Category Archives: Honor Guard Training

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 Burial at Sea

Burial at Sea is a long standing maritime tradition and, just like a committal service on land, there are certain procedures to follow. Picture courtesy of navaltoday.com.

It’s not just military members, Coast Guard or Merchant Mariners, there are also law enforcement and firefighting departments that have water-dedicated sections and burial at sea for the members of those sections would be appropriate.

Ceremonial Elements
The elements for a land-based full honors funeral are the body bearers (pallbearers), color team, firing party, and troop escort. See also The Graveside Sequence for Funeral Directors Part 1 , Part 2, and Part 3 for explanations of the different arrangements for funerals.

Being at sea is a bit different. The six or eight body bearers are there whether there is a casket or cremains and the firing party is there. The color team is replaced by the flag(s) flown at half mast aboard ship. It depends on the size of the deck as to whether there is room for a formation (the troop escort).

US Navy Ceremonial Guardsmen personnel carry the cremains of Apollo 11 astronaut Neil Armstrong during a burial at sea service aboard the USS Philippine Sea (CG 58), Friday, Sept. 14, 2012, in the Atlantic Ocean. Photo Credit: (NASA/Bill Ingalls)

Also, because the committal service is on a boat or ship at sea, standing at attention with your feet together is not necessarily the most stable position. Keeping your feet apart is probably going to be the better technique to maintain stability, no matter the position for the rest of your body. Notice the picture here of Neil Armstrong’s burial. All of the Ceremonial Guardsmen are at Attention even though their feet are apart.

Atlantic Ocean (May 19, 2004) – Sailors commit to the sea the body of Machinist’s Mate 3rd Class Nathan Taylor during a Burial at Sea ceremony conducted from one of the ship’s aircraft elevators aboard the aircraft carrier USS Enterprise (CVN 65). U.S. Navy photo by Photographer’s Mate Airman Rob Gaston

Casket, Urn, or Shroud
It all depends what the deceased wants or what the family wants for the deceased. If a metal or wood casket is used, weights are added and large holes drilled to help it sink quickly. If the casket does not readily sink, the casket must be retrieved, weight and/or holes are added and the casket is then sent into the water again.

Central Command Area of Responsibility (May 01, 2003) — Sailors aboard the guided missile destroyer USS Donald Cook (DDG 75) honor six former U.S. military members during a burial at sea ceremony. U.S. Navy photo by Chief Journalist Alan J. Baribeau.

For cremains (cremated remains), there are a couple of different ways that the cremains enter the water. Due to environmental concerns, placing a plastic urn into the water is not done anymore. Metal and ceramic or good, but biodegradable urns are preferred.

An alternative to placing the urn in the water is to open the urn and the plastic bag that is inside and then dump the cremains (some ashes, but mostly bone) into the water.

The burial shroud can be sail material or this interesting shroud the is specifically made for sea burials and yet is appropriate for viewing the deceased in the funeral home.  It is the Atlantic & Pacific Sea Burial Shroud. It is pre-weighted with canon balls in a separate compartment at the bottom.

Atlantic Pacific Burial Shroud

The Firing Party
The team fires the Three Volley Salute out over the water without taking aim.

For complete details, click here to download NAVPERS 15555, Navy Military Funerals, or from the Downloads page.

Fair Winds and Following Seas

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.

Prevention:

  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.

Creating a Casket Deck

Aspen Fire Antique TruckWhen a firefighter passes, many, if not all of the time an apparatus (fire truck) is used as a caisson. Whether it’s an antique or a modern apparatus, it is a fitting way to transport a fallen brother or sister.

The hose bed is emptied and used to transport the casket. There are a couple problems, however. The first problem is the casket marring the hose bed floor and the second, more serious problem is the casket not being secure. Both problems are now solved.

Before we get to the solution, I want to briefly outline the process of loading/unloading a casket on an apparatus.

Assuming the removable casket deck is inserted into the hose bed, here is the process. The number of firefighters who handle the casket, besides the six or eight pallbearers, depends on the height and type of apparatus used.

In this picture, the firefighters who were in training with me had a real funeral for a retiree to attend during our academy in Texas (2013). You can see the men staged on the tailboard and hose bed to receive the casket from the pallbearers. All three men  rode in the bed on the way to the church and cemetery ensuring the casket remained in place.

This is one of the pictures from the graduation ceremony later that same week. Here, the commander of the pallbearers, marches up, steps up onto the tailboard and ensures the casket is ready to move. He is executing an Air Force technique of dressing the flag before the pallbearers retrieve it. Notice the red metal step. This fire engine is an antique with a relatively high tailboard. I also know of portable platforms for pallbearers to step up onto that have room for all six pallbearers (I would appreciate any pictures, diagrams, and measurements to share with others).

Loading and unloading the casket is easier with more honor guard members at key places. Your specific procedures should be written and practiced at least once a quarter to ensure team members have a general idea of the procedures outlined.

The Casket Deck
The solution to our problems identified above is to create a removable casket deck that can fit into the hose bed that can also double for training. Here is how I created and installed the deck that I use.

I began with a higher quality plywood board that one of the members of Home Depot suggested. It has a nice wood for the outside layer. I then ordered the deck materials required for holding a casket:

  • Bier Pin (has a twist knob)
  • Bier Pin Plate (7 holes)
  • Bier Pin Stop (at rear of deck)
  • Bier Pin Stop Plate (1 -or 2-hole)
  • Glide Strips (a less expensive alternative to rollers, works extremely well)

I purchased all of my materials from the G. Burns Corporation, they have everything you need and are great at solving any problems one may encounter.

After using the glide strips now for a little while I have encountered one issue that I’ll call “Casket Play”. Casket Play is when you insert the casket, not so much when you remove it. Upon inserting a casket into a coach (the name used for the hearse around the family), the rollers will “grab” the casket and make it quite easy to load straight. The glide strips, however, tend to let the casket slide to either side while the casket is pushed onto the deck, especially if the ground on which the trailer rests is slanted to either side. If you want to completely avoid this, you can purchase rollers from this website and elsewhere.

I drilled and cut the holes after making the necessary marks, it was really quite easy. For the two bier pin plates I considered drilling each hole, but decided to drill each end for the plate and then cut a groove so that I could use each plate hole is necessary.

The stained end was a test for me- which a later regretted while I was staining the rest of the board, it didn’t blend. However, it wasn’t meant to be a family heirloom. At this step is probably where you, for adaptation onto the hose bed, would add a frame with supports running across every couple of feet underneath so that the bolts would not touch the bed.

Then came the stain (Minwax Read Oak), and the protective coats of polyurathane on both sides.

The next step was attaching the materials to the deck. Notice in this picture how the bier pin plates and glide strips are offset to the left, that is to make room in my trailer for the doorway so that the casket can easily slide in and out during training.

My frame was waiting for me in my trainer having built that out of furring strips.

Then came time to install the deck.

To ensure that the casket would not move at all, I cut small squares out of each side of the deck and installed large eye bolts into the frame. With these eye bolts, I use a cargo strap that I crank down to keep the casket safely in place. You can see one of the eye bolts below.

The project finished. My deck is 8’4″ by 3’1″.

I hope you find this helpful.