Category Archives: Honor Guard

Information for honor guard units from The Drillmaster

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.

The Colors Reverse How-to

This is for Army and Air Force. For the Colors Counter March (Marine Corps, Navy and Coast Guard), Click here.

We can read in the Army Training Circular how to execute the move and even see the provided diagram, but it sometimes really helps to see exactly what the feet do. To begin, here is what the Colors Reverse* does:

*Called Counter March in the Marine Corps, Navy, and Coast Guard

Now, let’s look at the feet:

The command is given from the halt, while marching or marking time. If given while marching, the command is on two consecutive left steps.

During the movement, the team’s steps will not be exactly half or whole, they will be just a little less to make proper distance and alignment.

ALL STEPS ARE AT THE SAME PACE FOR YOUR SERVICE!

Whether you are marching forward at a full step, half step or marching in place, DO NOT SPEED UP, maintain the same tempo all of the time.

NOTE: If you have to take extra steps, that is acceptable!

TECHNIQUE FROM THE HALT

  • RRG- Right Rifle Guard
  • US- US Color Bearer
  • AZ- Arizona Color Bearer
  • LRG- Left Rifle Guard

For the Right Rifle Guard

The RRG takes steps on the outside of the team, LRG moves inside these footprints. The steps that lead from the team, should be just large enough to bring the guard on the outside of the AZ and LRG and no farther or you will take forever to make it back to the team. Make your steps as equally spaced as possible for all three sets of steps (from, across, and to the team), but do not make all of your steps equal- only within each set. Begin Mark Time when you get in place.

For the US Bearer

The US Color Bearer, in place(!), executes a Left Face-in-March (not facing movements!), take two steps to move into the place where the AZ Bearer stood, executes a Right Flank-in-Place*, and begins marking time.

*There really isn’t a term such as that, I just made it up to illustrate that you do not move forward on this flank.

For the AZ Bearer

The AZ Color Bearer takes a half step forward, flanks, takes two almost half steps, flanks, takes a step forward and then takes up Mark Time.

For the Left Rifle Guard

LRG does the same thing as the AZ Color Bearer following right behind and then taking two more steps, a flank and a step forward, and then begin Mark Time.

TECHNIQUE WHILE MARCHING

Take the above information and put it into this setting: Colors Reverse, MARCH, is called on two consecutive left steps (Counter March, MARCH ends on the left foot in the Marine Corps style).

The First Right Step: US Bearer executes an immediate Right Flank, takes one step forward into the AZ bearer’s position and begins marking time while turning 90-degrees in place to the left.

The Next Left Step: AZ Bearer and LRG execute a Left Flank, march across, and flank into their positions, just like the technique outlined above in the From the Halt section.

The Next Right Step: RRG executes a Right Flank, takes one step forward, marches across, and and flanks into position, just like the technique outlined above in the From the Halt section.

And finally, the image from the Army Training Circular for the four-man color guard.

Washington DC Cherry Blossom Festival- Joint Service Drill Exhibition

 

2017 Joint Service Drill Exhibition is on April 8, 2017!

HistoryThe Marine Corps won the first competition years ago when it was held inside a shopping center. You can see brief videos of that on YouTube. There was a long hiatus and the competition started back up, this time in front of the Jefferson Memorial. The JSDE is now held at the Lincoln Memorial.

Drill team training and motivation
Drill team training and motivation

Exhibition? What happened to the Competition?
Wasn’t it called the Joint Service Drill Competition? It was. The last JSDC, which I judged, was in 2011 and the Air Force was the winner- by a hair. Why the change? Fairness. The Marine Corps and Army have had their separate drill teams in one platoon and the members of those platoons have had their specific job of perfecting the routine. The Air Force eventually created a flight that does the same thing. I’m not completely informed as to the Navy’s team, but they probably have a platoon that is only for drill. That leaves the Coast Guard. They will never be able to win- that is not a statement that should in any way be associated with the CG’s team being poor. It is not. I am thrilled to watch all of the team’s performances every year ad love to watch the Coast Guard’s team. Why won’t they win? They are the smallest honor guard and are unable to have honor guard members totally dedicated to the drill team. All of the Coast Guard honor guard members must master every element of the honor guard: Colors, Pall Bearers and Firing Party. They all can switch around as needed so most of their time is spent practicing all of their duty related tasks, drill team is extra. Those who are on the drill team put in extra hours- and do a great job, mind you- but the routine must be kept relatively simple. The other teams that have dedicated honor guard members can create complex routines that “wow” the crowd and while the Coast Guard drill team still “wows” crowds with their performances, their routine, when viewed through a judges lens of Overall Effect, Composition Analysis, Equipment and Movement is unable- on purpose- to be as complex and still have the excellent execution that we see in the other service honor guard teams.

So, instead of handing the trophy back and forth between the Air Force and the Army, with the Marines getting in there every few years, we can go and watch and appreciate all of the performances since, in reality, they are winners just because they get up every morning, put on a perfect uniform, honor our country’s war dead and heads of state and then go off to practice drill.

joint service drill exhibition, joint service drill competition, cherry blossom festival, drill competition

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

Firefighting

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.

 

Firefighter Uniform for the Funeral Procession

I constantly receive questions on here my website and on my social media accounts. I also belong to a couple of Facebook first responder groups where drill and ceremonies and honor guard questions are posted from time-to-time. For some questions, I just read the responses and learn; for others, I am able to share my knowledge. This one was a great question where I added a little information, but really just sat back, read, and learned.

In the group, Elmhurst [IL] Honor Guard Academy, firefighter Todd Kirkpatrick asked this great question: I’m looking for information and/or opinions regarding appropriate dress for on-duty personnel. Our fire department will be positioned along the procession route for a fallen police officer. We are not part of the processional, but want to pay our respects to the fallen officer. A few of the members are insistent on wearing turnout coats with helmet. They are stating the cold weather makes it appropriate and we are on duty anyway.

I feel wearing our dirty turnout gear is somewhat disrespectful when it would be just as easy to wear our duty shirts (button down shirt with a badge) and our duty jackets (yellow reflective squad jackets) along with our dress caps. My department is full-time with nine personnel on duty that day. We are firefighters and paramedics with 82% of our calls being EMS, so it’s not like we are likely to get called to a fire during this time.

My Facebook friend and firefighter, Glen Busch, had this excellent answer: There is nothing cut and dry however Turnout gear is work wear. it was designed for the mud of WWI Trenches originally. That being said not everyone has good quality Class “B” uniform much less class “A”. Personal preference especially for a memorial wear your duty uniform. Cap and Tie if possible would also be appropriate. And don’t forget to clean off your boots/shoes.

Firefighter Bryan Downie added, I was on duty a few miles east of Todd for the same procession. I’m also the Deputy Commander of our honor guard. One thing that I feel needs to be factored into the equation is weather. That particular day was extremely cold with steady winds. Our on duty crews wore turnout coats, helmets and fire gloves.

DrillMaster. The military requires headgear for rendering a salute (except for the Army and AF indoors) because all uniforms require headgear and since not all firefighter uniforms require headgear, requiring a salute only while wearing headgear (not that that is what you wrote), would require a last minute headgear/uniform scramble when, honestly, everyone just wants to show their respects.

Todd. The shift OIC ended up having both on and off duty personnel wear turnout coats, helmets and firefighting gloves. Looked very “uniform”. But in my opinion not appropriate or professional for a line of duty death.

My thoughts on the pictures of the firefighters is that they look absolutely wonderful! While firefighters understand much more what this uniform is all about and that it may not be a very good “ceremonial representation”, It looks to be the perfect way to pay respects to a fallen officer and, much more importantly, the officer’s family- what they saw was a great deal of respect being given to their loved one. It was awesome.

The Honor Guard and the Suicide

Image courtesy of www.fox46charlotte.com

It’s been years since I was part of an Airman’s Active Duty (full honors) funeral who committed suicide (early 1990s). During the preparation for that funeral I remember some of my fellow guardsmen voicing their opinion as to whether the Airmen deserved full honors or even a flag on his casket. Suicide is looked upon as shameful; less so now, but the stigma of shame is still there.

I recently received a phone call one morning from the commander of a newly-established firefighter honor guard that I trained with a question about rendering honors for a Fire Chief who served 33 years, retired, and five years later, committed suicide. The commander already had specific ideas on how to handle this sensitive situation, but wanted an opinion from an experienced ceremonial guardsman.

Side note: There are many articles published across the web, see this article on Cumulative PTSD and also this article on The Secret Sadness of Retired Men.  Whether this Fire Chief had either one of these issues is immaterial to the honor guard.

My response to the commander was that we, in the ceremonial world, represent all members, past and present (the reason why we do not wear name tags), of our service and render honors to all regardless of how they passed away. For us in the military, a court martial and the type of discharge may have an affect on whether the honor guard is authorized to render military honors, but for everyone who served honorably, there are the three types of funeral: 1. Full Honors Funeral; 2. Standard Honors Funeral; and 3. Veteran Honors Funeral. Each of the three funeral types has a written standard that Active Duty, retirees, or veterans must meet. That’s it. When the deceased meets any of those three funeral standards and has served honorably, nothing else matters.

As a member of a ceremonial unit, you are not yourself, you are a ceremonial guardsman (one is not an “honor guard”, the unit is the honor guard) and one’s thoughts on a certain subject are immaterial- you have standards to follow, which is why those standards were written in the first place. To highlight this point think of it this way: on the service honor guards in DC you are there to do a job regardless of who the President is and whether you voted for that person or not. The saying goes, “POTUS is POTUS” (POTUS = President of the United States). The method of demise is not an issue, we render honors for honorable service.

Now, having said all of that, for First Responder community, whatever the honor guard is going to do is up to what the family wants. Casket watch, colors, escort, pallbearers, apparatus caisson, and 2-/6-man flag fold (whatever your team is ready for), can all be offered through the family liaison and the family can choose.

Semper ad Honorem

Always for Honor