Officers volunteer time to be part of local honor guard

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By Thomas Barr

 SHEPHERDSVILLE - Having been a member while serving as a police officer in Tennessee, Charles McWhirter mentioned he had an interest in starting an Honor Guard in Bullitt County.

The idea was bounced around among the police chiefs and sheriff in the county for several months.

Recently, the first steps to putting a Bullitt County Honor Guard in place were taken as a group of 12 individuals went through a week’s training.

While there is much to be done before the volunteer group of 12 law enforcement officials are on display, it is a start.

The Louisville Metro Police Department’s honor guard staff put two teams of officers through the paces during a training session at the Shepherdsville Government Center.

Robert Oliver, the lead instructor for the training session, said the teams from Bullitt County and from Jeffersonville would participate in classroom lessons, as well as actual drills.

Dan Patchin, assistant chief for the Shepherdsville Police Department, said those who chose to participate did so on a volunteer basis.

And he said each of the departments made the commitment to allow the officers the time to do the required training and to participate in the ceremonies.

In Louisville, Oliver said the Honor Guard unit, which has slots for 24 people, might participate in 100 details a year, from funerals to parades.

“There is a lot of training which still needs to be done,” said Oliver. “You can’t get it all done in one week.”

The instruction included the history of what it means to be on the honor guard. Each of the participants were asked why they chose to be part of the county’s first honor guard.

There would also be a standard operating procedures which would be followed by the honor guard members.

Then there is the actual drill exercises.

Oliver said it was important that each member understood the importance of the Honor Guard activities.

“The ceremonies mean a great deal to those who are watching,” said Oliver. “And it means a lot to those who are part of it.”

Personally, Taps and the sound of the bugle have a special meaning for Oliver.

Oliver said even an experienced group like LMPD practices on a regular basis. Part of the duties will be to make sure practice sessions continue for the Bullitt County group.

“It’s very exciting to me,” said McWhirter.

Having been on a unit before, McWhirter said there is a sense of pride for those who participate.

“This thing is starting to get off the ground,” said McWhirter. “It is very exciting.”

In going through the training, McWhirter said there are things which brings back memories of his prior experience.

“It is great to see people who are advancing so fast in just one week,” McWhirter said on the final day of training.

One plus from the honor guard is that McWhirter and the other 11 officers have a little time to get to know one another. While they may see each other in court, he said they really don’t have a chance to talk.

“I’ve gotten to know some officers a lot better,” said McWhirter, who added it might help in networking and cooperative efforts between the various departments in the future.

The Bullitt County Sheriff’s Office and the city departments from Shepherdsville, Mount Washington, Pioneer Village and Hillview will have at least one member on the honor guard.

McWhirter said he thinks everyone will make sure they are available to practice as a unit. He said there is that commitment by the officers.

And he is sure the various departments will make sure the officers have time to participate on the voluntary honor guard.

Being able to be participate in things such as military funerals and parades will be very important to the community.

“It means a lot to the families and those in the crowd,” said McWhirter.

Through an interlocal agreement, Patchin said Shepherdsville Police will organize the honor guard efforts through 2016. At that time, the police chiefs will decide who will coordinate each year.

Besides Oliver, instructors included Lt. Aubrey Gregory, Sgt. Clayton Elliott and officer Troy Sumerall.

Oliver predicted it will be a few months before the honor guard will be ready for its first public function.