Base Honor Guard goes Hollywood

LOS ANGELES – Los Angeles Air Force Base Honor Guard members (background) patiently wait for the camera to roll during taping of an episode of NBC’s “The West Wing” earlier this month. They participated in a scene involving the funeral of an Air Force veteran.

LOS ANGELES – Los Angeles Air Force Base Honor Guard members (background) patiently wait for the camera to roll during taping of an episode of NBC’s “The West Wing” earlier this month. They participated in a scene involving the funeral of an Air Force veteran.

LOS ANGELES AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. -- Seven of the base’s elite took part in the recent filming of a primetime network drama at First Congregational Church of Los Angeles. 

The Los Angeles Air Force Base Honor Guard supported a request from NBC’s “The West Wing” for an Air Force presence in an episode featuring the funeral of the series’ White House chief of staff.

“What a wonderful opportunity,” said 1st Lt. Gordon Kordyak, Los Angeles AFB’s Honor Guard officer in charge. “As honor guard members and Air Force ambassadors, we jumped at this innovative opportunity to represent our service to the greater American public.”

Other participating team members Capt. Kurt Wasileski, Space Superiority Wing; 1st Lt. Cassandra Putman, SMC Launch and Range Systems Program Office; 1st Lt. Daniel Vega, SBIRS Program Office; 2nd Lt. William Jones, MILSATCOM Joint Program; Staff Sgt. Corazon Pol, 61st Medical Squadron; and Staff Sgt. Eumir Arceo, University of Southern California Air Force Reserve Officer Training Corps Detachment 60, agreed.

“We train very hard and take our responsibilities extremely seriously,” said Sergeant Pol. “A chance like this lets us showcase what we’ve learned and show the world what the Air Force is all about – honor and discipline.”

The day’s production had sad undertones however, as it came on the heels of the real-life death Dec. 16, 2005, of actor John Spencer, who played the deceased character.

“John’s character was previously established as an Air Force veteran, and after his unfortunate death, we asked ourselves, ‘how could we integrate this into the show?’,” said Michael Hissrich, the show’s producer. “We wanted to incorporate the Air Force into his (funeral) service.

“We were all very close friends of John’s,” he said. “It’s going to be tough. The scene is full of strong imagery.”

These thoughts prompted a late call to the Air Force Public Affairs Entertainment Liaison Office in Los Angeles, which in turn triggered a whirlwind of coordination through the public affairs offices of the Space and Missile Systems Center, the Secretary of the Air Force and the Secretary of Defense.

“Extras, they can look good … but having the real thing is the best,” said Mr. Hissrich. “The Air Force honor guard has helped us out a bunch and the Armed Forces have been great. This couldn’t have gone better.”

As part of the funeral procession, the Honor Guard interacted with actors Martin Sheen, Jimmy Smitts and Bradley Whitford. Also, the producer said they went back and asked significant players of the series throughout the years like Stockard Channing to be part of “Leo’s funeral.”

The show will air April 16 to an expected 5 million viewers.