Tag Archives: ceremonial

Just Don’t Do It…

The picture below was taken as an example.

While there are issues with the rifle guards’ salutes, the main problem here is the color bearers’ salute.

  1. The salute pictured here executed by the color bearers is only executed in the Marines, Navy and Coast Guard by armed (rifle or guidon) individuals when not in formation when approaching or being approached by an officer. Never in formation. The Army used to use this technique, but discontinued the practice decades ago (the 1960, I think).
  2. The American flag never salutes. Ever.
  3. The flags should be tucked between the right arm and the staff (not the staff and the torso).
  4. Everyone should be wearing ceremonial/web belts and the color bearers should wear colors harnesses- even if the harnesses are not used.

Let’s say the ceiling is too low, the colors cannot fit in the harnesses. Trail Arms is appropriate and going to Present is for the non-national color. That color dips slightly forward (this position is called Angle Port) while the American remains vertical.

If you are on an honor guard/ceremonial unit, follow the techniques outlined in The Honor Guard Manual which differ slightly from those stated above.

How to Halt from Right/Left Step

With me spending 27 years associated with Air Force drill and ceremonies, the Marine Corps style of D&C has always been unusual to me. Having said that, I’ve studied the MCO several times and have worked with a couple of Marines who have been a great help for me.

Not long ago, A Navy Master Chief NJROTC instructor had a very good questions for me.

Question: USMC Drill Manual Right/Left Step.
I have been a NJROTC instructor for many years. To this day we argue about the proper way in which to command HALT during right/left step march. Some say the entire word “platoon” is given as the heels come together…which is counter to every other command of “platoon” while on the march which is broken in two….Pla on one foot, toon on the other.

Others say Pla is given when the heels come together, and toon as the heels are separated. I say it’s Pla heels together, toon heels together, halt as the heels come together.

The problem is that the manual uses the word Squad as a reference where of course it would not be broken in two. Can you help? A reference would be great to settle the debate.

Answer: Master Chief, I most definitely help! My reference is the MCO. While it doesn’t specifically explain this situation, it does infer what you were talking about where the word platoon is always separated which gives us a clue to separate it in this instance. That eliminates the possibility of saying the whole word on one count, the Army and AF technique.

In your question, you state that another suggested technique is to separate the command beginning with “Pla” when the heels are together, “toon” when the heels separate, and then “Halt” the next time when the heels come together. This technique does not allow for the pause that is present in every other halt command.

The proper technique, as presented to me by my friend, GySgt Aaron Calderone, the Drill Master at Marine Barracks Washington and former DI, is to not only separate the command, but also to give the one-count pause before calling halt and allowing for the customary two-counts after the halt command to execute the halt.

NOTE: This technique is only for the Marines, Navy, and Coast Guard. The Army and Air Force give Platoon/Flight when the heels are closed and Halt the next time the heels are closed.

What a mouth full. Here is a diagram to better explain the actions.

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.

Protocol for the Thin Blue and Red Line Flags

FYI, this flag violates the Flag Code. 

Question: I am a funeral director and have recently made funeral arrangements for a retired police officer. He is not a military veteran, so the family would like to drape his casket with the thin blue line flag (the black and white flag with the blue line representing police officers). I know with the American flag being draped on the casket, nothing can be placed on top of the flag (ex: flowers, medals, pictures, etc.) Would this etiquette still be followed for a police officer thin blue line flag? I just want to make sure I am following the correct protocol and do not want to upset anyone regardless if they were military, police, firemen, etc. Any advice would help!

My Answer: What a great question! And, I love the idea of draping the Thin Blue Line flag on the casket. Very appropriate. Let’s create protocol right now since there really isn’t anything written, to my knowledge, to govern the use of the Thin Line flags.

We know that nothing goes on top of the following flags that can be draped on a casket: American, tribal nation, state, city. The Thin Line Flags could be treated the same since the flags represent the first responder family. Out of respect for what the flag represents, just like the others previously mentioned, I would say no to placing anything on any flag. I’m quite sure you are aware of a small table placed near the casket that serves to hold a picture and military paraphernalia. For this officer, you could do the same.

This is a good mourning flag. 

The one thing that sticks in my mind is that the flag comes in 3′ x 5′, but an interment flag is 5′ x 9′. Are you going to use something else to make up the couple of feet at each end of the casket or just center the flag? I don’t know how that would look.

Thank you for wanting to provide the very best for a fallen Thin Blue Line hero.

EDIT: There is a slippery slope here. Where does this end? As a friend of mine put it, do we have an apple flag for a fallen teacher (thanks, Glen!)? The American flag is for all members and veterans of the military. It is appropriate for first responders. What might even be more appropriate for first responders is the state, county, or city flag. 

As I write and say all of the time, Education is 🔑. Just like sounding Taps, there are standards to which we must adhere.   

First Night Jitters

One’s first performance can be a little stressful. Here are some words of wisdom to remember for just that situation.

I’ve been associated with many performance ensembles over the years and one of the best pieces of advice has been: for that first performance in front of an audience, when you first go out, you will feel adrenaline coursing through your body, you’re going to want to give your performance that much more effort, but don’t. More effort will result in variation, something we do not want. Rely on your training. For each practice, you’ve put forth a great effort, performing just like it’s the real thing. Friday night is no different, it’s another performance just like all of the practices and dress rehearsals we’ve accomplished.

People need to know how to handle the adrenaline and the good stress of the moment. What a great learning experience!

This is dedicated to the Marines of Marine Corps Barracks Washington who are going to perform their Sunset Parade for the first time this Friday.

Semper Fi

Last-Minute Performance Advice

Drill Team TechniqueI am consistently asked about last-minute advice whether it be for a competition the next day the next week or even the next month. Most of the time the request for advice comes a bit too late to fix any major issues.

What what a team can work on at the last minute is uniforms and haircuts, etc, but teams and individuals are really looking for ways to make improvements in in their performance right before they go to a competition. But that’s really not possible. Muscle memory is the culprit.

Muscle memory is part of what creates a great performance and, when there is poor or incorrect muscle memory, it is the problem with last-minute changes. You are most likely not going to change a certain “fault” the night before a competition, although it is possible. Repetition with the new technique to change the muscle memory is the key.

Nothing replaces proper training and consistent long-tern practice to prepare for a performance.

However…

Where to Concentrate


The Mistake
. Make sure that everyone on the team looks like they know what they are doing 100% of the time. Every answer to a question and every movement while marching the regulation, color guard, and exhibition routines must have a look of complete knowledge and authority. If not, the judges will see the kink in the armor and start looking deeper. Did a team member make a mistake? Odds are that if he or she did not “broadcast” the mistake, no one noticed it.

Warm up. Going into a performance, especially an armed solo,

Focus. Leave out everything else. Concentrate on what you are doing right here, right now.

Envision your Performance. Close your eyes and see yourself going through the performance. Click here to read The Seven Parts of an Exhibition Drill Routine. Go through each segment and picture how you are performing.

Release Tension. Put your energy into positive Focus.

Have a plan. Ultimately, being prepared is best, but there are some things that one can do.

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.