Category Archives: Color Guard/Color Team

American First Responder Joint Service Order

Is this a “thing”? Possibly, my reasoning for the research and writing this article is to provide information that may be necessary for certain situations for American First Responders.

For the US military, we have our joint service order or military order of precedence:  Army, Marine Corps, Navy, Air Force, and Coast Guard. The order is based on the creation of the service and, in the case of the Navy, whether that service was continuous from that date.

For first responders (law enforcement, fire and EMS), there is a similar creation date here in the USA. In my research (wikipedia, unfotunately), I found the following information. Now, I understand that different agencies began in different areas at different times, my focus was on the first instance, the first paid positions in the US for that entity. If you have additional information, please let me know, I welcome it.

For joint service work, the order, in general, is: Law Enforcement, Fire, and EMS. This means that a color guard would look like this:

First Responder Joint Service Order
First Responder Joint Service Order

In the image above, you can see:

  • Right/Lead Rifle Guard- Law Enforcement Officer
  • US Flag Bearer- Law Enforcement Officer
  • State Flag Bearer- Law Enforcement Officer or Firefighter
    • In the military joint service color guard, pictured below, the Army has the honor of right rifle guard, carrying the American flag and then the Army flag and then each service flag after that. A state or other flag is never carried. So, my suggestion is to share the wealth, so to speak, for this position.
  • Law Enforcement Flag Bearer- Law Enforcement Officer
  • Firefighter Flag Bearer-  Firefighter
  • EMS Flag Bearer- EMS
  • Left/Trail Axe Guard- Firefighter
Military Joint Service Colors Order
Military Joint Service Colors Order

Here are the dates of inception that I found.

Law Enforcement

  • The first Sheriff, 1626 in NY
  • The first Police 1751 in various cities
  • Marshal 1789 establishment of other federal police (Parks, Mint, etc.) followed
  • Border Patrol, 1924


While people have been fighting fires on their own or with neighbors since there has been things to protect, I found that the first paid firefighters came into existence in 1678. Having said that, I do not want this to be contentious as far as volunteers and paid firefighters.

Emergency Medical Service

The first EMS service came into existence in 1865.


The Honor Guard Equipment Checklist

These are suggestions for your team.

Ceremonial Equipment

Flags (Colors): Authorized for the military, the 4′ x 6′ flag fit on the 9.5′ staff (ceremonial use). The 3′ x 5′ flag fits on the 8′ staff (usually for smaller rooms indoors). Since first responders are paramilitary, it makes sense to follow these guidelines. Do not use the spread eagle finial, click here for more information. The eagle finial is appropriate for permanent display.

Indoor/Parade Use flags have the pole hem so that the flagstaff (not a “pole”) slides through it for mounting. Flags with grommets are not appropriate for carrying, they are for mounting on a halyard for outdoor display only.

On using cords and tassels. Color guards do not usually have cords mounted on flags for marching. It is not prohibited nor inappropriate, it is just not the usual. A gold-colored cord is the standard for a permanently displayed flag. Click here for cord examples.

Flagstaffs: two-piece light ash wood guidon staffs are the standard for color guards. For permanent display darker wood is appropriate. Click here for information on how to mount a color on a staff.

Floor Stand Adapters: If you have guidon staffs with a tapered ferrule at the bottom, you need the adapters if you are posting in a low-profile stand or else the staff will tilt to one side. To keep the staff vertical, use an adapter or my suggested alternative. If, however, you have staffs without a ferrule that have a squared off bottom, no need for adapters.

Good to Have on Hand

  • Casket Band
  • Extra uniform buttons
  • A couple pairs of gloves in different sizes
  • Diaper pins (to hold buttons, anchor shoulder cords, etc.)
  • Extra chin strap
  • Extra shoe laces



The “Ownership” Style of Leadership

There really isn’t a style of leadership called the “Ownership Style”, it is the best
way I have found to describe this very bad technique of leading subordinates. It most likely stems from selfishness, insecurity, and fear and it is wrong. Here is how it works.

In each one of these pictures, there is at least one thing wrong. This is not to shame anyone, it is to help educate. Nothing else.

We have three people in our scenario, LeaderA, Subordinate, and LeaderB. LeaderA is responsible for all of the training for Subordinate and Subordinate does a fine job except for one day when LeaderB is the one who witnesses Subordinate making a big mistake (like in any one of the pictures). LeaderB then quickly verbally counsels Subordinate and both go about their business. LeaderA returns to find that LeaderB, in LeaderA’s mind, overstepped his bounds and is furious that LeaderB counseled Subordinate. LeaderA tells LeaderB how unprofessional, etc., etc., he has been and to never approach Subordinate again, that all corrective action must be routed through LeaderA no matter what. Ownership.

This is a ridiculous premise that no one can ever speak to another’s subordinate whether that subordinate is an adult or a cadet. This is just like “Ownership Parenting” where the parents of a child never let another discipline the child. We only go downhill from there. Input from another is OK, unless they are trying to take over. This article is about input. 

Are you doing something wrong? Be very sure that you will hear about it from a responsible party. Don’t like it? Then stop and do it correctly. Here is a good place to bring up the article, “Learning by Word of Mouth”. Learning that way is also wrong; read the manuals, statutes, laws, etc. about what you are to do.

Are you responsible for someone who is doing something wrong and have never paid attention to correct it? Don’t expect a responsible party to roll over and play dead. Deal with your deep seeded feelings of inadequacy or whatever it is and start being the leader you are supposed to be.

The “Flake Monster” at Obama’s Farewell

It happens to the best. It’s called “Flaking” in the Ceremonial World. You hydrate, eat well, exercise and you don’t lock your knees, but all of the sudden, after standing for two-and-a-half hours, your vision pinpoints, you feel light headed and BAM! you are out cold on the ground. It’s physical, it’s mental, and it’s physiological.

Flake Monster
The Flake Monster. Soldier of the Old Guard passes out

It is quite possible that this Soldier is not to blame. He most likely did everything he was supposed to. Then again, even having a beer or two the night before can ruin your ceremonial day.


  1. Don’t lock your knees which restricts blood flow. Stand on the center of your feet, not your heels, which contributes to locking the knees.
  2. Eat well.
  3. Exercise often– aerobic and anaerobic.
  4. Get plenty of rest/sleep.
  5. Drink water. It takes three days to properly hydrate the body, which means that if you have ceremony after ceremony, day after day, your drinking water all day, every day.
  6. Train and practice. Practice standing for extended periods without moving. It will help.
Memorial Day at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier

This picture is courtesy of my friend Jari Villanueva, the Taps Bugler.

Walk Off before you Flake
While at Ceremonial at Ease/Stand at Ease, the signal is to move your right arm to your back, as in Parade Rest. That then signals whoever is at the rear of the formation to come and get you and you can then make a quiet exit without injury to you, your equipment, or anyone around you. No shame.

The First Responder Ceremonial Uniform

A short time ago, I was sent a uniform question by an Assistant Fire Chief regarding creating the unit’s new ceremonials for the honor guard members. I thought it would be a relatively quick answer. It turned into three days of research and ten pages of text and images. I didn’t mind it a bit, thanks Chief!

My uniform, in the picture at right, is a firefighter or law enforcement Class A uniform from Lighthouse Uniform Company that has a great uniform creator on its website. (  It was a basic uniform and I added the aiguillette and the stripes around each sleeve with matching stripes down each trouser leg. I had the option of several types of buttons, I chose generic gold colored.I have 1/8th inch sewn creases at the front an back of the trouser legs, front and back of the sleeves, and down each quarter panel of the blouse which helps the material lay flat when I’m “bloused” wearing a ceremonial belt.

The same with the service cap (cover), I added the gold ceremonial chin strap with the blood red stripe for the front and a buckle chin strap in the back which is the one that goes under my chin when working colors.

Due to costs involved, my suggestion to first responder units is to take the standard Class A uniform that the department wears and make it distinct. This seems like the route you may be taking. Even so, creating an entirely different ceremonial uniform say, a Marine Corps styled tunic as opposed to the department’s double-breasted Class A uniform.

Another suggestion is to have the whole team dressed alike except for awards and rank. This includes the color of uniform stripes, buttons and covers. If you choose to have the team wear a shoulder cord, there are different types from which to choose.

Shoulder Cords
An inexpensive and even temporary way to create a distinct uniform is to attach a shoulder cord. If you choose to have the team wear a shoulder cord, there are different types from which to choose.

Single cord, button loop shoulder cord

The circle braid cord

The single strand cord

The wide braid cord

The knot loop citation cord

The aiguillette

The ornate dress aiguillette that has a separate attachment

The citation cord

The double cord shoulder cord

While not a cord, there is also a shoulder knot

Cords that separate- useful when the epaulet button is only decorative

Images courtesy of

There is a difference between where the shoulder cord fits on the shoulder, whether it sits on the outside of the shoulder (usually due to no epaulet) or if it attaches to the epaulet button located more toward the neck.

Shirt Color

Blue seems to be more of a work uniform color; although nothing says that the blue dress shirt would not be acceptable. White may be the best choice for your team. I highly recommend a short sleeve shirt like the Army Service Uniform Shirt, pictured below. Get the sleeves altered so that they do not bunch up inside your blouse. Image from


Many female first responders wear the male tie instead of the tie tab. Still, here are some options. Along with a necktie, you will need to keep it in place. Tape works well (no one can see it) however, a tie pin, clasp, is an option – keep in mind that if there is any depth to the device that you use, it may cause a slight bulge in your blouse which is something to avoid. Uniform neckties come in Black and navy blue and male neckties come in two lengths.

Standard Necktie

Ladies Crossover Necktie (Navy-style)

Velcro Tab Necktie

Ladies Tie Tab (Army/AF-style)

Other images from

A properly fitted tie should have the tip centered, top to bottom, on the belt buckle, like the picture below. That is the goal but coming within one inch is fine. After all, you will be wearing your blouse.

Picture courtesy of

Instead of a necktie, the Bib Scarf or Ascot is something to consider for your uniform. I’m not a huge fan of them simply because they do not present a finished appearance. They do allow for movement (see the USAF Honor Guard Drill Team). Plus, depending on shirt color, the darker colored scarves can show through. Picture courtesy of

Double- or Single-Breasted Blouse?
Blouse defined: a loose upper garment that does not get tucked in. An upper garment that is tucked is called a shirt. A coat, for our definition, would be a long garment worn to keep warm.

Law enforcement agencies seem to go for the single-breasted style.

The traditional style for firefighters seems to be double-breasted, however, that is merely anecdotal as I have seen many firefighter ceremonial units with the single-breasted blouse. Note: the ceremonial units have single-breasted, while the Class A uniform might be the double. My suggestion is that, if you want to use a ceremonial belt for certain formations, a single-breasted blouse will be your best look with a ceremonial belt.



High Collar


Images courtesy of

A must-have is a set of proper fitting gloves. Snap-close gloves or gloves that do not have a snap and just a slight gap do not present a finished ceremonial image at all. Flag bearer gloves present a terrible image with theit Velcro strap that wraps around the wrist. The best gloves to get are what calls Honor Guard Gloves. Before slipping them on, fold the excess wrist material down twice to the thumb (see below). Get the gloves lined, unlined, plain, or with a non-slip coating (like chicken skin).

Honor Guard Gloves

Snap Gloves

No, No, No, No, No

Flag Bearer Gloves

Absolutely no!

Properly folded honor guard glove

Images from and

Inclement Weather Gear

Depending on where you live, you will need to add to your uniform rack and add an overcoat and a raincoat. Below are images from Marlow White. The overcoat the offer comes in double-breasted and comes with excellent directions on how to convert it to single-breasted. The overcoat replaces the ceremonial blouse in winter weather. The belt is not worn (replaced with the ceremonial belt) and the belt loops removed, the same goes for the raincoat.



To Top it Off…
There are several covers from which to choose: bell cap, military service cap, cowboy hat, and the sheriff’s hat. For firefighter ceremonial units, the bell and military service caps are the standard choice.

Eight Point Cap

Bell Crown Cap

Pershing/Modified Pershing

Army/Air Force Style

Sheriff’s Hat

Campaign Hat

Trooper Winter Cap

Clear Rain Cover

Solid Color Rain Cover

Clear Rain Cover including bill

Front Chin Straps

Rear Buckle Chin strap

Images courtesy of,,, and

My cover, as an example

Accent Colors
The colors that are usual for the uniform stripes, shoulder cords, and covers for law enforcement, blue, gold/yellow, or white, and for firefighters and EMS personnel, red, gold/yellow, or white. This is not to say that another color would not be appropriate for your unit. It’s completely your choice.

Keeping it All Together
There are several types of straps that lock onto your socks and pull your dress shirt down.

Shirt Lock

This garter clamps to your shirt and fits around your foot

Images courtesy of

The Travel Uniform
No one wants to wear their ceremonials in the car on the way to the ceremony. By the time you arrive, your blouse would look terrible. In steps the travel/practice uniform. Replace your blouse with a lightweight jacket for traveling and practicing when you arrive at the ceremony site. There are two advantages to this: 1. your blouse remains clean and wrinkle free, and, 2. No one mistakes your practicing for the “real thing” sending others into a panic (it happens). The picture at right is of my USAF ceremonial travel uniform worn by all honor guard members; the blouse is replaced by the lightweight jacket and the rain cap cover is worn to protect the cover. The jacket and rain cover really mute the ceremonial uniform, while presenting a professional image. Note: now, all Airmen on the honor guard now have the embroidered USAF logo as shown below, something that your unit may want to use, or even sew a unit patch there.

But Wait, There’s More!
Now that we have looked at each item of the uniform (see Shoes for the Driller), we need to carry that uniform around. Look to for garment bags (Wally Garment Bags are great), gear bags (check out SKU 1190), and cover (hat) bags.

Images courtesy of

The DrillMaster DrillUp! Clinic

DrillUp! Movement Clinic
DrillUp! Movement Clinic

I’ve been teaching in various official capacities since 1986 and since 2009, I’ve been teaching various elements of what I have developed into a formal clinic for cadets, mainly, and JROTC instructors. The best news is that the clinic is free! I teach it to JROTC units as I travel the country instructing first responder ceremonial units.

The text of the flyer that I created is below and you can download the flyer at my Downloads page under the heading DrillMaster University. The best thing to do is get cadets from all over your area to attend the clinic that last three to five hours, depending on how many cadets attend.

What you get in the clinic:

  • Command voice principles
  • Movement mechanics and principles
  • Effort qualities
  • An understanding of unarmed exhibition movement
  • An introduction to armed exhibition movement
  • Teamwork activities

What does it take to host a clinic?

  • A gymnasium or some place similar
  • Access to an electrical outlet is helpful

What do the cadets need to bring?

  • Water and snacks for the breaks
  • Sturdy shoes for marching
  • Comfortable clothing
  • Any kind of drill rifle

What is the price for cadets?

  • A positive attitude
  • A Desire to learn
  • A willingness to improve
  • $0

How many cadets can attend?

  • 20 minimum, up to 100


AFMAN 36-2203 “Does not Promote Success”

While there are a couple other definitions of success, they don’t fit our purpose which is learning and effectively executing military drill. Here is my preferred definition.

Success: the accomplishment of an aim or purpose

Air Force Manual (AFMAN) 36-2203 is the US Air Force’s drill and ceremonies manual. The quoted text in the title is what an individual wrote to me. That individual wrote for an organization, we can then take this statement to be the official position for that organization. Actually, the statement was, “The AFMAN simply doesn’t set one up for success by design”, but that was too long for the title of this article.

We can infer from this ignorant statement that this individual (and the organization) believes that the US Air Force purposefully wrote the AFMAN to be so vague so as to not allow for successful completion of the mission. The mission here being learning and effectively executing military drill. Of course, I do not believe that for one instant as that is a ludicrous premise! Allow me to refute this unfounded claim.

First, just for fun, let’s read the first paragraph of AFMAN 36-2203 (2013) and then we will proceed with the refutation.

1.1.1. Units or organizations required to drill under arms will use the procedures in US Army Field Manual 22-5, Drill and Ceremonies, SECNAV 5060.22, Marine Corps Drill and Ceremonies Manual, or Air Force Academy Cadet Wing Manual 50-5. The types of weapon used will determine the appropriate manual.

It’s like the Air Force designed the manual to be used with other manuals instead of reinventing the wheel. Imagine that. In the above quote, we need to update the referenced manuals to the current versions which I will do below. So, let’s continue.

A Little History
afman-36-2203-dc-1996-colorsI spent 20 years in the Air Force (85-05) and for four years before that, I was a member of my high school’s AFJROTC program. In my high school days (79-83), we had to learn AFR 50-14 (now AFMAN 36-2203), Drill and Ceremonies, which has not changed much since then.

After the USAF was created as its own uniformed service on September 18, 1947, it went from using Army Regulations to writing and using its own. When it came to drill and ceremonies the newly created service looked at the Marine Corps and Army drill manuals and chose from what it considered the best from each. One thing the USAF left out was information for the rifle. Why? Because the Army had already accomplished that task with, FM 22-5 (now TC 3-21.5), and Airmen did not have a daily use for rifles like Soldiers and Marines. We march, so the USAF creating a drill and ceremonies manual was logical.

What did Airmen do for ceremonial rifle information? We had copies of FM 22-5 and used the manual of arms there. Simple, especially when the pictures of AF color guards had the guards wearing sidearms (the above image from 1996). Using both manuals is even what every Base Honor Guard unit did across the Air Force before the USAF Honor Guard took over that program in the late 90s and created and Air Force-wide ceremonial standard. Notice in the picture above the use of the right arm to hold the flagstaff.

Cick here: Following the Army’s Drill Manual for all Services

colorsToday, the pictures in the AFMAN include guards armed with rifles. However, the pictures only show technique for Order, Parade Rest, Right Shoulder (Carry), and Attention. What has never been a concern is how to get the rifle from one position to the other. Why? Because we use TC 3-21.5 for technique, but we use the beginning and ending position techniques of the AFMAN. Again, simple.

There is no reason for Air Force JROTC teams to not march the AFMAN. None, except for untrained judges – who are only briefed about the TC standard.

usaf-right-hand Side note: The picture above, from the 2013 version of the AFMAN, is NOT REVERSED (as the individual wrote to me), the color bearers are just using the wrong arm in the picture – the text says to use the right arm. Also notice the rifles on the outside shoulders. What technique is used here to move to and from the shoulder? Amazingly, the Marine Corps already has this taken care of in their Marine Corps Order P5060-20. Once again, simple.

usaf-armed-drillDisparaging the AFMAN or any other service manual only shows a peculiar unawareness of the concept of military drill standards. JROTC teams need to learn, perfect, and march their service manual. Let them do so.

Cadets, start reading instead of trying to gain your knowledge from this year’s seniors who were taught by last year’s seniors, etc., etc.