Team Yokota’s Honor Guardsman of the Year
Team Yokota’s Honor Guardsman of the Year
YOKOTA AIR BASE, Japan -- In July of 2022, the Yokota Honor Guard team was losing members to deployments left and right, but in their hour of need, Airman 1st Class Jatravious Ingram stepped up.
Ingram is assigned to the 374th Security Forces Squadron as a patrolman and alarm monitor. All of the facilities on base that have any kind of vault, secured facility, or something to be protected are connected to an elaborate system of alarms. If any of those facilities are threatened, he’s the first to know and the first to act.
But this Yokota defender moonlights as the Honor Guard lead trainer, First Four president, Resiliency Training Assistant, and even his squadron’s booster club treasurer.
“I looked at it as my opportunity to step up,” he said intently. “I felt the obligation to meet the challenge and better myself.”
Ingram’s interest in the Honor Guard began with a long stint of Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps, or JROTC, in high school, eventually leading him to the Color Guard.
He had a solid foundational idea of what military ceremonial processes were like, but the transition wasn’t a one-for-one. “It is so much more than spinning a rifle,” he joked.
Elaborating on how he gained his knowledge and the respect of his peers, Ingram said “I had to earn it. I treat others how I want to be treated. My goal is to inspire people to do better and help them recognize the potential they may not see in themselves.”
When asked about Ingram’s contributions, the Honor Guard team had nothing but glowing remarks.
“He backs up his natural leadership abilities with his knowledge and competence,” said Master Sgt. Tobi Wagner, 374th Airlift Wing Honor Guard superintendent. “He is the epitome of a teammate and I constantly define him as an A1C operating at the level of an NCO.”
It’s important to note that the Yokota Honor Guard is not your typical Honor Guard. Each member volunteers on top of their day-to-day jobs—it’s not a six-month full-time assignment like most other bases.
“It requires passionate Airmen who care about what they do and how they represent the Air Force,” Wagner said. “You have to care about wanting to make an impact and take pride in your service and the service of those who came before you.”
Ingram echoed that he feels a deep sense of pride from paying respect to those who served before him, but those personal values of respect and service to others extend far beyond his role in the Honor Guard.
“I want to be the voice of change and try to improve the quality of life of our Airmen,” he said. “I have a go big or go home mentality.”
And go big he does.
In the past year alone, Ingram has trained 26 guardsmen and the Yokota High School JROTC, led First Term Airman Course sessions for 150 students, and raised over $7500 for his squadron.
Days before this interview, he learned of his selection for Senior Airman below-the-zone, and it came as a surprise to no one.
“There are so many opportunities, I take as many as I can because a closed mouth doesn’t get fed,” he said, drawing on his upbringing from a household of strong matriarchs.
“I came from an all-female family; my parents were never married so I lived with my mother, grandma, and aunt. From day one, they taught me respect and how to treat people. What a man is supposed to do. Taught me about first impressions and how you should be received. It dictates how someone will see you and respect you. It was hard to adapt, but I eventually realized that I was being molded by their wisdom.”
He recalled his mother pushing him to never give up on himself and to clear a path through any haze that shrouded the goals in his line of sight.
“But it was this Honor Guard that taught me leadership and serving,” he continued. “I want to inspire people to do better, but more importantly, to teach them how to be okay with being uncomfortable—that’s where the growth happens.”
Most Honor Guardsmen are forever changed by their experiences representing the Air Force’s gratitude for those who served and faithfully defended our nation.
“I’m here to develop people and bring out their true potential,” Ingram said. “I feel like some people need an extra push to take the leap into uncomfortable or high-pressure situations. You have to take the risk to learn. It’ll either be a good experience or a learning experience.”
Ingram’s message to Airmen everywhere is to be okay with being uncomfortable and if you have a dream, follow it.
From left to right, Airman 1st Class Elyse Wilson, Airman 1st Class Jatravious Ingram, and Airman 1st Class Pierce DeFilippo, all Yokota Air Base honor guard members, participate in a Retreat Ceremony as part of the 2022 Yokota Veterans Day Ceremony at Yokota Air Base, Japan, Nov. 10, 2022. Members of Yokota conducted the ceremony as a way to respect and recognize the contributions veterans and their families, caregivers, and survivors have made toward the cause of freedom and peace across the globe.
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