Serving his country was something that Karson Hummel always knew he would do. Growing up in a family that can trace military service in the United States from the 1800s until now, Hummel planned and trained for his service in the U.S. Army right up through his graduation from Ayersville High School in 2019.
Trained to be an infantryman, now U.S. Army Pvt. Karson Hummel, 3rd Infantry Regiment, 1st Battalion, Charlie Company, Second Platoon, had plans to train to work in Special Operations as an Army Ranger. He was shocked, however, when he received orders to serve as a member of The Old Guard in Arlington, Va., which was first organized as the First American Regiment in 1784, and has been the official ceremonial unit of the U.S. Army since 1948.
“I was introduced to the military at a young age by my dad (Jeff) who served for eight years in the Air Force. He’s my role model,” said Hummel about his father, who served during the Gulf War. “He and my mom (Stacie) taught me to lead, serve others and to benefit society. I thought the best way to do that was to join the military.
“I always wanted to be a part of Special Ops (Operations), to be a Ranger, so when I got orders to Arlington, I was very shocked,” continued Hummel, the younger brother of sister, Hannah. “I visited Arlington National Cemetery when I was in the eighth grade, but getting orders there was something different. I didn’t know how to take it at first.”
The Mission of The Old Guard is to conduct memorial affairs to honor fallen comrades and ceremonies and special events to represent the U.S. Army, communicating its story to United States citizens and the world.
Although The Old Guard primarily functions in a ceremonial role, it is an infantry unit and is required to meet standards for certification in its combat role. The unit trains for its support role to civil authorities in a wide range of scenarios and deployments in support of overseas contingency operations.
Memorial affairs missions include standard and full honors funerals in Arlington National Cemetery and dignified transfers at Dover Air Force Base. Old Guard soldiers also perform all dignified transfers of fallen soldiers returning to the United States.
The Old Guard’s current duties include, but are not limited to, providing funeral details at Arlington National Cemetery, guarding the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, providing honor guards for visiting dignitaries, supporting official ceremonies and providing a quick reaction force for the Washington, D.C., area.
After going through infantry training for 14 weeks at Fort Benning in Columbus, Ga., where he learned infantry tactics and weapon training, Hummel went through additional training once he received orders to Virginia.
Once there, he went through the Regimental Orientation Program, or ROP training, for one month where he learned rifle manuals and movements with his M14 ceremonial rifle, to stand at attention for hours, standing movements and ceremonial movements. Hummel shared he had to learn to adapt to any weather, maintain ceremonial composure at all times, and that everything he wears on his uniform has to be within 2/36ths of an inch to standard.
“My primary role is to provide casket carrying for funeral services, which I’m very honored to do,” said Hummel, who has a three-year assignment with The Old Guard. “This is a very honorable position in the U.S. Army, and I’m very thankful for the opportunity because I know it’s very rare. We represent the best Army in the world, and we have to look good in every aspect, at all times.
“My past commander told me that the caskets we carry are those soldier’s last march with their brothers,” continued Hummel. “That really hit me ... it’s just so powerful. To lay a soldier to rest in his final resting place in Arlington National Cemetery is very powerful. I don’t take it for granted, it’s the best part of being in the platoon I’m in.”
In addition to his family, Hummel gave credit to his recruiter in Defiance, U.S. Army Staff Sgt. John Tanner, for helping him choose to serve in the Army. After making the commitment to join the service, he worked out with his friends, Zac Harrow, who is now a U.S. Army Pfc., and U.S. Army Pfc. Brandon Kreischer, who was unfortunately killed last July during combat operations conducted in Kandahar Province, Afghanistan.
“It was because of those men that I learned about the brotherhood. They were very up front with me about what I would be getting into,” said Hummel, who was at basic training when he learned about the death of Kreischer. “Zac and Brandon helped me to realize that life is a mindset, and that no matter what obstacles are thrown at me, I can catch them and throw them back.
“During my duty, I’ve had the opportunity to meet the president and other higher-up people, all because I knew I needed to leave home to be able to grow and become the person I want to be,” added Hummel. “Living in the nation’s capital has helped me grow up, and the Army has taught me that working hard and doing everything to the best of my abilities, will pay off. I just want to thank my parents, friends and everyone who helped me get here.”
On the front page: The inset photo shows Karson Hummel, a 2019 Ayersville High School graduate and U.S. Army Pvt., poses for a photo at the War on Terror Memorial at the National Infantry Museum in Columbus, Ga., while the main photo shows a company of U.S. Army soldiers during a command ceremony change that includes U.S. Army Pvt. Karson Hummel of Defiance. Hummel is currently serving as a member of the Old Guard at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia.