Va. troop 2nd runner up in ARNG Honor Guard Soldier of Year competition

Staff Sgt. Jason Cain (right), a Virginia National Guard Soldier assigned to the Virginia National Guard Military Funeral Honors Program, is one of fours finalists in the ARNG National Honor Guard Soldier of the Year competition Oct. 2, 2019, in Arlington, Virginia. (Courtesy photo)

RICHMOND, Virginia — Staff Sgt. Jason Cain, a Virginia National Guard Soldier assigned to the 29th Infantry Division Band who serves with the Virginia National Guard Military Funeral Honors Program, was the second runner up in the inaugural Army National Guard National Honor Guard Soldier of the Year competition and was honored by Command Sgt. Maj. Christopher Kepner, the National Guard Bureau Senior Enlisted Advisor, Oct. 2, 2019, in Arlington, Virginia.

Kepner also recognized Cain as the ARNG National Honor Guard Soldier of the Quarter for the fourth quarter.

“Being able to represent the state of Virginia within the state on a daily basis is a great honor,” Cain said. “To be able to represent Virginia on a national level is one of the highlights of my career.”

Each of the four Soldiers of the quarter were invited to the National Capital Region to compete for the first-ever ARNG National Honor Guard Soldier of the Year competition. The four Soldiers were selected from more than 3,500 Army National Guard Soldiers serving in the ARNG Military Funeral Honors Program nationwide.

Staff Sgt. Jason Cain is awarded the Army Achievement Medal by Command Sgt. Maj. Christopher Kepner, the National Guard Bureau Senior Enlisted Advisor, for being selected as the ARNG National Honor Guard Soldier of the Quarter Oct. 2, 2019, in Arlington, Virginia. Cain also received a medallion for being the second runner up for the ARNG National Honor Guard Soldier of the Year. (Courtesy photo)

“There are 3,500 full time MFH staff members in the nation, so to be selected is a feeling I will never forget.” Cain said. “I remember thinking that this isn’t for me- this is for Virginia. So I hope I represented the state well.” 

Along with the Soldiers from Colorado, Michigan and New York, Cain faced a written exam, a uniform inspection, a drill and ceremony practical exercise, and questions from a formal board.

On the second day the participants were treated to a private tour of Arlington National Cemetery, Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, 3rd Infantry Regiment “Old Guard” and other related facilities and functions.

The event culminated on the third day with the presentation of the results of the competition and the award ceremony.

Cain was awarded the Army Achievement Medal for being selected as the ARNG National Honor Guard Soldier of the Quarter and a medallion for being the second runner up for the ARNG National Honor Guard Soldier of the Year.

“The staff at NGB did an outstanding job putting the competition together,” Cain said. “We were able to go behind the scenes with the staff at Arlington National Cemetery, as well as the Old Guard, and see how they run day to day operations.”

Another highlight for Cain was the opportunity to show his father the ins and outs of the program and what being a Military Funeral Honors Soldier entails.

“Each competitor was allowed to bring family members to watch the competition and take all of the tours with us,” he said. “It was very special to me to be able to share this experience with my father. Members of the MFH can explain what they do on a daily basis to their families but I don’t think they truly understand.”

The intent of the ARNG National Honor Guard Soldier of the Year program is to recognize the ARNG Honor Guard Soldiers that epitomize the total Soldier and Honor Guard attribute qualities.

The ARNG conducts more than 110,000 funeral honors missions per year throughout the United States.  ARNG conducts 83% of the Army’s funeral honors mission and 42% of the total DoD mission. ARNG Honor Guard Soldiers total approximately five million community interactions per year, making the Honor Guard one of the most visible programs in the Army. 

ARNG Honor Guard Soldiers maintain a national standard for conducting funeral honors, log thousands of miles traveling to missions, and train subordinate Soldiers to conduct the mission, all while actively serving in their home units. 

“It’s amazing that the MFH can have Soldiers from multiple states come together, and there is no question what the standard is,” he said. “It really speaks highly of the training program the MFH has in place. It was great to pick the brains of other state trainers.  We were able to gather ideas from each other to improve ourselves as well as the programs in our home state.”