Tag Archives: ask the drillmaster

How do you Honor the POW/MIA flag when Posting the Colors?


Honor guard training and motivation picture- semper ad honorem
Honor guard training and motivation picture- semper ad honorem

Honor Guard Training: How do you Honor the POW/MIA flag when Posting the Colors?

Great question! Here is the answer:

The POW/MIA color is not specifically honored when the colors are posted/presented.

For a ceremony, after the colors are presented or posted, that is when the POW/MIA color can be brought in and posted. How the flag is brought in is up to you. In the picture at the right, I was on the Kadena Air Base Honor Guard in the mid 2000s and had the honor of bearing the POW/MIA color on this particular ocassion. I brought it in at Port arms, stood in the center of the stage where the colors had previously been presented, and then posted the color just to the viewer’s left of the POW/MIA Hat Table. We then continued with the Hat Table Ceremony.

You could have to honor guard members enter with the POW/MIA color cased, uncase it and present it to the audience and then post it.

The Quick DrillMaster Interview with Joseph Suvero

Joseph SuveroIn March 2013, Joseph Suvero, pictured at right, a Facebook friend of mine, and I were talking about the upcoming competitions for Army JROTC in Florida, specifically the district (which I judged) and state competitions.

Joseph (“JS” below) turned the tables and me asked some great questions that I wanted to share with you here.

JS: Are you going to be judging [FL] states?

DM: No, JROTC instructors will be the judges. I don’t know why Brigade doesn’t want a trained visual judge. Granted, some of the judges across America have experience, but not the specific training to be a judge. The judges go through maybe a quick briefing of how to use the sheet that they were just handed or a short time of watching videos and having the score sheets explained to them, but that’s not training to be a judge, that’s training on how to use the local judging “system.” My business is to educate and train Drillers, instructors and judges.

JS: Some JROTC instructors say they don’t concentrate on drill teams, even though they were Drill or Training Instructors.

DM: JROTC’s goal is not to produce drill teams but good American citizens. Drill teams are second or even third- hopefully not lower than that. However, drill team is a good gang, a great way to give high school students something to do with goals, etc. It builds leadership like the other aspects of JROTC. Drill team and colors are both really good things for the cadets, unit, school and local community.

Many drill instructors believe that they are the go-to people for everything drill. Not so all the time. That was never their main job. Drill was only part of it. Now many, if not all, DIs/TIs have great knowledge of how to teach regulation drill and that’s what they are supposed to do.

When it comes to judging, especially exhibition drill, those are 2 VERY different stories (teaching and judging). Just because you can do something, doesn’t mean you can teach it and just because you can teach something doesn’t mean you can judge it. Some may think I’m attacking them by saying that and that is not the case at all. I am stating the designed limitations of the system.

The military system does not train anyone on how to judge a visual presentation because that’s not anyone’s job in the military. That’s where I step in with the training that I offer which is a modification to military standards of the years of training and experience that I received judging marching bands, drum and bugle corps, winter guards and military honor guards and drill teams.

JS: Very true. How long did it take you to get the DrillMaster title?

I was given it by my colleagues on the Davis-Monthan Base Honor Guard back in the early 90s. I only really started to pursue this as a career around 2006. I’ve been studying and writing books since then and used the title as a screen name and then, in 2009, started developing the logo. In 2011 I started the website. The reason the Driller image is in the World Drill Association and the DrillMaster logos is because I wanted to communicate that they are both linked. It’s all very new- relatively speaking. Along with all of the resources on my website at everyone’s disposal, I offer Certified Drillmaster and Certified WDA Adjudicator courses.

JS: How can I get certified?

DM: Click here to read more about it.

JS: If you had to judge only one event what would it be?

DM: That’s a TOUGH question! I used to think XD (Exhibition Drill) was the bestest phase at a drill meet. But as I consider the question, there are so many problems that I have seen at every drill meet that I’ve judged here in Florida, that I’d like to work with RD and colors as well. Especially colors, there are huge problems there.

JS: What is the most common problem you have seen? I could tell you for days the problems I saw at my county drill meet!

DM: Wow, you sure pick the tough questions!

DM: Step size, step height. Tempo- teams almost ALWAYS speed up on Mark Time and half Step. Stomping feet on both of those as well. Bad equipment manipulation (colors). Slamming equipment (rifles and flagstaffs) in every regulation event is another huge problem. Posture tends to be an issue. Commanders who think they need to have gravel in their voice when calling commands or they leave the first letter off of each word OR they are completely monotone when calling. Drives me nuts!

I guess it all boils down to one basic problem: cadets are not reading the manual. They are making things up as they go. I like to explain it this way: this year’s seniors were taught by last year’s seniors who were taught be the previous year’s seniors and on and on. And no one along the line picked up a manual to check the facts. This is a generality, but it fits a great majority of JROTC programs, unfortunately.

Thanks for asking the questions and allowing me to post this, Joseph!

Told you it was quick!

Ask the DrillMaster: Flagstaff Ornaments

Q: Why do some military color guard flags have different things at the top of the pole?

A: This is a great question! And here is the answer:

Battle Axe OrnamentMilitary
Each service has specific requirements, whether service members know it or not. All services are required to use the 2-part light ash (wood) guidon flagstaff in three heights: 8′ for a guidon, and 7’ 9” or 8’ 5” for indoor colors or ‘small’ occasions and 9′ 6″ (the standard) all other times. Read, All about the Flagstaff for more info.

The ornament is also a requirement: all services must use the spear, more commonly called the Army Spade except for the Navy and the Coast Guard. NTP 13 (see Downloads) states that all color teams (guards) must use the (gold) battalion lance or the more common name, battle-ax. There are other situations where the ornament is changed due to the rank of the officer/official who is on board a Navy vessel. The Army Spade comes in silver (Army, MC and AF and, when in joint service situations, Navy and CG).

“Civilian” or Civil Service
I put that in quotes, because firefighters, law enforcement officers and emergency medical service personnel are not in the military, but they are no necessarily 100% civilian either. The only standard that “civilian” color guards should follow is the US Army’s guidance.

A color team does not carry a “spread eagle” ornament. This ornament is for mounted, permanently posted flags and use with the President only.

Guidance for Multiple Flags on a Single Pole

While my wife and I were traveling, we came to a rest area that had three flags flying from a single pole (see the picture). The flags were lowered to half-staff (“Mast” is associated with the Navy, Coast Guard, etc.) which was just fine, but there is something that is “wrong” here. Can you see what it is? The POW/MIA flag should be last, at the bottom. The POW/MIA flag is last when flown with other flags.

The quotes around “wrong” in this instance above mean that it is a technicality and nothing that someone should get bent out of shape over.

Is there specific guidance on how much of a gap should be between each flag when multiple flags are flown on the same pole?

I cannot find guidance in the Flag Code, but there is guidance for the Air Force. The AF protocol instruction states that the flag below the American, flown on the same halyard, must have enough of a gap that when the two flags are at rest, the American does not touch the flag beneath it. This is quite possible for other military branches, check your protocol regulations. As for civilian and municipal flagstaffs, a gap is not necessary as far as I know.

What is another rifle with which you could practice?

DA1903 w-bayonetGreat question! Here is the info:

Standard for the military drill world (MDW) in America are the  M1 Garand, M14, M1903A3 and, to a lesser extent the M1917 (Enfield). There are also some color teams/honor guards that use the Russian-made Krag rifle.

Real, demilitarized rifles are listed here: Pssst, Hey Buddy Wanna Buy an M1903?

Replica rifles are here: Armed Drill Alternatives and The Newest Kid on the Block.

And here is another other alternative: The DrillAmerica Parade Rifle is Here! This is an outstanding light weight rifle (M1903A3) that is the newest addition to the MDW.

When to use The Ceremonial Pike Pole and Fire Axe

Firefighter honor guards have the unique ability to use two implements of their trade for ceremonial use: the pike pole and fire axe.

The Pike Pole
First used to unhorse and attacker in the middle ages, it is now used to pull ceilings down and sort of other things to search for hazards. There are two ceremonial versions, one about 4-feet tall and one about 43″ long. Click here for nomenclature and information.

The Fire Axe
A standard axe with a pick on the opposite side of the blade. Click here for nomenclature and information.

Is Variety the Spice of Ceremony Makeup?
This is a matter of opinion. My opinion, based on my experience, is that any ceremonial element (colors, cordon, casket watch) should stick to one piece of equipment and here is the rationale: military color teams do not mix rifle types (M1 Garand, M14, M1903), they do not mix a rifle with a sword or a rifle with a sidearm. Mixing a pike pole and a fire axe is the same- it just looks odd. My advice is to carry similar equipment in the same element.

Stand at Ease with Pike Pole

Port Arms with Pike Pole

Right Shoulder with Fire Axe

 For info on which shoulder to use on a color team, click here.

What do you want to be when you grow up?

I’ve been asked many times about what a high school student can do once he/she has graduated. Well, here are some options for you Drillers who really love what you do.

  1. Go to college (ROTC) and continue to drill with the school’s team
  2. Join the military and join your service’s honor guard
  3. Join a civilian drill team (i.e. New Guard America)
  4. Become an Indie (Independent) Driller (like Adam Obregon- middle school teacher, Matt Wendling- high school teacher, Adam Jeup- drill expert for Glendale Industries, Andrea Bryant- web design expert and founder of For The Art, etc.)
  5. Study and become a Certified DrillMaster and become a drill team coach
  6. Study and become a Certified World Drill Association adjudicator and judge competitions

Or a mixture of one or more. You can always continue your passion of drill and have it become a hobby for the rest of your life.