The Case for Cased Flags and Colors

Honor Guard Cased FlagA Cased Flag

At right is a picture of a cased flag (this is a folded interment flag). Once the American flag is folded, it is considered cased and does not receive a salute.

Here is an example: the flag is brought down in the evening from a stationary flagpole. The team folds it, forms up and marches away (with one member holding the flag like the picture at right- point up or down does not matter) to store the flag in a specific room for the night. On the way back to the building, the team encounters cadets who stop and render a salute as the folded flag passes. While, saluting is not wrong, it is not necessary and communicates that you are unaware of published guidance regarding the flag.

From MCO P5060.20 Ch 1, p. 7-12, para. 2d (May 03)

A folded flag being carried to morning colors, or from evening colors, by a color detail is considered cased and not saluted.

Point up or down?
When carrying the cased (folded) American flag, tradition for the military services dictates as follows: Army and Air Force, point up; Marine Corps, Navy and Coast Guard, point down. As far as I know, it is just tradition so, do not believe the, “You must always..” statements.

MacAruther Color Guard Dipping Cased ColorA Cased Color
Just as a cased flag does not receive a salute, a cased color does not render a salute.

Literally every team in the JROTC community follows the example that is pictured here. This is a picture of the MacArthur color guard in a recent competition. Thank you to the MacArthur High School cadet who allowed me to use this picture and who was truly interested in this issue.

Why does every team dip the cased color? Because a salute from a color team involves dipping non-national colors and this is something that one would not really think twice about. None of the service drill and ceremonies manuals (you can find them all here) discuss this because it has never been and is never an issue for the military. It is drill meets that create issues like this.

When we bring cased flags and colors into one discussion, we can then make logical decisions. Dipping a cased color is not proper. Cased colors never receive a salute, so it follows that they would not render a salute. It’s like dipping a bare flagstaff- there is no reason to do so.

“Individuals or units passing or being passed by uncased Colors out of doors render honors.” T.C. 3-21.5 (emphasis mine)

So now what?
Spread the word. Educate as many people as possible. Print this article and when you attend your next drill meet, bring up this issue at the meeting and let everyone know that you will not be dipping your cased color and that he judges need to allow dipping and not dipping for the time being until everyone is fully educated. I will send a link for this article to the each service JROTC headquarters to help disseminate the information. Knowledge is key!

See also: How to Fold the Fringed American Flag

One more thing
In the MacArthur JROTC picture above, the team’s equipment is comprised of nine-foot six-inch flagstaffs and three-foot by 5-foot colors. These sizes are not meant to be mixed together (see my article here) however, teams use the larger flagstaffs and smaller colors so that the color bearers can see. Marching at close interval with the larger colors creates problems because the team members can not rely on anything else but sight and if the flag is in a team member’s face, there is a good chance the team will eventually be out of alignment and step. If they were shoulder-to-shoulder, appropriately sized colors and staffs would not be an issue.

4 thoughts on “The Case for Cased Flags and Colors”

  1. I am also working to codify a flag requirement. In particular, the Old Glory Flag presentation at retirements. From the CG Honor Guard detail, I was told that the pointy end always faces down as opposed to up in your picture on the website. http://www.thedrillmaster.org/2014/10/07/the-case-for-cased-flags-and-colors/ Where is it written about ‘cased flags’, passing the flag for one member to another with the pointy end, passing the fag for the final time with the blunt end versus the pointy end?

  2. Sir,
    R/R if you can be more specific in your reference
    “From MCO P5060.20 (May 03)

    A folded flag being carried to morning colors, or from evening colors, by a color detail is considered cased and not saluted.”

    I am trying to provide this back up to my command, and am having difficulty supporting it, although I agree with the statment.

    Thank you in advance
    V/R
    PO2 Edwards

    1. PO2 Edwads,

      Thank you very much for the question and helping me solidify a point. I added the required information to the article: From MCO P5060.20 Ch 1, p. 7-12, para. 2d (May 03).

      Thank you for your service, Go Navy!

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