445 AW 2010 Youth of the Year serves as sentinel

  • Published
  • By 445th Airlift Wing
  • 445th Logistics Readiness Squadron
When you visit Washington, D.C., and stop at Arlington National Cemetery's Tomb of the Unknowns, you might see the first 445th Airlift Wing's Youth of the Year for 2010, Specialist Thomas Ozio.

Ozio, son of Chief Master Sgt. Shirley Ozio, 445th Logistics Readiness Squadron superintendent, and Staff Sgt. Daniel Ozio, 445th Civil Engineer Squadron water and fuels system journeyman, began Army Infantry Basic Training at Fort Benning, Ga. October 2010. While there, he was selected to join the Army's 3rd Infantry Regiment, "The Old Guard", at Fort Myer, Va. Formed in 1784, the Old Guard is the oldest active-duty infantry unit in the U.S. Army. The Old Guard is the Army's official ceremonial unit and escort to the president, and it also provides security for Washington, D.C., in time of national emergency or civil disturbance.

At Fort Myer, he was first assigned to Alpha Company, also known as the Commander-in-Chief's Guard, patterned after General George Washington's personal guard of the day. He performed in ceremonies and funerals in the National Capital Region and dignified transfers at Dover Air Force Base, Del. For his outstanding duty, General Martin Dempsey, Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff, coined Ozio in January 2012.

In March 2012, Ozio's first sergeant selected him to train as a sentinel at the Tomb of the Unknowns. To be a sentinel, a soldier has to be in superb physical condition, possess an unblemished military record and be between 5 feet, 10 inches and 6 feet, 4 inches tall, with a proportionate weight and build. After an interview and a two-week trial to determine a soldier's capability to train as a tomb guard, the soldier begins "new soldier" training.

New sentinels learn the history of Arlington National Cemetery and the grave locations of nearly 300 veterans. They learn the guard-change ceremony and the manual of arms that takes place during the inspection portion of the Changing of the Guard. Sentinels learn to keep their uniforms and weapons in immaculate condition. The rumor that sentinels live below the tomb, can't talk, drink, swear, etc., is not true. Sentinels work a 24-hour shift and are restricted during their shift, but on their off days, are just like any other soldier; although they spend much of their off-time preparing for their next shift.

There are three reliefs, or shifts assigned to the Tomb, each having one relief commander and about six sentinels; Ozio is in Relief Two. The three reliefs are divided by height so that those in each guard change ceremony look similar. The sentinels walk when the cemetery is open. During the winter, the sentinels rotate walks every hour and every half-hour in the summer; and guard for two hours when the cemetery is closed.

During their silent patrol at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, they pace a 63-foot walkway in 21 steps, click heels, turn, click, pause for 21 seconds, turn, change the rifle to the other shoulder, click, pause for another 21 seconds, and repeat.

The sentinels are tested to earn the privilege of wearing the silver Tomb Guard Identification Badge after several months of serving. First, they are tested on their manual of arms, uniform preparation and their walks. Then, the Badge Test is given. The test is 100 randomly selected questions of the 300 items memorized during training on the history of Arlington National Cemetery and the Tomb of the Unknowns.

In a ceremony on November 5, 2012, Ozio earned his Tomb Badge; Number 605. He will wear the Tomb Badge while serving as a sentinel and after finishing his Tomb assignment. Although the Tomb Badge can be revoked for various reasons, i.e. DUI or criminal conviction; the rumor that it would be taken away because of swearing in public or drinking alcohol is untrue.

For more information about Arlington National Cemetery and the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier visit http://www.arlingtoncemetery.mil/

(Chief Master Sgt. Shirley Ozio contributed to this article)