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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.

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 Three Types of Respect

And you probably thought there was only one type. I did initially.

Thank you very much to my Facebook friends who chimed in giving me their requested feedback for this article. Very interesting!

I need to make one point very clear, it does not matter what one “thinks” about this subject.

“I think respect is…”

Respect- wrongWhat you think, what I think, does not matter since our thinking is based mostly from experience and training. Please approach this article with a willingness to learn, I did as I researched it and learned more than I thought I would.

From Dictionary.com, these are definitions 3, 4, and 5 of Respect for our purposes:

3. esteem for or a sense of the worth or excellence of a person, a personal quality or ability, or something considered as a manifestation of a personal quality or ability:

ex. I have great respect for her judgment.

4. deference to a right, privilege, privileged position, or someone or something considered to have certain rights or privileges; proper acceptance or courtesy; acknowledgment:

ex. respect for a suspect’s right to counsel; to show respect for the flag; respect for the elderly.

5. the condition of being esteemed or honored:

ex. to be held in respect.

I utterly despise the phrase sometimes shoved in our faces:

“Respect is (always) earned, never given.”

My response:

“WRONG!”

But why?

Respect- wrongSwimming around in my mind for some time now is the theory that some may confuse trust and respect. My thinking was along the lines of: respect is given and trust is earned. I thought it may be a possibility just as some misconstrue sex and love. I was also trying to identify the likelihood of there being three different types of respect, but I just could not nail it down nor did I have the time to begin the research. More on this in a moment, back to the phrase I dislike so much.

Respect is (always) earned. I can understand earned respect; it is the use of the absolute, always, that I do not agree with. Sometimes “always” is not used. Still, something about the idea of “earnable/losable” bugs me; basic respect must still be there, regardless of earned/lost.

Never given. This part of the statement is another absolute. It is the portion of the phrase that gives me difficulty because its application is so broad and, like an infection, can spread and destroy. The destruction is of relationships, organizations, and, ultimately, a country.

Why is respect never given? What good reason could there be for it? That reason does not exist, in a sense, as we shall see.

What we now know so far:

If

“Respect is (always) earned”

Then

Some sort of action must take place, which means it is impossible for perfect strangers, upon meeting, to “earn” each other’s respect.

Respect

The Three Types of Respect
Dr. Steven Ater to the rescue. He wrote about The Three Types of Respect here. I’ve provided my take on the first two types.

  1. The Respect of Personhood
    • Definition: each person, who was made in the image of God, has innate worth
    • Example: Matthew 7:12 is the quote from scripture that is most often described as the Golden Rule, do unto others as you would have them do unto you. There is also Romans 12:10, Philippians 2:3, Titus 2:7, and 1 Peter 2:17, just to name a few verses out of many that speak of respect for people, regardless of how you feel about them.
  2. The Respect of Authority
  3. The Respect of Honor
    • Definition and Example: “When we grant someone the Respect of Honor we are recognizing their excellence in some quality or qualities and tend to defer to them within these areas of excellence (but not generally outside those areas of excellence). Respect of Honor involves a great deal of trust and much hurt can be done if they abuse that trust.” –Dr. Ater

Offered or Earned?
Now that we have a definition that gives us the three types of respect, let’s delve in further to see what can be earned and lost.

  1. The Respect of Personhood
    • Should be given, no matter what you feel or think
    • This type is “earned” by being born and it cannot be lost. Having said that, it is a type that can only be given. This is where selfishness plays a big part. Due to selfishness, this type of respect, for some, is rarely given.
    • This includes parents which extends to everyone who is one’s elder. Of the Ten Commandments, number five is the only one to include a result of following that rule: “Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the Lord your God is giving you.”
  2. The Respect of Authority
    • Should be given, no matter what you feel or think
    • This type is “earned” by appointment to a position and, just like the Respect of Personhood, selfishness again rears its ugly head. Again, due to selfishness, this type of respect, for some, is rarely given.
  3. The Respect of Honor
    • This is the only type of respect that is earned and lost.

This brings up a very good question:

Is disrespect tantamount to not showing respect?

Another definition from Dictionary.com, this time for the word, Disrespect.

Noun
Lack of respect; discourtesy; rudeness.

Verb (used with object)
to regard or treat without respect; regard or treat with contempt or rudeness.TResearching “disrespect and not showing respect”, Macmilliandictionary.com gave me a very interesting way to define this phrase. The following words came up to help give a more rich understanding of what disrespect and not showing respect might be:

  • Scorn, noun, a feeling that someone or something is not good enough to deserve your approval or respect
  • Disdain, noun, the feeling that someone or something is not important and does not deserve any respect
  • Contempt, noun, a failure to show appropriate respect for something that other people consider to be important
  • Disregard, noun, the attitude of someone who does not respect something or consider it important
  • Contemptuous, adjective, showing that you do not respect someone or something at all
  • Derogatory, adjective, showing that you have a bad opinion of something or someone, usually in an insulting way
  • Derisive, adjective, showing that you think someone or something is stupid, unimportant, or useless
  • familiarity breeds contempt, used for saying that you can stop respecting someone or something when you know them very well

Synonyms of Disrespect (thesaurus.com. Highlighted word, mine)

Noun: disregard, rudeness toward someone

contempt

boldness

coarseness

discourtesy

dishonor

flippancy

hardihood

impertinence

impiety

impoliteness

impudence

incivility

Insolence

irreverence

sacrilege

insolency

insolentness

lack of respect

unmannerliness

Antonyms of Disrespect (thesaurus.com)

courtesy

humility

manners

politeness

respect

reverence

civility

esteem

honor

regard

It is clear to me that “not showing respect”, as benign as one may think it to be, is actually being disrespectful. Anything but respect is, in essence, disrespect. I am convinced and convicted.

The great thing about a new day and even a new year is that we get a chance to begin again. We can even ask others for forgiveness. Whether that person forgives us or not, we still need to show them respect based on the Respect of Personhood (and Authority, if applicable), even if the respect we offer is not returned.

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.

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.