Why Color Teams Should March Shoulder-to-Shoulder and Tuck their Colors
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This question has been on the minds of many people- I’ve been asked quite a few times and after some research I found the reason.
Please read this first: To Fringe or Not to Fringe, That is the Question.
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 Fringe on 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?
Ceremonial use. Or it may have something to do with martial law.
While there are many conspiracies throughout the US Government that are not theories at all, the fringe and tassel just might be theoretical (i.e. “US” instead of “USA”). There is some merit to many of these arguments for certain conspiracies. However, I’ll give you some information for you to begin your research.
President, Dwight David Eisenhower, by Executive Order No.10834, signed on August 21, 1959 and printed in the Federal Register at 24 F.R. 6865, pursuant to law, stated that: “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.” www.nogw.com/download/_07_gold_fringe_flag.pdf
Where Fringe Comes From
Fringe represents the military and, more specifically martial law.
The Cord and Tassel
The gold-colored cord and tassel represents admiralty law.
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, 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, states:
- Ceremonial flags* are 4 feet 4 inches by 5 feet 6 inches and the flagstaff for a ceremonial flag is 9 feet 6 inches including the ferrule. (The Army’s TC 3-21.5 also describes this.)
- Organizational flags* are 3 feet by 4 feet and the flagstaff for an organizational flag is 8 feet including the ferrule.
*Ceremonial flags are used all of the time on color teams. Organizational flags are for permanent/temporary posting.
Never march 9′ 6″ poles with 3′ x 5′ flags since it looks very unprofessional or 8′ poles with 4′ 4″ x 5′ 6″ flags because the flags are too long.
- Flagstaffs must match the size of the flags:
- For outdoors and high-ceilings indoors a color team uses flagstaffs that are 9’ 6” with 4’ 4″ x 5’ 6” fringed flags.
- Indoor and posted colors use 7’ 9” or 8’ 5” (either, do not mix heights) flagstaffs and 3’ x 5’ fringed flags*.
- Guidon flags are flown from a guidon flagstaff that is 7’ high.
- Each service uses the two-piece light ash wood flagstaff. No metal poles or dark brown wood.
*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. For the US flag the Army, Marines, USAF and Coast Guard 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. The eagle at the top of the National Color is for a stationary flag when not posted with other colors. 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”. When performing jointly, all services use the 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. The listed regulations can be downloaded here.
This issue has been on my mind for a little while. I have this outlined in my book, Exhibition Drill For The Military Drill Team, Vol II, and I really need to go over it here.
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 screw. The screw 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 screw. 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 screw(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.
Can a color team use rifles with bayonets or even use swords or sabers?
As the title suggests, flags and sharp objects do not go well together! Never ever, ever, ever put bayonets on rifles or march swords/sabers for a color team!
Somewhere in my office here in my house I have a picture of me on the Davis-Monthan Base Honor guard back in the early 90s. The picture is of the color team I am on presenting the colors for Arizona Senator John McCain when he visited the base. The Senator and Base commander are in the background and the color team is at the front of the photo with the wind blowing the colors back. Neat photo. Until you see that we were actually dumb enough to have bayonets on our 1903s! Now, it’s a little embarrassing, but we didn’t realize back then and had no guidance. When I find the picture, I’ll scan it and post it. Maybe.
Photo courtesy Military Times
This is another picture where I just have my palm smack my forehead in disbelief. This formation is not allowed for a military color team! This formation is allowed however, if the color forms and remains in a “V” formation with the American flag centered and in front. Yep, go to my Downloads page and start reading the military manuals.
Thanks to Levi Frost for this photo of an Army color team (ROTC cadets or maybe National Guard?) at a college football game in Iowa, possibly Drake University.
In a nutshell, it is disrespect to the American Flag. There is absolutely no way that a color team should ever execute any kind of movement other than what is described in their service manual(s). Rifle spins, fancy steps, even creating some sort of “beat” when performing sling/unsling arms (I saw it while I attended a competition in Germany) should never be accomplished. Period.
I even find the half-step-stomp and yelling out cadence for color teams unprofessional.
I am all for thinking “outside the box” when it comes to XD for soloists and drill teams and I even created the World Drill Association’s Open Color Team© and Open Regulation Drill© where teams create their own sequences to use the drill pad and time most effectively- this brings Composition Analysis into Regulation Drill. However, these Open phases for the WDA are only for rearranging regulation drill commands and moves. In no way should it be interpreted that this means there is a free-for-all on the regulation drill pad.
Some drill teams have a difficult time switching from RD to XD when it comes to style- mainly feet and arms in most cases. But there is zero room for any kind of XD move when it comes to colors. When on a color team, the team should act with the utmost professionalism at all times.
Image courtesy www.cityofperris.org/
September 8, 2012 in DrillCenter News
These cadets did a fine job at the Democrat National Convention presenting the colors. Who was the musician blowing some great soprano sax for the National Anthem?
FYI: In the audience you see some men saluting while in civilian clothes and inside the convention center- this is perfectly fine. Congress authorized veterans to render the hand salute when in civies. Being inside doesn’t make a difference in this instance either. Enjoy.
August 28, 2012 in Uncategorized
Answer: Your first question: What makes a color guard good? Many factors, obviously, but let’s get into detail since that is what you seem to want. A judge is the looking at the whole picture during the entire performance but to understand the whole picture he closely observes every minute detail of each member. When each member of the team pays strict attention to many details (more is always better) then that performance receives a higher score. Here’s an example: all colors (flags and poles) are in the same position, ferule (top spade) flat. guards have each arm at a 90-degree angle and the rifles are perpendicular to the body, forearms are perpendicular to the ground. Uniforms are outstandingly sharp. All movements are crisp and clear. Hands are in the same position on equipment. Angles are the same. Step height, length and *style* (this is huge and hard to master) are the same and the unit moves as one. Esprit de corps is also a factor. Many times I have judged a unit that is lackluster and has zero spirit. If a unit shows me through their actions that they WANT to be there, that they have the “go ahead, judge us if you can” confidence- NOT arrogance- that can easily be seen.
When a unit goes through a performance and makes it all look so effortless- THAT’S the winning unit because it all takes enormous effort.
A word here on mistakes: Yes, mistakes take away from the overall score, but I believe a couple points can be regained when a unit does not let it affect them. Letting a slight, or even a major, mistake affect what the rest of the performance will be like is yet another mistake. This is the other half of the mental part of the game. One must be disciplined and knowledgeable enough to carry on and not let anything affect the performance. (The first half of the mental game is training, knowing what to do, until the performance is all second nature)
When a team really looks good and everything comes together everyone can tell. It all “just works.” There are some intangibles that give you the feeling that this team is just the best.
A word here on judges: Many judges know what a color team (guard) or drill team is, but many do not know how to properly rate and rank those they score. This is where training comes in. How to observe and what to observe and then transfer that to comments and a score on paper is not something just anyone can do just because they do wear or have worn a uniform.