Tag Archives: LEO

When to Drape the Deceased

My firefighting friends in California had a great question for me. Here are my thoughts.

What a tragedy to lose a fellow firefighter, emergency medic, or law enforcement officer, let alone a member of the armed forces. However, it does happen and all too often. Since we know that death comes to us all and that it is just a matter of when, it is a good idea to be as prepared as possible. We will concentrate on the earthly traditions following a death, although each individual must give a thought to his everlasting soul before time runs out.

Tradition holds that warriors are draped with the colors under which they fought. That is why our US military service members and veterans have flag-draped caskets. Whether or not one believes, as Marine Corps Major General Smedley D. Butler once said, “War is a racket”, is not the issue, the issue is about rendering respect. Your politics, my politics have zero to do with the situation. This is also why we stand at the appropriate time.

1 Peter 2:17 Show proper respect to everyone.

Romans 13:7 Give to everyone what you owe them: if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor.

First responders are also “in the fight” in the form of serving the public safety interest on a daily basis. Again, good/bad are not the issue.

Members of the US military receive the American flag. First responders have a choice. If the deceased individual has not made a choice, the family is then asked. If they do not have a preference, the American flag is the default. The choices for first responders are their state and city flags.

NOTE: check your local guidance for any special flag fold procedures. Some states have them, most do not. For any state/municipality without guidance, the rectangle fold is standard, keeping the triangle fold reserved for the American flag. Yes, guidance can dictate the triangle fold.

When?
The question then becomes, when does the body of the deceased get draped with the flag?

AZ "Hotshots"
AZ “Hotshots”

Tragedy struck the Arizona firefighting community a few years ago and it reverberated with firefighters throughout the world. Nineteen firefighters fighting wildfires lost their lives in unimaginable circumstances. This picture is from an unknown source. Some, were horrified that the picture was posted on social media. Read more about that by clicking here. I’m using this photo as an educational example.

Once the dead first responder is discovered, the remains must be moved to a staging area for transportation preparations. At that point, it would be appropriate to cover the remains with a flag. It would also be appropriate to begin Casket Watch at this time.

The deceased do not care, it’s about the family, both relatives and beyond. Showing the utmost care and respect are the best things one can do in these terrible situations. Carrying one or two interment flags (5′ x 9 1/2′) in a vehicle or apparatus is part of preparing for the worst.

There are two types of material for flags, plastic-based and cotton. I highly suggest never giving anything other than a large-star cotton flag to the family. In the field, there is a possibility of the flag becoming soiled. Dry cleaning is perfectly acceptable. If a rayon-type flag is used it is slippery, does not fold well and is quite light. Cotton is heavier. It may be necessary to tuck the flag underneath the body bag or maybe to weight it down with a couple of stones while in the field to prevent it from leaving the remains. While it is not the best situation, I will leave that decision up to those who have to deal with losing a brother- or sister-in-arms: do you even place the flag at that moment and does it need weighting down or do you simply wait until the body is in the coroner’s vehicle.

Putting Things into Perspective

“We won!”

Those words are great to hear and sometimes even better to yell. I knew the feeling of “winning” at drill meets throughout my four years of high school AFJROTC; my team swept every meet and so did I as the team’s commander for my last two years. It was hard work, fun and I learned quite a bit. But what did we really “win”?

I went to Agua Fria Union High School in Avondale, AZ (’79-’83) and our most intense rival school was a MCJROTC unit from Tolleson High School. Our unarmed teams were always neck-and-neck. It was a good rivalry and kept us on our toes the whole school year. The other schools in the Phoenix and surrounding areas attended most of the same meets that we did. The only school to come close was our rival that I mentioned above, the other schools always came in behind us. Our instructors (CMSgt Broomhead- not making that up- and Lt Col Lorenz) always had some great music waiting for us on the bus ride home and we would sing/yell the words to We are the Champions by Queen and Celebration by Kool and the Gang.

Then we went to the Southern California Drill Meet and had an attitude adjustment. I think we took home a third place trophy in one of the phases of the competition. We left dejected, but guess what our Chief did? He had the same music waiting for us on the bus? “But, we were ‘losers'”, we thought. We were never “losers” in the sense that the world sees it. We practiced for two hours every day after school all through the school year and even had some Saturday practices thrown in. When we went to SCIDM, we entered a competitive area to which we had not been exposed and we learned great lessons from that experience and applied those lessons to our training so that we could be a better team than before.

The same goes for you and your team. I am very happy for teams and cadets that post pictures on Twitter and Instagram showing off their trophies. The same goes for the teams that post pictures after a competition without a single trophy, but smiles all round. You did it, you both “won”! Kudos to you!

Drill Team

Picture from Twitter

Now let me explain how to put things into perspective.

The world is all about “winners”. Ricky Bobby’s father said, “You’re either first or you’re last”, as he drove away in that silly movie Taladega Nights. But later on, he made the comment that he had been wrong in his thinking. Now, I’m not suggesting taking meaningful life lessons from every movie that you can watch, but sometimes there are very pertinent ideas that can come across. Sometimes.  But his second statement later on in the movie was absolutely right on the mark of truth: there is no such thing as, “first or last”. Competition is great and it is meant to, as I wrote earlier, keep you on your toes.

You are meant to keep training, keep studying and be the best that you can be. THAT is winning. Getting up early to exercise and get in some extra practice. THAT is winning. Paying attention when you are practicing regulation drill for the millionth time. THAT is winning. Not losing your cool when training new cadets who just can’t seem to figure out that you pivot on the left foot for a right flank. THAT is winning. Not getting angry, not throwing your rifle when you still can’t get that Hawaiian Punch. THAT is winning. Knowing that you did your very best in a performance and, “leaving it all on the drill deck”. THAT is winning.

You don’t need a trophy or ribbon to know that you are already a winner when you are going that extra mile and if that is all you are going for, then there is something missing in your approach to the what the World Drill Association calls, the Sport of Military Drill.

Don’t fall into the trap that society tells you: “You’re either first, or last.” It’s a lie. Everyday accomplishments make you a “winner”.

Now, go practice.

Drill Teams and Honor Guards: Considering Your Hands

Competitive drill is very much a different world than the drill and ceremonies that are taught in America’s military services, unless one is part of a specialized unit. Even in JROTC, the drill taught to each class during the school day, is not to as high a standard as the competitive drill teams and color teams (why, “Color Teams“?).

Minute details make or break champion-level teams. To me, a “champion-level” team is a group of individuals who do their very best, 100% of the time with the resources available to them. It doesn’t necessarily mean the team has a long history of winning first place, although that does also come into play as well, obviously.

So, it is these minute details that set teams apart. Here is a one that can be easily overlooked, your hands.

All services are more or less the same, wanting “cupped” hands with fingers joined and curled into the palms. In their drill and ceremonies manuals, the Army and Air Force show what I call, “The Point,” with the second knuckle of the first finger or tip of the thumb being the lowest in the position. The thumb is along the trouser seam and all fingers touch the trouser leg. All and services must use this style in all regulation drill events.

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The service honor guards show a slight variation to this with horizontal knuckles like this. The middle finger is along the trouser seam.

Marine Corps Hand Style

Marine Corps Hand Style

 

 

 

 

 

 

Both styles have the palms facing inward which means all of the fingers must touch the trouser leg. You must follow your service’s guidance as closely as possible. Even if a judge does not recognize the tiniest of details, those tiny details build into a whole package and when each detail is addressed, the whole package takes on a whole new, higher standard that makes onlookers wonder how you have accomplished such amazing precision!

That takes care of the services, but there is more:

Exhibition Drill gives a performer/team room to explore!

Army Honor Guard Hand StyleArmy Honor Guard Hand Style

The Army Honor Guard’s “C-Fist”

Navy HG

The Navy Honor Guard’s Thumb Tuck

Exhibition Hand Style

Exhibition Hand Style

Exhibition Hand Style- “Pinky-out” (front and side views)

Exhibition Hand Style- "Blade"

Exhibition Hand Style- “Blade Hand”

Carrying a Color in the Port Position

Marine-Style Port Arms with M14When a rifle is in front of your body at an angle with the muzzle dissecting the left shoulder and butt stock over the right hip, that is the Port Position. If both of your hands are in the proper place, that is called Port Arms. The picture at right shows Port Arms that is more of a Marine Corps style with the right forearm horizontal. There are several versions of Port Arms, depending on what you are doing and your branch of service.

Guidon at PortPort Arms is used when marching at double time with a guidon. Please keep in mind though, that a guidon is not a color.

The Port Position, as described above, with a color is not an authorized position, it is not a very dignified position for carrying our nation’s flag, or other flags in a ceremonial-type situation. Marines running PT with the national flag at Port is another matter.

The Navy, Marines and Coast Guard do have a position for the color that is very similar to the honor guard Port Arms. Here is Trail Arms for a color, but only for the three aforementioned services. It is used when traveling in formation for short distances to and from a ceremony.

Trail Arms with Colors

The honor guard Port Arms position would have both rifle guards at Port and the color bearers in the same position- bottom ferrule of the staff off of the ground 4″ to 6″ and the left forearm horizontal across the body with fingers extended and joined.

Honor Guard Color Guard at Port

So then, what is one to do when moving in a color team (color guard) formation and there is a doorway or low ceiling? Go to what is called, “Angle Port.”

You have probably not heard of Angle Port because it is a position that military honor guards use (although, the MCOP does describe the position without naming it). Why this is not in service drill and ceremonies manuals, I don’t know- it would be very helpful for those out in the field, so to speak. Here is the Angle Port position:

Angle Port for a Color Bearer
Angle Port for a Color Bearer

 

The command to get here is Bearer’s, Ready Two. “Bearers” is to identify the color bearers. The command is called from the honor guard Port Arms position described in Trail Arms paragraph, above.

Now you know how to appropriately handle a low ceiling or doorway.

Exhibition Drill Application Levels

Performance Measurements
Drill Application LevelsThere are five standard levels (“Boxes”) with corresponding number grades and definitions for each box that the World Drill Association Adjudication System grades, for each class: Junior, A and Open. The labels for each box represent the achievement of the performance: Seldom, Rarely, Sometimes, Frequently and Constantly. For WDA World Class, there is a sixth box which is labeled, Sets New Standards. For this example, though, we will simplify the measurement standards and use, Basic, Intermediate and Advanced.

When a Driller or team performs, there are four aspects of a performance that should to be measured.

The level of education, training and skill is evidenced in a performance. You need to ensure that your solo or your team’s performance has all of the following aspects locked in at your team’s level of performance.

Performance Aspects

  1. Drill: the choreographed design of what you march; your position in the drill area and the direction you face.
  2. Body work: whether you are marching armed or not, you must consider incorporating your body in movement, or even keeping your ‘cross’- I assure you, others will.
  3. Footwork: how your feet fit in with your performance. Do they accentuate certain moves? Or are they just there to keep you from falling over?
  4. Equipment Work: rifle, sword/saber, swing flag (for the Cali teams) or guidon, what you spin needs to be a seamless extension of your body.

Measurement Examples

Drill Application LevelsWhat I see in the majority of solo performances that I judge is displayed here at left. Drillers concentrate so much on their equipment work (rifle or sword/saber), that they tend to forget, or they don’t know about, the other aspects of a performance.

This is not necessarily a bad thing- one has to begin somewhere and the process of improving the performance begins with knowledge.

Drill Application LevelsAs another example, some drill teams will have a performance that looks like the picture at right. An unarmed team might look like the picture just below.

Drill Application Levels (3a)You can see how each performance aspect is at a different level. This makes the performance unbalanced and not as effective. Communication from the soloist/team to the audience, including the judge, is not clear. Clear communication is the standard to meet.

Disparities like these two examples show that training is unbalanced- either because the team does not know of each aspect, or because the team does not know how to address and improve the different aspects that are lacking.

The Sum of the Parts- Greater than the Whole

Drill Application LevelsThis image at left is, obviously, what you want. The synergistic affect of all of the performance aspects coming together at an advanced level gives the team that intangible feeling of performance perfection.

But how do you achieve it? Through the different techniques used in precise Training and then Practice and Rehearsal.

A trained judge can see training and practice come through in a performance.

What about the Team that cannot make it to the Advanced Level?
Drill Application Levels (4a)This is a great question! It is OK, to attain a certain of proficiency and remain there.

The Difference Between Practice and Rehearsal

It may seem strange, even silly, to define practice, training and rehearsal down to the “nth” degree. However, there are JROTC units that do not have the luxury of an experienced drill coach. Many JROTC instructors have never marched much past their Basic training days and that’s OK. Our military jobs came first and for many, marching was a thing of the past. Even with some JROTC instructors having marching experience, we now come into the competitive marching world which is a whole new ball of wax for just about everyone and defining our terms helps everyone learn.

I wrote about the difference between practice and training here. Please read this very important article. Here is a quote from that page to refresh your memory:

“We train to learn a new skill and then we practice that skill over and over.”

Now let’s look at something you may not have considered.

drillteam practicePractice
Everyone needs to practice their skills, those in the military and the civilian workforce practice all of the time and when it comes to a sport or a hobby than one is passionate about, practice can make all of the difference.

Our “hobby” is military drill: exhibition, regulation and/or ceremonial and when we practice our skill(s), we cement that action, through muscle memory into our actions so that we can perform that skill (a flag fold or a certain segment in an exhibition routine, for instance) almost exactly the same each time.

Let’s look at an exhibition drill routine. During practice, we can maybe feel that something is not quite or that if the rifle rotates another half-spin and it is then caught while the body is rotated to face this direction, then we can… I think you get the point. Practice helps us refine our skills that we learned during training and also helps us explore new options that we may not have considered before when we were just beginning to learn that skill. Practice and training can be interrupted again and again until the manual’s or our level of perfection is achieved, depending on the skill.

drillteam practice1Rehearsal
It is not just for dancers or musicians. If it isn’t already, this term needs to be incorporated into your preparations for a performance. You may already be doing this, but you are just not aware of how different this term is from the others previously mentioned.

A rehearsal is when, after training and much practice you run through your performance (posting the colors, a regulation sequence, etc.) from start to finish without stopping. Here, you can look at timing and boundary issues, if there are any. Rehearsing over and over is very necessary to create both muscle and visual memory and it helps to ensure that the team knows exactly what happens before, during and after the performance.

So, you knew about rehearsing? Excellent! I’m glad that you and your team have time allotted for that aspect of your training program. You didn’t know, or you kinda-sorta knew? That’s fine, everyone learns and now you can all pass along this vital information to the rest of your teammates to ensure that your program flourishes for years to come!

When in Doubt, Salute!

The title of this article served me and many others very well for many years. If you don’t know, a salute won’t hurt. If you don’t salute, you could get an ear-full.

“That’s Disrespectful!”
SaluteSaluting with the left or right hand has nothing to do with being disrespectful. The salute, in and of itself, no matter which hand is used, is respectful. The US military uses the right hand for a reason and that reason is utilitarian, not an issue of respect. Here is the history of the American military’s salute, courtesy of the US Army Quartermaster Historian.

No one knows the precise origin of today’s hand salute. From earliest times and in many distant armies throughout history, the right hand (or “weapon hand”) has been raised as a greeting of friendship. The idea may have been to show that you weren’t ready to use a rock or other weapon. Courtesy required that the inferior make the gesture first. Certainly there is some connection between this old gesture and our present salute.

One romantic legend has it that today’s military salute descended from the medieval knight’s gesture of raising his visor to reveal his identity as a courtesy on the approach of a superior. Another even more fantastic version is that it symbolizes a knight’s shielding his eyes from the dazzling beauty of some high-born lady sitting in the bleachers of the tournament.

The military salute has in fact had many different forms over the centuries. At one time it was rendered with both hands! In old prints one may see left-handed salutes. In some instances the salute was rendered by lowering the saber with one hand and touching the cap visor with the other.

The following explanation of the origin of the hand salute is perhaps closest to the truth: It was a long-established military custom for juniors to remove their headgear in the presence of superiors. In the British Army as late as the American Revolution a soldier saluted bv removing his hat. But with the advent of more cumbersome headgear in the 18th and 19th centuries, the act of removing one’s hat was gradually converted into the simpler gesture of grasping the visor, and issuing a courteous salutation. From there it finally became conventionalized into something resembling our modern hand salute.

As early as 1745 (more than two-and-a-half centuries ago) a British order book states that: “The men are ordered not to pull off their hats when they pass an officer, or to speak to them, but only to clap up their hands to their hats and bow as they pass.”

Whatever the actual origin of today’s hand salute, clearly in the tradition of the US Army it has always been used to indicate a sign of RESPECT – further recognition that in the profession of arms military courtesy is both a right and a responsibility of every soldier.

When and Who to Salute
Protocol requires a salute to the following:

  • President of the US
  • Commissioned and Warrant Officers
  • All Medal of Honor Recipients
  • Officers of Allied Foreign Countries

Render a salute for the following:

  • US National Anthem, “To the Color”, “Hail to the Chief”, or the playing of any foreign national anthem
  • When national colors are uncased outdoors
  • Reveille and retreat
  • Raising and lowering of the flag
  • When honors are sounded
  • Pledge of Allegiance – outdoors
  • When reporting
  • When turning over control of formations
  • Arrival and departure ceremonies for state officials

Authorized Left-Handed Salutes
Left SaluteDid you know that there are only two authorized salutes for the American Military? Along with the Old Guard Fife and Drum Corps drum major, Boatswain’s Mates are authorized to salute with their left hand when piping a senior officer aboard a ship in either the Navy and Coast Guard. The pipe is held in the right hand when played, and the salute is rendered with the left hand.

Left Salute Fife Drum MajorThe Drum Major as well as the unit he leads, follows Revolutionary War standards of drill and ceremonies. That’s why the left-hand salute and the fact that his salute has the palm facing forward.

No one else is authorized to render a left-handed salute, but is there an exception? Yes. Any veteran missing their right arm is not going to be lectured as to the “proper” way to render a salute.

What about the “Latte Salute”?
While each American President is most likely briefed on how to properly render a return salute, it is not something a President is supposed to do. Actually, any civilian is not supposed to return the salute. President Ronald Reagan began returning the salutes rendered to him (he had a great deal of respect for the military) and it has continued since.

But, what about Exhibition Drill?
There is no such thing as an “authorized” move or position in exhibition drill. Judges: in the case of exhibition drill, please put away your perceptions of “right” and “wrong” that are based on what you have learned through the military. Cadets: have fun creating, but don’t allow something that someone else has created to become “absolute law” for you or your team- JROTC cadets have a great tendency to never pick up the manual and only learn by observation. Hence, what one sees must be how “it” is accomplished and no one can tell them any different.

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