Success Breeds Success: An interview with A1C Jeremy Dotson.

When you live down in this part of the country, you find some really patriotic people.  I don’t know why it is, but for Southwest Virginia and East Tennessee, I find a higher concentration of military/ex-military people.  You can say it’s because of the economy, or they have no other options, but everyone has their own reason for joining the military.  My brother for example chose to join the military over any other option given to him.  When I had graduate high school, I looked into the military, and if my poor eyesight didn’t disqualify me from it, the fact that I had a heart mur-mur when I was born, did.  My brother went into the Air Force though, he is now a Body Bearer in the USAF Honor guard.  He has tried out for the Air Force Football Team, and has won many awards.  I would consider him to be “highly decorated” considering the small amount of time he’s been in the service.

He is very busy, and I don’t get to see him too often, but I had been thinking about writing something up on him because I have a lot of respect for him, the Air Force, and the military in general.  I was finally able to sit down with him and ask him a few questions about being a Body Bearer, what he does, how he prepares for it, and all that entails.  I don’t think I really need a conclusion for this one, so I’m just going to let his interview speak for itself.

Del Dotson:  Okay, give me your name, rank, and organization.

Airman 1st Class Jeremy Dotson:  Jeremy Dotson, Airman 1st Class, United States Air Force Honor Guard.

DD:  What exactly is it that you do for the Air Force?

A1CJD:  For the Honor Guard, we work in Arlington National Cemetery.  We do funerals there, or we do joint service jobs with other branches of the military.  We accept Senators coming to Washington D.C., or Prime Ministers coming to Washington D.C., basically we’re the showcase of the Air Force.

DD:  That’s really cool.  Can you take me through a day in the life of someone in the Honor Guard?

A1CJD:  Of course!  What I do for the Honor Guard, is I’m a Body Bearer.  And Body Bearing is probably the top job [in the Honor Guard], the job that people have the most respect for.  Because there’s no fooling around!  A regular day for me: I wake up, five o’clock.  I get all my uniforms ready, get shaved and everything.  Then I go meet the fallout, which is at six thirty.  From there we go to Fort Meyer, eat breakfast and get ready for ceremonies that morning.  And then..

DD:  What time is that?  What time do you finish with breakfast?

A1CJD:  We’re probably done with breakfast around seven ten or so.  The first funeral is always at nine.  We have to be there forty five minutes early.  We have to make sure everything is correct and we have to make sure we all look good to perform the ceremony.

DD:  Fantastic.  So you think.. or it is a really esteemed position.  So you guys..

A1CJD:  Yes.

DD:  spend a lot of time getting ready?

A1CJD:  Body Bearers, alone, by themselves put the most time and effort into their uniform.  We have to make sure we look the best, because we’re right there out in front of the family of the deceased.

This says it all. They don't mess around.

DD:  Very respectable.  Can you tell me about the biggest job you’ve done so far in your career?

A1CJD:  The biggest job that I’ve done so far was Ted Stevens, the State of Alaska’s former Senator.  There were so many people there, and it was televised, and we made the newspaper.

DD:  His recent funeral, right?

A1CJD:  Yes.  May he rest in peace.

DD:  And you made the front page of the Washington Post for that ceremony?

Yes. He most certainly did.

A1CJD:  Yes.  I most certainly did.

DD:  Along with.. Who were the other Body Bearers there?  It wasn’t just you, right?

A1CJD:  Haha, no.  The Bearers included myself, Dominic Napp, Eric McCall, Nicholas Spencer, Robert Matthews, Jeremy Lucas, Sergent Keith Wilkinson, and Jhurel Stevens.

DD:  And those are all guys that you work with on a pretty regular basis?

A1CJD:  Yes.

DD:  Do you work with them in every ceremony?

A1CJD:  There’s like a “base team” and they’ll switch people out every once in a while.

DD:  So they have a rotating shift schedule kind of thing going on?

A1CJD:  Yes.

DD:  Okay so, tell me now a little bit about the beginning of your career.  How did you get into the Honor Guard?  How did you get into being a Body Bearer?

A1CJD:  Well, in Basic, in BMT we’d have these in process meetings to see what our job was going to be.  I already had a job.  It was going to be some kind of low-ASVAB scoring mechanic.  Then they had this recruiting session for the Honor Guard.  We walked into this room and there were all of these pictures of the Honor Guard, and there was this little old Master Sergent, Master Sergent Moore.  She was telling us what the Honor Guard does, and the requirements.  She was giving out cards we had to sign, and we had to give her a 341, which is like a referral that we have to keep on us.  Then we had to write down our name and how tall we are, and why.. actually I think it was just our name and height.  In the next couple of weeks, we heard whether or not we got an interview, our instructor would tell us.  I thought: “I have nothing to lose” because I was in BMT, I was getting yelled at every day.  And I thought, since I have nothing to lose, I might as well do it because all they can say is just “no”.  I went through a couple of interviews for them.  Then out of a lot of people, like, over one hundred people only six of us got chosen for that week that we had to leave.  I was one of those six.  We got to D.C. [the USAF Honor Guard is stationed at Bolling AFB], and the first day we were there we unpacked and basically had a free day.  Not really a free day, but we went and saw an inspection of the ceremonial guardsmen.  At that point, there were two separate inspections going on.  It was of the details; that’s the Firing Party, the Colors and the Body Bearers, and we saw Flight get inspected as well.  All of the instructors wanted us to watch Flight get inspected because that’s what we were doing.  But I watched the details get inspected because the Body Bearers were over there.  Watching the details, you saw the first row of people were the Colors and they were really really skinny.  The last row of the formation were Firing Party which was the third row, and they were really small, really tiny.  Then I saw the middle row of the details, which was all of the Body Bearers.  They were the biggest dudes in the Honor Guard.  And I said: “That’s what I want to be!”

DD:  Wow.  So you found out about it by accident and really liked it.  Then you knew that’s what you wanted to end up doing, being in a highly respected position.  And it’s worked out well for you so far?

A1CJD:  Yes.

DD:  So would it be fair to say that all of the training you’ve gone through up until this point, you use all of that in your day-to-day work.  Like you didn’t have to specially prepare for say, the funeral for the former Senator Ted Stevens?

A1CJD:  Yes, I use all of my training every day I’m at work.  No, Bearers have a job, and we do it perfectly every time.

DD:  So everything that you’ve learned so far..

A1CJD:  We have to keep every ceremony looking the same, so the only thing that’s different about every job [funeral] is the carry to the grave-site.  That’s the only thing that’s different, we do every job the same.

DD:  “The carry to the grave site”? you mean the pathway you take to the grave-site itself?

A1CJD:  Yes, other than the pathway though, every job is essentially the same.

DD:  And it’s got to feel really good though, when you’re laying to rest these very highly honored men.  I mean, pallbearers at civilian funerals are supposed to feel really honored.  So I can only imagine..

A1CJD:  It’s a very high position, or highly public job.

DD:  You guys have a big public profile, kind of the way celebrities do?

A1C Dotson, with Hootie from Hootie and the Blowfish. Dotson is on the right.

A1CJD:  Yes.

DD:  I know this question is kind of deep, but can you tell me what it means to be a Body Bearer?

A1CJD:  Being a Body Bearer is a brotherhood.  We have a weight-room Physical Training Test, and if you don’t pass that PFT, you can’t be a Body Bearer.  And we have a minimum requirement of lifting a very heavy amount of weight on bench, and squat, and curls.  And the reason why it’s a brotherhood is because no female can do that.  If there is a female that could do that, she hasn’t come through the Honor Guard yet.

DD:  Wow.

A1CJD:  It’s all about your strength.  Even after the Duty Day, it’s just “Body Bearer” that’s what you have to think.

DD:  Yeah, like, that’s it.  That’s your job.  And you guys do it very well I’ve seen it on youtube and news, and stuff like that.  There is a lot of honor and esteem that you carry with you.  I just have one more question for you.  What was your favorite part of going through all of your training and everything?  Was there anything that happened that just kind of influenced you heavily?  It may not have been really big or anything, but you remember it and it will stay with you forever?

A1CJD:  Yes.  There was this one time.. it was me and a friend of mine, his name is Jeremy Lucas.  We had just graduated out of tech school and we were sent to a Flight.  Our Flight name was Centurion.  We were going to be Body Bearers, but that’s what we were told was going to be our primary element until we got our official qualifications to be a Body Bearer.  So we would do Flight out in the yard for Arlington National Cemetery, but when we were back training, we wouldn’t train with Flight, we’d train with Body Bearers.  There, we had this Sergent, Sgt. Edgecomb.  He was telling us about the “old Body Bearers”, like how they did it.  He elaborated on how the training I was going through then was never going to be like it was back in the day..

Pretty badass, if you ask me.

DD:  Right.

A1CJD: the training back in the day was the when golden age of the Body Bearers were.  He was leaving, he was getting ready to leave, and one day he was training us and he found out that day that he was leaving for his next job the very next day.  So he had to get out of there, so he was packing up, and right before he left.. we already had this thing that was going around the squadron that we we were going to go back to.  It would make it so that instead of the Flights being Centurions, Titans, and Spartans, we would have Firing Party Flight, a Colors Flight a Bearers Flight, and then a Flight.  And Sgt. Edgecomb said: “If it goes back to that, good luck.”  He said: “I know the training is going to be hard.” but..

DD:  That’s when it’s going to get real?

A1CJD:  Yes.  That’s when it’s going to get real.  He said “Good luck.” and that’s what sticks out the most to me because that was before I had any qualifications to be a Bearer.  Any qualifications.

DD:  So it was a little intimidating?

A1CJD:  Yes.  It was intimidating for the fact that, back in the day, when the “old school” Body Bearers were around.. That’s when there was just a Flight for Bearers, a Flight for Firing Party, a Flight for Colors, and Flight.  Then it moved to the Centurions, Titans, and Spartans Flights, and then it switched back to the Bearers/Firing Party/Colors Flights, and that was intimidating.  It was a huge change, because you were surrounded by Bearers all day.  Like training, if there was a training day, there was always somebody to train with.  If you had two people there, you could train.

DD:  Wow.  That sounds pretty crazy.

A1CJD:  Yes.  That’s the thing that sticks out in my mind the most, when Sgt. Edgecomb said: “Good luck.”  And looking back at the point I was at then, and the point I’m at now.. makes me feel pretty good.

DD:  So you can attribute a lot of your success to him?  I mean, even though it was intimidating, it served as that little push to make you want to succeed within the Honor Guard as a Bearer, would that be correct to say?

A1CJD:  Yes.

DD:  Okay, well.. I know you’re a busy guy and everything, so I won’t take up too much of your time.  Is there anything else you’d like to share that we didn’t really touch on?  About anything that you’ve been affiliated with, or anybody else within the Air Force that have influenced you?

A1CJD:  Ah.. yes.  One of the people.. there were a couple different significant people that influenced me to be a great Body Bearer..

DD:  I’m sure you guys are always learning from each other, and you have that healthy kind of competition going on.  So I know you guys are constantly learning and trying to do better than the others.

A1CJD:  There’s one guy, and I’m not going to name his name but he’ll know who he is when he reads this.  He inspired me to put as much time in the weight room, as much “extra-credit” work I could do with the Body Bearers as possible.  Even after the Duty Day is done, nobody in the Squadrons would train, but I would go there and I would train.  I’d help myself out.  I’ll read the O.I., which is like, the instruction manual for how to do everything.  I’ll read the O.I., and I’ll take it word-for-word, then I’ll do everything exactly the way it says to.  Because for my full evaluation, no one wanted to train with me.  There would only be one person that would train with me.  It was this one guy, he said: “Whatever you do, whenever you want to train, you let me know and I’ll train with you.  Because we want you to be up there too.”  But he was gone that week.. the week I was getting my full qualification, my full honors qualification.  So I would just go in there, read the book, and practice for my evaluation in there by myself.  By the time I knew every movement, I could basically call the job if I wanted to.  but when you eval for your fulls for the first time you can’t call it.  So you have to be one of the extras there.  If you know how to call the job, it’s already giving you a heads up for what’s coming next.  But the guy that I’m talking about inspired me to put in all the extra-credit work for the training, in the gym, and then just eating right.  He’s the one that inspired me.

Plus they friggin' get to juggle guns.

DD:  So he gave you a bunch of overall guidelines for how to be the best Bearer you can be.

A1CJD:  Yes, he helped me lay the framework for being a Bearer.  You need to be strong, so he gave me tips for the gym.  You need to look good, so that’s why he gave me tips for my diet.  And then he said “You want to be the best Body Bearer, you don’t want to be a top 8 person.”  Which is someone holding the casket.  “You want to be the top 1 person.”

DD:  Right.

A1CJD:  So that’s what makes me want to go put the extra time into the training.

DD:  Yeah, so you can go above and beyond.

A1CJD:  Yes.

DD:  Okay, well thank you for your time.  I know you have to get back to base, I know you’re busy.  Thank you for letting me in on all of this and thank you for serving our country.

A1CJD:  Oh yeah, no problem.  It’s my job!  Thank you for everything.  I hope your readers enjoy it.

Okay, I lied, I’m going to put a little conclusion here anyways.  I just wanted to give another thank you to A1C Jeremy Dotson for his time, I’m very proud to be his brother, and wish him all the best.  I want to thank everyone he works with too, they all have done outstanding jobs from what I’ve seen, and I hope to see them more.  A good video to watch is found right here.  I speak on behalf of everyone I know by saying Thank You A1C Dotson.

*All images are subject to copyright laws.  They belong to their respective owners, in this case, Google Image Search.*


One Response to “Success Breeds Success: An interview with A1C Jeremy Dotson.”

  1. […] and never have I ever had my own account.  But I do have a little brother.  That’s right, A1C Dotson, or my baby brother, Jay breaks the mold when it comes to WoW players.  Remember the South Park […]

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