The First Day of 2016
My life in CAF Honor Guards
It was a cold and damp winter last year. By the time I became a professional honor guard, I had been trained in the Air Force Honor Guards for six month. We were preparing for a performance and the New Year Flag Raising ceremony. During the whole December, the United Honor Guards, which includes army, navy, and air force honor guards, were training and practicing together in order to perform the best and zero mistakes professional show for public. The training was tough, and I feel extremely exhausted everyday during that time. Finally, at the end of the training, we had several rehearsals at the National Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall in Taipei.
During the rehearsals, before we got to the opening position, we had to check our appearance to another partner, especially the accessories or badges on the suit. We must be super careful of our equipment because when we got off the bus, actually the performance was begun. The people on the street were taking tons of pictures when we were outside. After double checking the looks, the commander of honor guards would give the instruction, telling what we were going to do next. It was simple to follow someone’s order, besides, we were a group with hundreds of honor guards!
The performance was about twelve minutes long that included several formations and hundreds of actions to remember. Sometimes, we used the forms to present particular meanings, for instances, circle formation presents the value of unity, and the square formation means discipline. Because it was the 105th year of our country, at the end of the performance, we arranged the formation to show the number, 105.
To make the rows or columns in formations stay consistent is the most difficult part of the performance. Keeping formations consistently makes us professional, discipline, and energetic. The secret of holding formations is that we mark white spots that located every honor guard’s position on the field, and only take us two paces to reach another spot if we are moving.
January 1, 2016
After months of training, finally, we came to the last stage. We got up at 3 in the morning and quickly dressed up, then took the bus to the Presidential Palace. It was a freezing morning and the wind was strongly howling. We stood by on the road which is next to the Palace and started to warm up. I was extremely excited at that time and also felt a little bit of nervous hopping that I wouldn’t make any mistakes.
To prevent any big mistake, we had to make sure each honor guard’s initial spot. If we were wrong at the beginning, then everything would go wrong. In order to confirm the position, we did the last rehearsal without our M1 rifles and helmets. The commander of the United Honor Guards gave us a short talk to encourage us and made sure everything is right after we had gone back to the standby position.
At 5:30 am, the formal performance began. We entered the plaza in front of the Palace with a majestic melody played by the United Orchestra. I focused on the tempo that remind me what to do next. Suddenly, I felt no fear. I completely enjoyed performing in a such significance day. Everything went well and we were proud. We all concentrated on every actions, formations, and our rifles to make our performance perfect.
After the performance, coming up was the Flag Raising Ceremony. During the ceremony, we sang the national anthem, and it was the first time I felt so proud to be a Taiwanese and a soldier. We saw the flag slowly raised with the first sunrise in 2016. It was a meaningful and remarkable experience to every honor guards. All the pains from the training became joy and proud. It’s so hard to describe the feeling after the mission was over. I can still remember our sergeant said “We have no perfect performance, we just push our limits so hard to get closer to perfect.” This was my first day of 2016 and I’ll always, always remember.