Category Archives: Color Guard/Color Team

Making Things More “Ceremonialer”

“Ceremonialer” is the term I created as I’ve watched members of the military, first responders (many who are veterans), and cadets perform movements that do not bring any more reverence or honor to what they are doing at ceremonies .

Similar terms would be:

When it comes to the American flag and rendering honors, never should anyone use the thinking, “It’s not specifically prohibited, so we can do it.”

While the following may seem like more of a personal pet peeve of mine (which they are) than anything else, there is reasoning behind why a team should not perform these movements and techniques.

The Head Bow

  • Description: During Casket Watch, the Watch Guards posted at the casket bow their heads until the Relief Watch Arrives for the changing of the guard(s). This is also applicable to other ceremonies.
  • Why not to do it: When at the position of Attention, Parade Rest, or Ceremonial at Ease, the head and eyes are straight forward. Period. Another reason not to do it is, communication. It can be very difficult to nearly impossible to communicate with posted Watch Guards during a memorial service. Communication is crucial during ceremonies and the Watch Commander needs to make eye contact with the posted Guards and those guards need to be aware of what is going on around them. I also highly recommend “unarmed” guards (no rifle, or fire axe)
Casket Watch Preferred Technique- Heads up. Courtesy of Today.com

The Colors Presentation

  • Description: the rifle guards spin their rifles in between positions or the team moves into a completely unauthorized configuration for a colors presentation.
  • Why not to do it: The Flag Code and a service drill and ceremonies manual/The Honor Guard Manual are the resources required for the color guard to perform its job properly. That’s it. Never add any flamboyant movement or team configuration. There is a reason for the minimal standards that are written in the guidance; less is more. Stick to that.
Spangdahlem Air Base (Germany) Honor Guard in France, 2010.

The Flag Fold

  • Description: Two team members march to the front of the room with an American flag, they unfold it, open it up fully, and refold it before presenting the flag.
  • When to do it: (with thanks to KM for his input) Military participation in ceremonies that bring discredit to the armed services or exist primarily to raise money. Civilian ceremonies that exploit the military for personal and financial gain would fall under this category as well.There are numerous occasions where individuals will need to fold a flag but the only times that require it to be performed as part of an official ceremony are Retreat and Military Funeral Honors…so if the organization is not doing one of the two, then they need to seriously ask themselves if they should be doing it at all.

    If the flag fold is not being conducted for a functional purpose, or mandated by-law then it is inappropriate. What constitutes a “functional purpose”? It would be storing the flag or giving it to another person or organization.

    Storage: during an official ceremony, Retreat, simply because you took the flag down for the evening and obviously you have to fold it. Mandated by-law: during a military funeral.

    In the AF, the presentation of the flag is mandatory for retirees. The presentation is mandatory, not the flag fold. The actual tradition is to present the flag in a shadow box. All the outlandish ceremonies over the last 20-30 years is a recent occurrence.

    So to summarize, “flag fold ceremonies” are performed all too often and their impact/meaning waters down the significance of folding the flag.

    Public Affairs organizations in all branches strictly control and attempt to prevent this from happening. Unfortunately, volunteers, and even installation honor guard units “approve” and take part in such events without them being vetted through their responsible PA office.

Long Island, N.Y. (Feb 05) – BM3 Allen performs flag folding honors for a funeral service held at the Calverton National Cemetery. PO3 Allen is assigned to the Navy and Marine Corps Reserve Center in Amityville, N.Y. which coordinates and provides funeral honor services to the Long Island region. U.S. Navy photo by PM1 Matthew J. Thomas

The Tilt During the Flag Fold

  • Description: Two team members march to the front of the room with an American flag, they unfold it, open it up fully and, instead of going directly back into refolding it (as they should), they tilt the flag toward the audience.
  • Why not to do it: While, technically, The Tilt is benign and may add some sort of emotional accent, the move is not in any flag fold guidance. There’s nothing “wrong” with it, but it is not authorized.

NOTE: The example picture below is not meant, in any way, to shame the cadets performing the technique.

The Tilt Example William Blount High School TN AFJROTC

A Reading Plan for JROTC Instructors and Cadets

Drill Team TechniqueFor many years now, I’ve received requests from JROTC instructors, especially those recently retired and new to the program, and some highly motivated cadets as to where to begin when teaching/learning drill.

For regulation and color guard drill:
  • Army- Training Circular (TC) 3-21.5. 
  • Marine Corps, Navy, and Coast Guard- Marine Corps Order (MCO)P5060.2
  • Air Force*- Air Force Manual (AFMAN) 36-2203 and TC 3-21.5

*AFJROTC cadets are to use the TC for the manual of arms since cadets use the M1903 rifle almost exclusively (if your unit uses the M14, use the MCO). For color guard, however, beginning and ending positions must look like the AFMAN pictures.

Supplement those with:
 For all exhibition drill applications:
  • Exhibition Drill For The Military Drill Team: Among other information, this book contains a complete foot drill-only routine, albeit quite basic. You can put together the moves listed and explained  into a routine that would contain variety and floor coverage. The armed or unarmed movements are left to you to create.
  • Exhibition Drill For The Military Drill Team, Vol II: More information to help in the creative process in armed and unarmed
  • Training For Military Drill Teams, Color Guards & Judges:  This book replaces the Filling in the Gaps series of books creating a specifically targeted book that includes every article on the DrillMaster Website from 2011 to February 2017, but organized into categories for better study.
  • Exhibition Drill For The Military Drill Team, Vol III, Unarmed Drill Movement: Coming in 2018!
Drill Meet competition judges are not trained, they are briefed. And, it’s not anyone’s fault. Even the judges for Nationals receive a great couple days of briefing, but there is no time to train for any competition, the training needs to be accomplished by each potential judge.
Both of these books are a wealth of knowledge not only for the judge, but for drill team coaches and team members.
  • The World Drill Association Adjudication Manual and Rule Book: This is the professional standard set for judging military drill. This manual is an adaptation of the Winter Guard International Adjudication Manual (with permission) adapted for the Military Drill World.
  • Continuing Education For The WDA Visual Adjudicator: This is a continuation of the training received by judges for Drum Corps International, Bands of America, Winter Guard International, and practically every state pageantry adjudication organization. It’s not just for music judging, it’s for all judging.
If you and your cadets are interested in more advanced applications of their training, I suggest obtaining the following
  • The Honor Guard Manual, Second Edition, spiral bound: An adaptation of the USAF Honor Guard Standard, this manual covers
  • The Honor Guard Manual, Volume II, spiral bound: scheduled for release in early 2018. This book covers specialized ceremonies (ex. dignified transfer of remains at an airport) and elaborates on many details covered in the first volume.

Using Colors Cases

JROTC color guards compete throughout each school year and part of the color guard competition is uncasing and casing the colors. It’s a very technical process involving and adaptation of Sling Arms, the uncasing sequence, an adaptation of Tighten Slings, and casing sequence. Not only that, but the team must spend several minutes executing precision movements in a box no bigger than 50′ x 50′. During the performance, the cases for the colors must be precisely folded and then stored in the ceremonial/web belts during the routine. For a ceremony, however…

A ceremony is entirely different and the cases really should be stored in a preparation room or the team’s transportation. I’ve witnessed both cadets and adult teams march around with the cases tucked in the colors harnesses or the belts. Not good. Tucked cases do not present a professional nor ceremonial image, please do not use them.

Color Guard: Two Guards, American Flag, and…?

The standard color guard has four members:

  1. Right/Lead Guard
  2. American Flag Bearer
  3. Other Flag Bearer
  4. Left/Trail Guard

Guards
The guards are always armed (except in a chapel, at the discretion of the pastor). The weapons the guards may carry are:

  1. Ceremonial-style rifle (M1, M14, M1903)
  2. Modern automatic rifle (M16, etc., not as nice looking)
  3. Shotgun (fairly standard for law enforcement)
  4. Ceremonial Fire Ax (standard for firefighters)
  5. Ceremonial Pike Pole (not as usual nor as recognizable)
  6. Guards should NEVER carry swords or sabers, nor should rifles have mounted bayonets

Two guards are standard. I’ve seen teams with one guard due to a team member falling ill, and even teams without guards at all- that’s just not how to present the colors at any time.

American Flag Bearer
Always next to (marching right) or directly behind the Right/Lead Guard, NEVER in the middle or anywhere else.

ENSURE ALL FLAGS ARE THE SAME HEIGHT!

“Other Flag” Bearer
A question arose a few days ago the question arose from a fire department team about what flag should march next in line. Since the team usually marches three flags, US, State, Local or Organizational, and now they can only march two flags, which one should be next?

For us in the military the answer is always taken care of for us; the other flag for a color team is always the service color when marching two colors. When overseas, many teams march three colors by default: US, Host Nation, and Service Color (when on “American soil” US installation, American cemetery), or Host Nation, US, and Service Color (when on “foreign soil”, anywhere else).

For first responders, the state, local, or organizational flag is just fine. For JROTC and other cadet organizations, your first choice should be your service color, but your unit color is appropriate.

Click here read about the position that should never be used for color bearers!

Education is Key!
Please review your service manual or The Honor Guard Manual to have that knowledge as fresh as possible for when you need it.

Just Don’t Do It…

The picture below was taken as an example.

While there are issues with the rifle guards’ salutes, the main problem here is the color bearers’ salute.

  1. The salute pictured here executed by the color bearers is only executed in the Marines, Navy and Coast Guard by armed (rifle or guidon) individuals when not in formation when approaching or being approached by an officer. Never in formation. The Army used to use this technique, but discontinued the practice decades ago (the 1960, I think).
  2. The American flag never salutes. Ever.
  3. The flags should be tucked between the right arm and the staff (not the staff and the torso).
  4. Everyone should be wearing ceremonial/web belts and the color bearers should wear colors harnesses- even if the harnesses are not used.

Let’s say the ceiling is too low, the colors cannot fit in the harnesses. Trail Arms is appropriate and going to Present is for the non-national color. That color dips slightly forward (this position is called Angle Port) while the American remains vertical.

If you are on an honor guard/ceremonial unit, follow the techniques outlined in The Honor Guard Manual which differ slightly from those stated above.

Why is Close Order Drill Necessary in the Armed Forces?

A question from India: Why is drill necessary in the armed forces?

There are three types of drill: Regulation Drill (RD), Exhibition Drill (XD), Ceremonial Drill.

Drill, mainly XD, is life for some, but what about those basic trainees coming into the military. Why do they drill unarmed and even armed?
Close order drill, what we call, RD, instills discipline, timing, teamwork, esprit de corps*, confidence, teamwork, leadership, followership, communication (when teaching), listening, camaraderie, satisfaction in accomplishment, achievement, self-confidence, a certain amount of honor, respect, and it also helps trainees react immediately to commands, all qualities that a Soldier, Marine, Sailor, Airman, and Coast Guardsman needs to accomplish the mission. Adding a rifle into drill helps the trainee become very familiar with that piece of equipment on which their life may rely at some point. The more familiar one is with their weapon, the better able they are to use it.

Drill is very necessary in initial training and as a refresher throughout one’s career.

*It is French for “spirit of the body”, the “body” being an organization or, in this case, a military service and it’s subordinate units.

Tuck Your Gloves! But, In Your Epaulet?

OK, this is a hotel doorman, but you get the idea here. Courtesy of alamy.com

Some may find this innocuous, but (first responder) ceremonial guardsmen need to maintain a professional image when in uniform before, during and after a ceremony. Any other time that we are out of uniform, dress is most likely not an issue.

For us in the military, it’s a big no-no to tuck gloves into an epaulet. That’s not where they belong (on your hands, in your left hand or put away somewhere).
When I was on the Base Honor Guard at Davis-Monthan AFB in Tuscon, AZ many years ago, my team and I had the distinct pleasure of escorting President Reagan for a visit. When we were finished, he took the time to shake each of our hands for an official picture, but what were we to do with out gloves? Our Lt made the quick command decision to have us all tuck the pair into the bottom of our ceremonial belts. When the pictures were finished, we pulled out the gloves from our belts and carried them in the left hand until we were back at our transportation where we could put them away.
What does this all mean for you? You’re organization is not the military, but you wear a uniform and are a paramilitary organization which means you also have certain standards to uphold. Sloppiness is in the eye of the beholder, but I do agree that gloves on the shoulder do not present a professional image and should not be practiced at all.
Am I able to point you in the direction of a rule that says “Do not tuck your gloves into an epaulet on your uniform after you are finished wearing them”? No, I’m not. What I suggest is for your organization to create uniform wear guidelines, an SOP (Standard Operating Procedure), if you haven’t already, that specifically addresses your concerns for the members of your unit and then stricter guidelines for the honor guard members.
Shaking hands with while wearing gloves is inappropriate and wearing them after a ceremony is not a good idea, but where can gloves go? In the uniform cover (hat), in your left hand or out of site under the blouse tucked into the uniform belt. All until everyone can get back to their transportation and put them away.