An honor to be chosen, an honor to serve

The first greeting visitors receive when they visit a Smithsonian museum comes from an officer with our Office of Protection Services. But some of our finest officers also reach out into the community to represent the Smithsonian. Take a look behind the scenes with the OPS Honor Guard.

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One of the first employees of the United States National Museum in 1846 was a “night watchman” who was responsible for managing the public who visited the galleries and library in the Smithsonian Castle, maintaining the building, and performing additional “duties as required,” including managing coal deliveries, keeping the water barrels filled for fire-fighting and running errands for the Secretary. The watchman was on duty 12 hours a day, seven days a week and earned the princely sum of $30 a month. After a fire gutted the east end of the Castle in 1864, the Board of Regents decided hiring a second watchman was warranted.

As the Smithsonian added new buildings and facilities, additional security personnel were hired. By 1943, the force had grown to 71. In 1960, the security force totaled 120, and by 1964 it was up to 210. What is now known as the Office of Protection Services was formed in 1973 and today is the Smithsonian’s largest unit, with more than 850 employees.

Dedicated to ensuring the safety of our visitors, staff and collections, OPS is the face of the Smithsonian. The first person a visitor sees when entering one of our museums is an OPS Security Officer, who can have a major impact on the visitor’s overall experience. Although security is their first priority, officers use their intelligence, creativity and energy to ensure that the visitor experience is a positive one.

While visitors and staff may recognize the Security Officers who welcome them to our facilities, OPS also provides many other invaluable services to the Smithsonian and the community, including ATV and boat patrols at the Environmental Research Center in Maryland, the special security force at the National Zoo and oversight of security at the Tropical research Institute in Panama.

One of the most impressive ways that OPS represents the Smithsonian is with the Honor Guard. Selected from officers with unblemished records who can commit to the Guard’s rigorous training and time requirements, the Honor Guard presents the colors of the Smithsonian Institution and the United States of America at special events and programs.

The Honor Guard was recently asked to present the colors during the singing of the National Anthem at the June 3 Washington Nationals home game against the Toronto Blue Jays.  Photographers Hugh Talman and Jaclyn Nash from the American History Museum went along to document the Guard’s preparation behind the scenes.

The Honor Guard:

Sgt. Frankie Bunn (National Air and Space Museum)
Cpl. Edgar Delacruz (National Air and Space Museum)
Sgt. Wayne Holt (Cultural Resources Center)
Sgt. Samuel Jefferson (Cultural Resources Center)
Off. David Matthews (National Museum of American History)
Cpl. Miguel Morales (National Museum of Natural History)
Cpl. Eric Scott (National Museum of the American Indian)

William Greenwood (Instructor)

(Click any image to enlarge.)


Posted: 19 June 2015
About the Author:

Alex di Giovanni has been editing The Torch since August 2006. Prior to joining the Smithsonian, she worked as a writer and editor for the National Geographic Society, Plexus Scientific, The Nature Conservancy, The National Foreign Language Center and St. Martin’s Press, among others. She has the best job in the world.

3 Responses to An honor to be chosen, an honor to serve
    • Frankie D Bunn Sr.
    • Thanks Mrs. Giovanni for another great story about the Smithsonian Honor Guard, this makes me even prouder to be a member of such a great organization, and serve on the Honor Guard team with my band of brothers.

      • Alex di Giovanni
      • Thanks are due to the Honor Guard for representing the Smithsonian so well and doing us all proud!