MINOT AIR FORCE BASE, N.D. --
Rigidly standing shoulder to shoulder, a colors team of four ceremonial guardsmen from Minot Air Force Base stand in full service dress at the North Dakota State Fairgrounds great hall, one Airman in particular stood anxiously as the lead rifle for the first time in her career.
Recently selected to become part of the Air Force Honor Guard Staff Sgt. Nikole Warn, 5th Logistics Readiness Squadron, ceremonial guardsman lead rifle, never looked back after stepping on the stage to present the colors for the United States national anthem.
Warn, actively involved in the base honor guard since 2014, joined to be a part of something bigger than herself.
“I started as a vehicle maintenance craftsman. Broken vehicles would come into the bay and I was able to fix them. I got to see my job satisfaction, but I felt it was still very narrow.”
After completing vehicle maintenance upgrade training, Warn noticed a base-wide email for joining the base honor guard training course and was encouraged by her supervisor to follow a long-time dream.
Warn was born in Denver, Colorado and moved around frequently in her youth. She lived in Billings, Pittsburgh and spent five years living in Saudi Arabia.
While in high school, she was heavily involved in marching band, music and an audition-only symphonic band.
“One of my best memories was conducting ‘The Star-Spangled Banner’ for our 9/11 memorial,” Warn said. “We had an American flag that stretched from each 30-yard line and I was standing at center podium.”
Due to graduating at the age of 16, Warn couldn’t join the Air Force immediately following high school. Instead, she continued her education at a community college where she eventually joined the cross-town Air Force Junior ROTC with the University of Pittsburgh.
“With my marching band experience, I was able to teach others how to march and drill as a first year cadet,” Warn said. “This prepared me for basic training and honor guard because I didn’t have to worry about learning everything, rather I could focus on helping other Airmen.”
Warn explains her reason for joining the Air Force was due to growing up in Saudi Arabia during the bombing of the Khobar Towers.
“I saw what it was like to live there and how people were treated,” she said. “They had a divided society; people with money and privilege and people without. Coming back to the states, I realized people take a lot of things for granted. Experiencing that, made me realize the many opportunities our country has. So, I wanted to do my part ensuring it stays that way.”
Warn has received many accolades throughout her career, but her most recent accomplishment was her acceptance to participate in the Air Force Honor Guard.
While in charge of the base honor guard during her deployment to Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar, Warn was sitting at her desk, checking her email just like any other day.
She noticed an unfamiliar name in an email appeared, “Congratulations! You have been accepted for the Air Force Honor Guard pre-screening process.”
Warn remembers sitting and staring blankly at her computer screen, “It felt like I read the email a thousand times.”
After her initial excitement wore off, Warn immediately forwarded the email to Tech. Sgt. Joshua Hull, Minot AFB Honor Guard NCO in charge.
“From the moment she joined the base program, her drive and initiative exceeded the average Airman’s,” said Hull, also a prior Air Force Honor Guard member. “She had a craving to learn and I instantly saw her potential. Throughout her career I put her in scenarios that would develop her communication skills and confidence when leading honor guard teams during ceremonies. This opportunity will help develop her even further and begin her network with the honor guard world.”
Warn, well-prepared for her new assignment, has started her Air Force Honor Guard journey at Bolling AFB, Washington, D.C.
As the color team walked through the center aisle between the neatly organized chairs, attendees faced the flag and followed it with their eyes as it reached its destination. The arena became dark as a spotlight highlights the American flag. She stands in front of thousands of people from across the world and takes a breath as her detail is commanded to present arms. Before she knew it, the entire arena joined in singing our nation’s song.
“I remember standing there with my rifle trying not to show emotion, as we have to keep our bearing,” Warn said. “It was really hard not to smile and be proud of every single person and show I was proud to be an American Airman.”