By Joshua Cohen
Vermont National Guard Public Affairs
From April 4-15, 12 Army National Guard Military Funeral Honors Soldiers from Connecticut, Massachusetts, Ohio, New York and Vermont took part in a Level- II MFH Train-the-Trainer certification course at Camp Johnson in Colchester.
This marked the first time the Vermont National Guard has ever hosted this certification course.
“We are hosting the Military Funeral Honors Level-II course to better train our Soldiers and set a standard across the board,” according to Sgt. 1st Class Travis Rock, Vermont Army National Guard MFH Program noncommissioned officer in charge.
Rock said a State National Guard from each region of the U.S. has an opportunity to host the Level-II course, which is taught by national-level MFH instructors.
“This is the first time in the history of the MFH program that Level-II training is available in Vermont,” Rock explained. “We took the opportunity and offered to host the course about ten months ago.”
Kevin Palladino, a Military Funeral Honors national trainer, said the Level-II course hosted by the Vermont National Guard represents a gathering of MFH Soldiers from the Northeast region.
“This is extremely detailed training, everything from the foot placement to their hands on the weapon and flag, as well as body posture,” Said Palladino. “We’re looking for a total Soldier concept; we’re looking for the embodiment of what a Solider really is in this training, we’re looking for Soldiers who can not only represent the U.S. Army but the entire nation,” Palladino said.
According to senior instructor Bryan Hise, the Level-II course is designed to certify Level-I MFH trainers.
“It is intended for the Soldier who has that unique dynamic to be a trainer and a leader,” Said Hise. “We conduct this course to certify trainers to go back and conduct a Level-I course, which is an initial Honor Guard course for the various states to perform this respectful mission.”
Hise explained that every three years, his team conducts seven Level-II courses, one course for each United States Region, and two Level-III certification courses to recertify Level-II trainers.
Due to the intense attention to detail required in a Level-II course, Hise said the character of individual Soldiers is necessary for success.
“Honor Guardsmen hold themselves to a higher standard both on and off-duty in performance, conduct and appearance,” said Hise. “Everything in Military Funeral Honors has a purpose, everything must be correct, or it will affect something else, on the flag, the casket carry, or the weapon and it won’t be as precision or in time with other personnel.”
Students of the course agree with the sentiments from their instructors.
Pfc. Shakira Casillas attended the training upon the recommendation of her supervisors after performing Military Funeral Honors for six months in the Connecticut Army National Guard.
“My Sergeants decided this would be a good opportunity to grow and I’ll be a new Level-II trainer, so I will be able to go back and help make the Military Funeral Honors Soldiers better,” said Casillas. “I'm happy to have come for this training, it was hard, but you must push yourself, there was a lot of attention to detail.”
For Spc. Jacob Sieracki of the New York Army National Guard MFH program, the training made him much more aware of small details in both personal appearance and overall performance.
“We had some very talented trainers; they were very knowledgeable and helpful, I learned a lot, and now I know what I need to work on and what I have to become proficient with,” said Jacob. “I feel confident about training MFH Soldiers on what they need to do and to fine tune everything to keep that high standard.”
Spc. Matthew Ward, a member of the Vermont Guard program, said the course changed his outlook on his duties.
“It is undeniably upping the game,” said Ward. ”This course has been a wonderful opportunity; the Level-II course is special because I can give families of veterans the respect they deserve.”