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The Campus Police Honor Guard will lead the procession through Killian Court on Commencement morning, exhibiting one of MIT's newer traditions for the second time this spring.
Five of the 11 drill team members will guide members of the Class of 2005 to their seats. Two will carry M1 rifles as the other three carry flags of the United States, Massachusetts and MIT. Members' uniforms feature a cross belt and garrison hat designed especially for the team.
The honor guard also participated in the inauguration of President Susan Hockfield on May 6.
The guard is a source of pride to the group and to the Institute, and that's exactly what MIT police Chief John DiFava had in mind when he supported forming the team in 2002.
The guard gives participants and the police department as a whole "a positive sense of unity and identity," DiFava said.
The 2005 team members, all volunteers, are Patrol Officers William Smith, Kevin O'Connor, Duane Keegan, Mark Kelleher, Robert Molino, Brian Sousa, Sgt. Cheryl Vossmer, Det. Willard Boulter, Sgt. Michael Carey and Lt. Daniel Costa.
"We take great pride in representing not only the men and women of the department but MIT as a whole. We have been very fortunate to march in various big parades throughout the state and have been very well received by all. The great thing about being in the honor guard is meeting the people and other honor guards," said Smith, a founding member of the team.
The team's off-campus appearances have included Memorial Day parades in Cambridge, Patriot's Day parades in Lexington and St. Patrick's Day parades in Boston.
Vossmer enjoys both the MIT and off-campus experiences, she said.
"It is so awesome to hear comments like 'That's MIT? Wow!' or I didn't know they had an honor guard' or, after a funeral, to have people thank us for our professionalism," Vossmer said.
When the team was first formed, they practiced rifle drills and flag presentation twice weekly at the Black Falcon Terminal in South Boston. With experience, they "try to practice once a month, with more the week before an event," said Smith.
Costa, a former Marine Corps drill instructor and a former member of the Massachusetts State Police drill team, has coached the MIT honor guard team since 2002.
From their very first Commencement, Costa said, the team "looked sharp" and had "determination and enthusiasm."
Of course, precision drilling isn't mastered overnight. The team uses "close order marching, which means we're shoulder to shoulder, and the challenge is keeping in step," said Smith.
"For me, the biggest challenge is some of the drills. When we're told to 'glide,' it's much harder than it looks," said Vossmer.
The final product--an honor guard that moves as one and glides through its maneuvers--symbolizes more than any single event, no matter how exciting or solemn.
"As you see the police, fire and military honor guard units pass by you in a parade--applaud! It is due to the dedication of the men and women in these careers that America is such a wonderful and safe place to live," Vossmer said.