Category Archives: DrillCenter News

News from around the drill world including, Drillers, drill teams, honor guards and more.

Exhibition Color Guard? Consensus Says it’s OK!

Firefighter Color Guard Axes at Right Shoulder
DrillMaster Honor Guard Academy Graduation Chino Valley Fire 2016 Firefighter Color Guard Axes at Right Shoulder

I cannot even bring myself to insert a picture of a color guard performing exhibition moves. Instead, here is an awesome firefighter color guard, the members of which were trained by yours truly.

Reference: Training Circular 3-21.5; Marine Corps Order P5060.20; AF Manual 36-2203; The Honor Guard Manual

I have heard from several cadets that their color guard has performed exhibition moves while presenting the colors for many VIPs and everyone seemed to be OK with it since the cadets did not hear of any negative feedback. It looks as though we do not need to follow service regulations, instructions, and manuals after all. We just need to decide which ones are not necessary to follow and which ones are.

It’s not about us, it’s about rendering proper respect and honor to the flag.

Or, we could consider an issue with which everyone in each of the armed services is quite familiar. Standards. Let’s consider something innocuous, underwear. When an individual goes through Basic Training/Boot Camp, they are told to either roll or fold everything in their wall/foot locker to a certain size. While I don’t remember what we had to do as college cadets going through six weeks of what was then called Basic Camp, at Ft. Knox, if I remember correctly, all of the members of my flight in Basic at Lackland AFB had to fold our t-shirts and underwear into a six-inch square. Sounds silly, right? It’s not. There are two reasons why this is done: 1. To get you to conform to service requirements; 2. To get you to pay attention to tiny, seemingly insignificant details. These requirements and small details save lives, I’ll give you an example.

Standards Not Maintained
In Germany in the late 1990s, two USAF Staff Sergeants were on trial for possible negligence. They had crossed two metal pieces incorrectly in the wing of an F-15 or F-16 and that incorrect crossover caused the aircraft to crash with the pilot staying in the plane long enough to guide the aircraft away from a village and into a field. The pilot died and the villagers were spared. Inattention to detail and failure to maintain standards. Military standards are written and pictured in many regulations, pamphlets, and instructions. We need to pay attention to both the words and the pictures.

Hidden in Plain Sight (at least for some)
There is a reason one does not see, in person or in a manual, a service color guard spin rifles or do ANYTHING other than what is specifically written in a service drill and ceremonies manual or internal honor guard manual.

There is a reason one does not see, in person or in a manual, a service color guard use swords, sabers, or bayonets (the MCO does specifically bans bayonet use for a color guard).

Consensus means zero when there is a written standard.

Guidance by a negative? While we cannot fully cover what is not acceptable for a color guard, we have the guidance by a positive- what is written and pictured in the Training Circular, Marine Corps Order, and the Air Force Manual (get them here) for the military services and, The Honor Guard Manual, Second Edition, for first responders. What is written and pictured is what we are supposed to do. Period. We do not add to manuals, especially when the goal is to look “cooler”.

Look at and heed the pictures and wording in your service drill and ceremonies manual.

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)

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.

The Minimum and Maximum Number for a Color Guard

Firefighter Color Guard Axes at Right Shoulder
DrillMaster Honor Guard Academy Graduation Chino Valley Fire 2016 Firefighter Color Guard Axes at Right Shoulder

Two of the questions that I receive quite often:

  1. How many flags can our color guard carry?
  2. What do we do if one of our four team members do not show?

The Maximum
With two rifle (axe) guards you can have what the joint service color team carries (in this order):

  1. US
  2. State (not usual with more than one service color)
  3. Army
  4. USMC
  5. USN
  6. USAF
  7. USCG

The USCG is a military service and during times of war serves as a component of the US Navy. Any other time, it is a law enforcement agency serving under the Department of Homeland Security. Please read About Joint Service Order (which includes information in the comments section regarding the Public Health Service- PHS and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration- NOAA) and Military Service Order of Precedence .

Or you could have:

  1. US
  2. State
  3. City or Service
  4. Department or Service JROTC

The standard color guard:

  1. US
  2. State or Service

So, the maximum number of colors would be eight flags with the minimum being two flags. Remember, this is not the maximum “authorized” or “appropriate,” this is hypothetical and you may have occasion to carry a variation of the above.

Notes:

  • The US is ALWAYS on the marching right or at the front for a military color team (NEVER in the center- not even if it is taller)
    • The only exemption to this may be a Tribal Nation color on Tribal Lands (which would be all of the US, technically)
  • A state color is ALWAYS before any service flag, right after the US

The Minimum
Now we get to a sticky point for some. This section answers the second question of what happens if someone does not show up.

For the military service honor guards in and around Washington DC, it is quite common to see a color guard of three members at various ceremonies. The flag for this setup is an American (funeral for the President) or a foreign nation’s flag (an arrival ceremony). Each service color guard, any other time, will always carry the American and the service flags. While ceremonial units overseas will carry the US, host country, and service flag, stateside installation teams may carry the state at certain times.

There are situations where a personal color (flag) is carried, but that color is only for that individual and never has rifle guards. A personal color is a general or admiral’s flag, a US Secretary’s flag (armed service, etc.) and even the POW/MIA flag.

Does this mean that your team should never march three members on your color guard? Not necessarily. Here is an example:

Three-man color guard
Three-man color guard courtesy of Honor and Remember

Four members of your team are set to march a parade, you have all practiced and all team members know, as they should, the manual for for the flagstaff and the rifle (axe). The morning of the parade comes and one member is unable to show for whatever reason. Do you now march with one rifle (axe) guard? No, march with the American flag. This is making the best of a potentially bad situation.

What About the POW/MIA Flag?

Color Guard with POW/MIA flag in formation
Color Guard with POW/MIA flag in formation courtesy of US Army, Ft. McCoy

This is a contentious topic. The POW/MIA flag always/never marches with the other flags in a color guard. Just ask some very well-intentioned veterans and service men and women in different parts of the country and you will get either answer. My advice? The US military honor guard standard is to carry and post it separately. I recommend carrying it separately.  Read the article, Can the POW/MIA flag be in a Color Guard, here. There isn’t any official guidance for carrying the POW/MIA flag in a color guard, the Flag Code guidance is for flying it on an outside pole directly under or next to the American Flag.

Color Guard with POW/MIA flag outside of formation
Color Guard with POW/MIA flag outside of formation courtesy of maritime.edu

Back to Basics

lombardiVince Lombardi, the legendary coach of the Green Bay Packers football team, never liked to lose a game. The team lost one particular game that Mr. Lombardi thought they definitely should not have. The game was lost due to the team making several mistakes on the field. On the bus ride to the airport the coach said nothing. On the plane ride home again, he said nothing. The next day at practice, the coach gathered the team around him on the field, reached into a canvas bag, and said to the team, “Gentlemen, this is a football.” The team then proceeded to go through all of the basics of the game of football.

I few years ago, I was hired to work with a prestigious military college drill team. The team had been showing poor results for several years and a member of the staff thought it was time for a change. That staff member and I spoke at length through email about the issues he felt the team had and from that discussion I formulated a plan for a weekend’s worth of rigorous training. By the end of the weekend, I took the team through regulation and color guard drill according to the Marine Corps Order under which most colleges drill. I had also written a two-minute sample exhibition routine that I taught them.

That drill season, the team did better than the previous years, but there was still one big issue that had to be addressed – attitude. The definition that best describes this term in this instance would be, a “truculent or uncooperative behavior; a resentful or antagonistic manner”. It not only came from the older members (juniors and seniors) of the team, but also from alumni who got wind of my presence at the school and wondered why I was taking the team through regulation drill. For them, what I really should have concentrated on was perfecting the exhibition routine that had been marched year after year after year with poor results. I encouraged the cadets to concentrate on the task at hand and to hopefully take and “run with the ball” of training this refresher course offered. It didn’t happen completely. (Insert the music, Tradition!, from Fiddler on the Roof.) With continued concentration on and respect for the principles that the cadets received throughout the season, the weekend would have had a much bigger impact.

It’s not just that your team revisits the fundamentals of your service’s drill and ceremonies manual, it’s that you help your team realize that it is extremely important to keep those fundamentals with you, to understand that fundamentals have a great impact on what you do in a performance. For instance, we would never take a new cadet and put him/her on an exhibition drill team during the first week of school and expect a solid performance. Nor would we take a new member of the fire department ceremonial team and expect perfection without a solid grounding in the fundamentals of ceremonial drill.

High school cadets would do well to revisit their service drill and ceremonies manual yearly, is not each semester. The same goes for first responder and military honor guard units, a yearly (at least) review  of the manual, would be a great refresher to keep those fundamental facts fresh.

The DrillMaster Drill Team Improvement Seminar

DrillMaster Drill Team Improvement SeminarJROTC units across the country send drill teams and colors guards to drill competitions for many of the school year’s Saturdays. Whether your team is competitive in World Class events or can only afford a couple of hours of practice each week, everyone can benefit from this course.

Download the flyer from my Downloads page under the DrillMaster University heading.

What you receive when you attend a seminar:

  • Books! One copy of each of the DrillMaster books, the canon of exhibition and regulation drill. Ceremonial drill books extra.
  • Foundational education to help improve your drill team: armed, unarmed, regulation and exhibition
  • An introduction to movement
  • A presentation of exhibition and regulation drill videos with a breakdown of performances according to the World Drill Association adjudication standards
  • Techniques on applying the fundamentals learned
  • PLUS! DrillMaster Diagnosis sessions throughout- bring recordings of your team

Where and when can I attend?

  • Seminars are conducted throughout the year.

What about hosting a clinic locally?

  • A classroom with a projector for a computer
  • Ten to twenty instructors
  • Clinic host discounts apply which means a clinic is also a fundraiser!

 

 

 

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

 

The Summer of Drill!

drill team training, honor guard training
The Summer of George!

If George Costanza (from the TV series Seinfeld) can have “The Summer of George!” Then those of us in the military drill world can have The Summer of Drill! Every summer! But our summers will be filled with training and performances!

Each summer, I am heavily engaged with the Cadet Joint Service Honor Guard Academy in Flemingsburg, Kentucky at the National Cadet Training Center at Camp Sousley, training cadets at drill camps, and working with first responders teaching Honor Guard Ceremonial Unit Academies across the country. I even travel internationally, at times, writing and teaching exhibition drill.

Competitions: Solo exhibition drill competitions are just about everywhere. Seek and you will find. If you would like to advertise your competition on this website contact me!

If you contact me, please be patient as I will be working long, thoroughly enjoyable days. I will get back to you as soon as I can!

Article Links

My best advice? Read, read, read, read, read. Knowledge is key!

Drill Teams

Honor Guard/Ceremonial Teams

Color Guards

POW/MIA Flag and Ceremony

American Flag

DrillMasterTraining  and DrillMaster YouTube Channels

drill team training, drill team motivation, drill instructor, drill camp, drill academy, honor guard training, honor guard academy