They are the Customs and Border Protection Honor Guard,and they came from San Diego to take part in the 6th Annual Steve Young Honor Guard Competition,part of National Police Week.
In the sea of competitors and onlookers,they stood out. With the exception of their team leader,this honor guard was the only all-female team in the competition. It is the group's third trip to the competition,but team leader Eric E. Crouston said it is the first time the team has competed as an all-female team.
“There was a selection process,and we felt we could place very high with this team,” Crouston said.
They faced 19 other teams from all over the country with the same hopes of taking home the first-place prize.
The competition was established in honor of Steve Young,a former national president of the Fraternal Order of Police,who died of cancer in 2003. It was his dream to have an honor guard competition during National Police Week,which this year began Sunday and ends Saturday.
FOP Washington state president and competition coordinator Capt. Ken Roske said it is a friendly competition with a specific mission. “It's an opportunity to pay tribute to the country and law enforcement,” he said.
Most honor guard members are full-time police officers who represent their departments at events ranging from funerals to groundbreaking ceremonies.
Participants competed in three phases. First was the team inspection drill,when each member was inspected for neatness,cleanliness and military bearing. Second was the color guard,when teams demonstrated “Posting of the Colors,” a tradition in which members present the national,state,province,district or unit flags. The last phase was the exhibition. Teams had eight minutes to perform with anything from rifles to flags.
“It's their chance to razzle-dazzle you,” Roske said.
The all-female Customs and Border Protection Honor Guard paid tribute to fallen officers with a flag-folding routine; other teams threw rifles and performed intricate drills.
The Union Township,Ohio,Police Department Honor Guard was a first-time competitor. Despite eight-hour practices four days a month,members felt some anxiety. “They're nervous but confident,” Union Township Lt. Scott T. Gaviglia said. “I think with all their hard work and effort,they'll do well.”
The first,second and third place teams were the U.S. Border Patrol,the Washington State Patrol and the U.S. Capitol Police.
The top three teams receive medals and bragging rights,but competition judge and Army Sgt. Nathanael J. Stone said the allure is something much simpler: “They're proud of what they do.”