Question: Since you work with drill teams & know proper flag etiquette, you’re my go-to person on this one. We were told at a national veteran convention by someone from another state that we shouldn’t have an eagle on our state flag staff, only on the US Flag staff. I haven’t found anything about it. Is this accurate? Thanks! B
Answer: Hi B, Thanks so much for the question. Actually, the eagle is only for the president. Army spades are the only authorized finials for all services except the Navy and Coast Guard which both use the battleaxe- except when they are in joint-service situations.
Since veteran organizations are an extension of the military services, they should be following the guidance provided. However, the guidance is kinda difficult to find and can be confusing so I did some research and put everything on my website. The following links are my articles on flags (colors), flagstaffs and ornaments (finials), I hope they are helpful. If they are, please send this information to those you know might benefit from it.
What is the reason for competing? In the military drill world, a competition has been a means of showing other teams how much hard work has been put into the routine, and I’m not just talking about exhibition drill. Honor guard units compete against each other in funeral ceremonies and the tasks associated with them. Color teams post the colors in competitions. But why? To hone the team’s skills, to bring about esprit de corps, build camaraderie, etc. Of course many people believe the twisted world view of competition: gotta get the trophy, that’s all that matters, I (we) must beat everyone else. The fact of the matter is, competition was meant to be friendly and to gather to have a good time and congratulate everyone on a job well done.
Back to my original point: veteran, police and firefighter honor guard competitions are great opportunities to build relationships and learn from others. The main idea I want to get across is that they are also a time of standardization so that teams can work together and also a time to compete in relevant phases of competition.
How many times do you present the colors at the end of marching in a long “U” shape? My guess would be, never. Then why practice and compete doing it? Here is another question for you: Since police, fire and veteran honor guard units are offshoots of the military (most often the Army or Marine Corps), then why do things differently? Hopefully the answer to that is not “Well, that’s the way we’ve always done it.”
The following are paraphrases from a PDF file that an organization uses for its honor guard competition OI/SOP (Operating Instruction/Standard Operating Procedure). I have taken quotes from the Instruction and then explained my take on the quote. In no way have I done this to point fingers and scream “YOU’RE WRONG!” On the contrary, my attempt is to work on education, standardization and camaraderie.
When posting and retrieving, color bearers will place their foot on the flag stand…
Why on earth would you do that? That has NEVER been a stated standard, but some idea that has been passed along.
All colors are removed from the harness cup after the National Color.
I understand the need to create the utmost respect for the American Flag, but this then creates a synch issue with the other color bearers. Color movements should be simultaneous.
On the command of Post, COLORS, color bearers thrust the flagstaff into the stand.
Then we can safely assume that the slamming of the flagstaff into the stand creates some sort of relatively loud noise. This, like the parochial “Half Step Stomp” is not fitting when posting the colors. If your team must half step, click here and learn how to do it properly. By the way, “Post, COLORS,” is a command that was created, it is not in a manual.
After the colors are in the stands, all color team members face the National Color and render a salute.
Color team makeup is 4 people: 2 flags and 2 rifles or 6 people: 3 flags and 3 weapons.
There is an old concept of a “color team commander.” It is derived from the US Army’s rendition of posting the colors complete with the Sergeant Major who is centered on the formation helping with casing/uncasing the colors. To my knowledge has any service ever used an individual outside the formation to give commands and yet this practice is rampant. The Color Team Commander (NCT: NCOIC of the Color Team), who bears the National Color, is the one in charge and giving commands. No one else. Honor guard units also only use 2 rifles, ceremonial pike poles or ceremonial fire axes, never swords, rifles with bayonets or sidearms.
We are all honor guard units doing our best to render the proper honors. Let’s work together to standardize (if you want, get a copy of The Honor Guard Manual) since units are having to work side-by-side at ceremonies more and more.
The DrillMaster Education and Training System: Honor Guard Training- The Honor Guard Manual
The Honor Guard Manual is the only complete published manual for police, firefighter, EMS, cadet, veteran and fraternal honor guard units. Based on the joint service standard with much of the standard being from the Air Force Honor Guard, this manual is the culmination of my training with the USAF Honor Guard, 17+ years of honor guard duty with Base Honor Guard units around the world and 2 years of extensive research and writing.
Detailed text and dozens of pictures fully explain all movements for any honor guard unit. There are lesson plans at the back of the book and also complete training documents that, when you purchase the book, you are then authorized to own and use the electronic version of the documents by contacting me. I then send the documents to you in PDF.
Honor Guard Training
Do you want the training that goes along with The Honor Guard Manual? The DrillMaster offers a 16-hour Honor Guard Clinic, 40-hour Honor Guard Academy and 80-hour Honor Guard Academy. Click here for more info.
The Honor Guard Manual Table of Contents PREFACE FOR THE HONOR GUARDSMAN.. 5
TABLE OF CONTENTS. 9
CHAPTER 1: THE CEREMONIAL UNIFORM.. 14
Ceremonial Cover 14
How to Form a Beret 14
Ceremonial Blouse (Jacket/Coat) 15
How to “Blouse” a Blouse. 18
Ceremonial Belt 18
Ceremonial Trousers/Slacks. 19
USAF Base Honor Guard Travel Uniform.. 21
Rain Cap Cover 21
White Gloves. 22
Ceremonial Rain Coat/Overcoat 22
The Necktie. 22
CHAPTER 2: STANDING MANUAL. 26
Properties of a Command Voice. 27
Standing Manual 29
The Rest Positions. 32
Facing Movements (Executed Only From Attention) 39
Inspecting the Honor Guard. 46
Formation Alignment 54
Arm Swing. 58
CHAPTER 3: COLORS. 62
General Information. 62
Joint Service Order 64
Flag Precedence Matrix. 67
The Code for the Christian Flag. 68
Everything You Need to Know About a Flagstaff 69
All About Colors (Flags) 71
Color Team Sizing. 73
Manual of the Flagstaff 74
Manual of Arms (Colors Rifle Guard Movements) 89
The M1 Garand. 89
The M14. 90
The M1903. 91
Manual of the Firefighter’s Ceremonial Pike Pole. 126
Manual of the Firefighter’s Ceremonial Fire Axe. 148
Colors at the Full Honors Funeral 179
Color Team Movement 180
Posting and Presenting the Colors: 189
Personal Colors. 201
Furling/Casing and Uncasing/Unfurling. 201
Unfurling Sequence for a Color Team.. 204
Furling Sequence for a Color Team.. 205
The Manual of the Guidon. 207
CHAPTER 4: FIRING PARTY. 214
General Information. 214
Firing Party Movements. 215
CHAPTER 5: PALLBEARERS. 234
Full Honors Funeral 234
Flag Folding Sequence. 245
Inspection of the Flag. 260
The Full Dressing Sequence. 261
The Half Dressing Sequence. 264
Using a Caisson. 266
Modified Funeral 268
Two-Man Flag Fold. 269
Inspection of the Flag. 279
A Funeral with Cremated Remains. 279
Casket Watch. 281
Initial Setup Procedures. 281
Changing of the Guard Procedures. 283
Final Watch Procedures. 285
CHAPTER 6: BUGLER INFORMATION.. 288
The Manual of the Bugle. 289
CHAPTER 7: FUNERAL SEQUENCES. 294
Full Honors Funeral 294
Standard Honors Funeral 294
Military Veteran Funeral 295
Suggested Chapel Setup. 296
Military Working Dog Memorial Ceremony. 296
CHAPTER 8: RETREAT/REVEILLE CEREMONY. 298
Fixed Flag Poles. 298
Example for a Retreat Ceremony: 299
CHAPTER 9: CORDON PROCEDURES. 306
CHAPTER 10: SABER (SWORD) MANUAL AND CORDON.. 310
MANUAL OF THE SABER (SWORD) 314
MARCHING MANUAL OF THE SWORD. 320
CHAPTER 11: OTHER CEREMONIES. 326
POW/MIA Hat Table Ceremony. 326
Fallen Warrior Ceremony. 329
Firefighter’s Bell (Last Alarm) Ceremony. 331
Fire Fighter’s Prayer 331
Flag Burning Ceremony. 332
Brittany, France American Military Cemetery Setup. 334
CHAPTER 12: MANUAL OF THE DRUM MAJOR MACE. 336
Mace Nomenclature. 336
CHAPTER 13: MANUAL OF THE DRUM MAJOR MILITARY SIGNAL BATON.. 338
A flag is flown from a stationary or mounted pole. Flags are never fringed.
Used in military and military-type organizations. A color is a flag carried by a color team (color guard). Colors are the flags that are fringed. Flags in a flag stand are not mounted and are therefore, called colors.
Army, USN, USAF, USCG, USMM: Fringe on all colors carried by a color team.
USMC: Fringe on all flags carried by a color team except the American flag/color.
Joint Service: When the USMC is the senior service, no fringe on the American color. All other times, fringe on all colors.
Why No Fringeon the American Flag/Color
Title 4, paragraph 1 of the United States Code states:
The flag of the United States shall be thirteen horizontal stripes, alternate red and white; and the union of the flag shall be forty-eight stars, white in a blue field.
It does not mention fringe. Paragraph 3 talks about attaching anything to the flag and how that could be considered mutilation.
So, the Marine Corps is following public law as spelled out in the US Code.
So then, Why Do the Other Services Use Fringe?
While there are many conspiracies throughout the US Government that are not theories at all, the fringe and tassel do not have any merit.
The Executive Order, No.10834, signed by President Dwight D. Eisenhower on August 21, 1959 and printed in the Federal Register at 24 F.R. 6865, DOES NOT STATE: “A military flag is a flag that resembles the regular flag of the United States, except that it has a yellow fringe border on three sides.”THIS STATEMENT IS FALSE, it does not exist in the EO or anywhere else.
Reminder: Color team = military; color guard = marching band
First off, the nomenclature of a flagstaff.
Yes, the bottom metal piece is called a ferrule and not a pike. A ferrule keeps wood from splitting. The staff pictured here, courtesy of www.aboutflags.com (with my text added), is the only staff that military honor guard units use. Army units have used the gold-colored metal pieces.
Flagstaffs for a color team need to be the exact same height and there is a standardized height system for the staffs plus some other rules that you’ve probably never heard of. Let’s get started (this is from my book, The Honor Guard Manual):
USAF Technical Order 00-25-154, Maintenance and Storage of United States Flags, Air Force Flags, Guidons and Streamers, (available on the Downloads page) states:
Ceremonial flags* are 4 feet 4 inches by 5 feet 6 inches and the flagstaff for a ceremonial flag [color] is 9 feet 6 inches including the ferrule. (The Army’s TC 3-21.5 also describes this.)
Organizational flags* [colors] are 3 feet by 4 feet and the flagstaff for an organizational flag is 8 feet including the ferrule.
*Ceremonial colors are used all of the time on color teams. Organizational flags are for permanent/temporary posting or indoor work.
Do not march 9′ 6″ poles with 3′ x 5′ colors as it looks unprofessional (however, Army and AF JROTC units may want to do this since marching shoulder-to-shoulder is not authorized) or 8′ poles with 4′ 4″ x 5′ 6″ flags because the colors are too long.
Flagstaffs should match the size of the flags :
For outdoors and high-ceilings indoors a color team uses flagstaffs that are nine-feet, six-inches with 4’ 4″ x 5’ 6” fringed colors.
Indoor and posted colors use eight-foot flagstaffs and 3’ x 5’ fringed colors*.
Flagstaff height includes the ornament.
Guidon flags are flown from a guidon flagstaff that is eight feet high.
Each service uses the two-piece light ash wood flagstaff. No metal poles or dark brown wood.
Metal staffs are authorized for Army JROTC all-female color teams only.
*On occasion a color team needs to use the smaller staffs and flags due to room height and crowd size. The standard for a color team should be the larger, ceremonial sizes, however.
The Flagstaff Ornament
A note on the device on top of the flagstaffs: A nickel-plated (for USAF) or brass-plated (for Army) Army spear is preferred for a color team however. For the American flag (National Ensign), the military services do not use anything other than the Army spear/spade. Several military regulations state that the eagle is reserved for the president’s flag; an eagle is never used on a marching flagstaff unless it is for the president. AR 840-10 says the Army will use a “spearhead”; AFI 34-1201 says the USAF will use a “spade”; the Navy’s NTP 13B says the Navy will use a “ball” or “battle-axe”. The Coast Guard follows Navy guidance. When performing jointly, all services use the nickel-plated/chrome Army Spear (spade) because that’s what the Army uses and since the Army is the senior service, the other services follow the Army’s lead. Spades should be used on all other flagstaffs. Click here to download the listed regulations.
There is only one way to properly mount a flag on a color team flagstaff. Because I say so? No, because I’ve learned through many years how a flag acts and how it is supposed to look whether carried or posted.
Glendale has been offering flags with the hook-and-pile fasteners now for a few years and thank goodness! The leather tabs wore out easily. Here is an excerpt from paradestore.com regarding one of their American flags (emphasis mine):
“They are finished with flannel-lined pole hems* and Velcro tabs and, if requested, golden yellow rayon fringe. These are very durable flags for parade use.”
*By the way, this flannel lining is going to give way eventually, you will have to sew the hook-and-pile fastener (Velcro) through the flag material to make it stay.
There are two parts to the hook-and-pile fastener, one is already partly sewn to the flag at the top and bottom of the flagstaff (pole) hem and one is sticking to it and had a glue-like backing to make it adhere to the staff. Here is how to attach that sticky-backed piece:
The arrow in the picture above points to the small hole in the hook-and-pile fastener tab where you can drill a hole and then insert a small, thin ***. The *** should stick out no more than a quarter inch. When you attach the flag, ensure the hook-and-pile fastener(s) that is sewn into the flag goes over the ***. If you are going to mount that flag at the top and bottom, which is good thinking, you need to perfectly align the tabs and ensure that the tabs and screws do not pull/stress the flag material. The flagstaff ornament in this picture is the spade or Army Spear. It is the standard authorized ornament for all military services with the Navy authorized to use the battle axe (Parede Store photo):
What about flags that still have a leather tab?
Thin strapping tape is a must for you! Eventually, you may want to purchase hook-and-pile fasteners and sew them into your flag(s) at the top and bottom of the flagstaff hem.
So, what does mounting a flag like described above do?
It allows you to carry and post the flag the way it was intended. You see, the leather or hook-and-pile fastener tabs are sewn into the flagstaff hem directly across from the sew line which means that when the ***(s) and tabs are mounted squarely so that the flag will hang as it is supposed to do with the point where the fringe meets centered on the flat spade. Like the American flag in this picture below (USAF photo):
Notice that all three flags in this picture above are not the same. That’s a no-no. The other two flags are the German and USAF.
When carried, the point where the fringe meets faces behind the color bearer this facilitates properly posting the flag and “diamonding” it so the fringe is off to the right.
how to attach a flag to a pole to carry in a color guard, attach a color to a pole, color guard, color team