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Keesler Airman supports Ford's state funeral

KEESLER AIR FORCE BASE, Miss -- Almost 4,000 Airmen, Soldiers, Sailors, Marines and Coast Guard members geared up to support the national farewell to former President Gerald Ford.

Keesler supported the effort by sending Tech. Sgt. Daniel Neely, 81st Training Wing Public Affairs noncommissioned officer in charge.

Sergeant Neely arrived in Palm Desert, Calif., Dec. 28 in response to a short-notice tasking.

While at Palm Desert, Sergeant Neely helped plan and execute the media program in support of the former president's state funeral within the joint information bureau.

"My roles ranged from working behind the scenes printing up hundreds of press kits, to responding to media queries, to the visible role of escorting national media," said Sergeant Neely. "It was definitely encouraging to hear from our JIB leadership that the Ford family was very pleased with how smoothly the overall media operation unfolded."

"This is DOD's way of showing respect and honor to a former commander in chief and president, so it's very important to us," said Army Col. Jim Yonts, public affairs officer for the Military District of Washington.

The military's experience in planning, attention to detail and execution makes it ideally suited to conducting state funerals honoring former presidents, Colonel Yonts said.

"It ensures the synchronization of many, many moving parts, with ground assets, air assets, intelligence assets and all kinds of other assets coming together to ensure a safe and secure state funeral that properly honors a former commander in chief and president," he said.

The MDW, operating as the Joint Force Headquarters-National Capital Region, served as the Defense Department's command and control headquarters for the funeral activities. Military support ranged from color guards and honorary pallbearers to airlift and other transportation to logistics, Colonel Yonts said.

About 100 members of a joint-service honor guard from throughout the National Capital Region supported the state funeral.

Sergeant Neely said the experience was a great opportunity.

"I think it was awe inspiring to see the level of teamwork required to bring about a successful state funeral," he said. "While it was obviously a very somber time, at the same time I thought it was a unique privilege to both witness and be a part of history."

(Air Force News Service contributed to this report)