All About The Flagstaff

DrillMaster Ask DrillMaster, Honor Guard, Instructional 7 Comments

Reminder: Color team = military; color guard =  marching band

First off, the nomenclature of a flagstaff.

Nomenclatures- 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.

Comments 7

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  3. Where is this addressed in any regulation?

    •Each service uses the two-piece light ash wood flagstaff. No metal poles or dark brown wood.

    We use metal poles and so does the Pentagon staff for ceremonial purposes. I cannot find in the regulation where the type of flagstaff is mentioned just heights and that they must match.

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      SFC King,

      Thank you for the comment. We can extrapolate from each service’s D&C and related manuals, pictures show only the guidon staff as I mention in the article. We can also take from the Army Cadet Command their guidance stating that only cadet color teams made up of females, are allowed to carry aluminum staffs.

      1. I downloaded the USAF TO 00-25-154. I found no reference indicating that the pole must be a light ash in color. Before I tell my wing that the majority of their guidions are the wrong color, would you please tell me where you got the information?

        Thanks

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          MSgt Mason,

          Here is the reply I gave another reader of this page when he asked about using metal staffs (he is at the Pentagon, and they pretty much do as they please):

          “We can extrapolate from each service’s D&C and related manuals, pictures show only the guidon staff as I mention in the article. We can also take from the Army Cadet Command their guidance stating that only cadet color teams made up of females are allowed to carry aluminum staffs.”

          With that, we can also go by tradition. Two-piece light ash staffs have, to my knowledge, always been used in decades past- at least since the 1950s. The guidon staff has been used for the guidon flag and also for color teams.

          So, we can say that your all of your Wing’s guidon staffs are not wrong, it’s just that some do not follow tradition. I would tell anyone purchasing new staffs for their color team or a new staff specifically for a guidon to purchase the light ash staff.

          Thank you for your question and allowing me to dig in to the documentation that I have.

          DrillMaster

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