes that SPC will be considered as the location for future trainings and that it will be even bigger than it was this year. “We hope to host it again in the future at SPC with a bigger event and more training,” Burns said.