The Arch of Steel

DrillMaster Honor Guard, Honor Guard Training, Instructional 0 Comments

Unlike the Man of Steel, Superman, the Arch of Steel is what the military calls a wedding cordon with swords/sabers.

A cordon is two lines of ten people (or more, depending on the rank of the individual) facing each other with room in between for others to walk through. Here is an example

Kadena Air Base Honor Guard Joint Service Cordon

A Kadena Air Base Honor Guard Joint Service Cordon Awaiting an Arrival Ceremony c. 2001

For a wedding cordon, the number of cordon members is 6, 8 or 10. Depending on the chapel setup, the cordon is either inside with honor guard members standing at the pews, or directly outside the chapel doors. However, the cordon can be anywhere the bride and groom choose. Here are a couple of pictures to give you an idea of what I’m talking about.

Arch of Steel Wedding Cordon

Navy Arch of Steel Wedding Cordon- Swords

Arch of Steel Wedding Cordon

Army Arch of Steel Wedding Cordon- Sabers

Using swords (straight, two edges) or sabers (curved, one edge) does not matter. Sabers, however, are turned blade-up. Honor guard units across the country and even around the world have performed this cordon for decades and it is a special tradition. The standard manual of the sword/saber applies with a couple of minor adjustments- see The Honor Guard Manual for complete details. The swords/sabers should not cross (form an “X”), they should look like they meet at the tip so the married couple or VIPs can walk through.

Some honor guard units will announce, “Prepare to form the Arch of Steel, Present, ARMS!” On the command of ARMS, the sword/saber is brought to the Arch position instead of being brought down for a salute. The tips of the swords/sabers do not meet, extend your arm straight out from your shoulder and have the sword/saber be an extension of your arm. When the cordon if finished the honor guard commander will give, Order ARMS! On the command Order, all swords are brought so that they are pointing down in the standard Order position and on the command of ARMS, the sword/saber is brought back to the carry/position of Attention.

A couple of variations have cropped up over the years:

  • Slowly lowering and then raising each set of swords/sabers as the couple moves forward
  • Lowering the final two swords/sabers and demanding the newly-married couple kiss
  • The last cordon member on the bride’s side giving the bride’s backside a tap (usually it’s a good smack- with the grooms complete knowledge, mind you) with his sword/saber and saying, “Welcome to the Corps (Air Force, Army, etc.), Ma’am.”

The Arch of Steel, honor guard, wedding cordon, cordon, ceremony

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