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NEWS | Jan. 9, 2023

SMR hosts back-to-back national, regional funeral honors training

By A.J. Coyne | Virginia National Guard Public Affairs

Army National Guard Soldiers from around the country traveled to Virginia in December to participate in two separate Military Funeral Honors courses at the State Military Reservation in Virginia Beach, Virginia.

Seven Soldiers from Virginia, Connecticut, Maryland, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and South Carolina participated in Military Funeral Honors Level 3 training Dec. 4-9, 2022. The following week, 10 Soldiers from Virginia, Maryland and North Carolina participated in Level 1 training.

The Virginia National Guard Funeral Honors Program hosted the two courses, which included instructors from Georgia, Mississippi, North Carolina and Virginia.  

There are three levels of training in the military funeral honors program. Level 1 is the foundation and teaches Soldiers how to perform the services. Level 2 covers instructing and how to become more of a trainer. Level 3 is used as a recertification and is required every three years. It also ensures each state is maintaining the national standard.

Staff Sgt. Jason Cain, the senior instructor for the Virginia National Guard Funeral Honors Program, explained the training lasts all day.

“We start at 0430 and go until probably 2100 or 2200 each night,” he said. “We keep them on their toes and they’re pretty stressed and tired but that’s part of it. They need to be physically and mentally fit enough to maintain that standard.”

Staff Sgt. Quadaris Gibbs of the North Carolina Army National Guard, who has been conducting funeral honors since 2015, was serving as an instructor for the Level 1 course for the first time.

“The biggest thing I try to tell them is our goal is to be as close to perfect as possible,” he said. “Although we’ll never achieve perfection, we want to be as close as humanly possible for that family and that veteran.”

Gibbs’ first service was for a fallen Soldier he served with.

“I hope none of them ever have to conduct honors for someone they knew and loved and served alongside but when the day comes, I want them to be able to fall back on muscle memory and the fundamentals we build here in these courses,” he explained. “So that they will feel secure because when those emotions take over all you have is those muscle memories from the training you put in.”

The Virginia MFH program tries to conduct at least five Level 1 courses a year. In addition, they also host regional and national Level 2 and Level 3 courses. A big reason for that is the facilities at SMR and the support they receive there.

“We volunteer to host a lot of the national courses because we have everything they need here,” Cain explained. “Billeting’s good and it’s a great facility for training.”
“The SMR staff is great,” he continued. “They allow us to have an office here and a storage area here for our equipment. They’re always working with us and if we have any issues, they’re right there helping us out. We definitely wouldn’t be able to function without their support.”

Upcoming courses include Level 2 in February, another Level 1 course in April and a Level 2 course in August. For instructors, the training courses are on top of still going out and performing missions around the state.

Begun in January 2007, the Virginia National Guard Military Funeral Honors Program is composed of six teams located throughout the state which provide funeral details, not just to National Guard Soldiers, but to veterans of the active Army, Army Reserve and Army National Guard.

For more information on the Virginia National Guard Funeral Honors Program please visit or call 434-480-2599.

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