I was actually told that (the title of this article) just before the 2012 Joint Service Drill Competition where I was a guest judge. I’m, fairly sure the individual who approached me was on one of the service honor guards and his comment was most likely out of fear and a bit of elitism. When he told me that, I introduced myself and explained to him who I was and what I was doing there. It appeared as though I was not able to alleviate his fears, since he just walked away from me without a reply, which is unfortunate.
I seem to be threatening to some people, for some strange reason. This question comes from a poor attitude which reflects negatively on the organization and that is a bad thing.
The Presidential Honor Guards are top-notch organizations, but they are not super-human or “The best of the best of the best, with honors”, either (a Men in Black reference). Each service’s honor guard is filled with some great people who are trained to do their best 24-7 without flinching and they are awesome at what hey do. The units also happen to be filled with human beings who are fallible. Bad stuff happens and the not-so-perfect nature of people rears its head every once in a while. Unfortunately, ego also sees the light of day. Obviously, the service honor guards are not the only units to have fallible people. Still, the honor guards are as close to perfection for the military drill world as one can get. I have great respect for anyone and everyone who is with an honor guard unit. While the Presidential units are in the limelight, there are teams who perform just as excellent a job for a fallen law enforcement officer, firefighter or the even the homeless veteran without a next of kin in a small, out-of-the-way portion of the cemetery.
As honor guard members, we are trained to do a certain job to the best of our ability with what we have to work with. Support and camaraderie are what are called for, not belittling.
The DrillMaster Uniform
I created my uniform in 2010. I call it my DrillMaster Ceremonial Uniform. My intention is to honor the military services, police, fire, and EMS personnel. I served twenty years in the US Air Force, fourteen of which I spent in the Base Honor Guard system in the US, Okinawa, Japan and in Europe and an additional three years after retiring on the Spangdahlem Air Base Honor Guard while my wife was active duty. I have a DD214 to back up my USAF awards. I will never wear rank.
I wear my USAF accouterments and my one Army marksmanship badge that I earned at what used to be called Basic Camp, that was for first-year college cadets at Ft. Knox, Kentucky when I was attending New Mexico Military Institute. The crossed rifles on the epaulets honor military Drillers and represent my drill background (both armed and unarmed), the gold Honor Guard badge and lapel pins honor those in ceremonial units and represents my honor guard experience. The wing and propeller pins on the lapels are in honor of my father who served our country in the USAF during the Korean War. The badge above my right breast pocket is the Belgian Sniper Badge presented to me by my friend and honor guard colleague Belgian Army Warrant Officer (American military E-8 equivalent) Patrick Deroo, a WWII reenactor ( it is traditional to trade and wear uniform items). The device just below that on the pocket flap, is a Navy JROTC rank that I wear to honor my Daughter, Courtkne and my son, Bryent, since they both were in NJROTC when they attended high school in Columbia, South Carolina.
The uniform itself is a firefighter’s (or police officer’s) single-breasted uniform which I obtained through Steve Cohen, the president of the Lighthouse Uniform Company. The buttons are generic gold-colored buttons; my hat is made for police with the “P” gold-colored buttons. The hat’s gold chin strap is also from the Lighthouse Uniform Company. It has a blood-red stripe running along the center which is in tribute to our fallen. This chin strap was made specifically to remember those first responders who lost their lives on September 11, 2001, but has been adopted by many organization honor guards to remember all of their fallen comrades.
Added to the uniform sleeves and trousers are gold stripes (from Lighthouse) which are the same type and location as the AF Honor Guard uniform stripes, and a gold aiguillette from Glendale (paradestore.com).
My shoes are patent leather (Corfam) with leather soles (the best for drilling) and had another layer added to the soles. I used to wear three sets of taps: horseshoe on the heel, number 10 on the toe and side heel taps or “cheaters”/”clickers” on the inside heel and now just have the cheaters.
Why a Special Uniform?
Because I cannot and will not wear my Air Force uniform since that may be construed as an endorsement and since The DrillMaster is a business, that would not be ethical. I needed a uniform for the unique job that I do: the ceremonial and utility (ACU) uniforms are for those occasions requiring such uniforms: formal training sessions and ceremonies.
Let’s work together and stop the “us’ and “them” thinking.