Wearing the Mourning Band

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First responders have a black band that is worn over or around their badge/shield like what is pictured. The band signifies the loss of a colleague usually through a Line of Duty Death (LODD); the military equivalent to this would be an Active Duty Death.

Three questions arise:

How long should the department wear the band?

Thirty days is the usual standard for a department in mourning.

If the honor guard has ceremonies to perform within that 30 days that are not involved with the LODD, is it appropriate to still wear the band?

Yes, it is quite appropriate. The team is in mourning along with the rest of the department. The honor guard may deem it necessary to create guidance that requires the team to remove the band when performing other ceremonial duties (e.g. a parade).

Should the honor guard wear the band all of the time?

That would lessen the meaning of why the band is worn. While the team exists to provide honors for fallen colleagues, that is not its sole purpose.

Featured image courtesy of the Civil Service Supply Company.

Drill Team Technique

Regarding Competition

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Some, over the years, have said competition is a bad thing because little Johnny or Suzy get their feelings hurt. The instance given is the game Musical Chairs; all of the kids are running around then one doesn’t make it to a chair and “loses,” there is only one “winner.” What a sad way to look at such a fun game and what sheer contempt for something that is naturally created inside us.

Let’s go back to the game of Musical Chairs. Suzy just lost. What has she been taught at home? That “winning is everything!” or to join with the other kids and have FUN? Or have her parents left it up for her to learn that other kids can be real creeps and she just has to get over it? Actually, the last one, hopefully paired with the first one would be a good way to teach lessons about her upcoming life and how she may have to deal with adults who never learned how to be good people.

All of this comes down to: Competition is GOOD! But winning is not about getting first place! First place is great, but that’s all there is once you’ve achieved it at that moment and you have to do it all over again. Winning is about doing your personal best with what you have to work with (time, resources and education) and the feeling of pride that comes from doing your best.

Best Practices– This is what competitions should encourage, learning the what and how of the competitors and everyone becoming better.

Getting to practice every day = you’ve already won. You don’t need anyone else to compare you to another. When you want appropriate feedback which is what a competition can provide, then go, compete, it’s a good thing.

Once you place your emphasis on only winning, you’ve already lost.

Color in a Color Guard

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You may think that this is an oxymoron, of course there is color in a color guard- the team carried flags, hello! However, let’s look a little closer at some specifics.

High schools have a school song, motto, and even school colors. Those colors can really enhance rifles: yellow tape used to make stripes on a black rifle stock or blue on white, etc. there are so many options that an exhibition drill team can use! And then we come to Regulation Drill (RD).

Armed: I am aware of school JROTC budgets and would not demand that a drill team have two complete sets of rifles for competition, although that would be nice: one set with colored tape or stocks for the Exhibition Drill (XD) sequence and one for the RD sequence.

Unarmed: The same would go for an unarmed drill team: standard white gloves, belts, and ascots (if the team wears any of these items) for the RD sequence and then the colorful items for the XD sequence.

Even the gloves with the colorful flash palm are great for XD, but not for RD. Both glove pictures are from www.paradetore.com.


I “Strenuously Object”

In the featured image at the top, you can see this JROTC team has rifles with a red stock. I apologize for the poor image quality. Just like “Color Guard Exhibition“, I find this kind of colorful addition to a color guard inappropriate.

The standard colors for rifle stocks are now brown, wood grain, black, and white. From rifle stocks that are a different color from the standard or highlight tape stripes on the stocks, to two-color gloves for the color team members, I strenuously object. However, just like Lt CDR JoAnne Galloway, in the movie, A Few Good Men, my objection probably won’t amount to much.

In any case, I have to get the information out that we all need to follow the standard outlined in the service manuals (military, JROTC, CAP, Sea Cadets) and not the “standard” that has been handed down from from last year’s seniors who were trained by the previous year’s seniors, etc., etc.


The Process to Become a Certified DrillMaster

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I offer the only trainer and adjudicator certification program for the Military Drill World. With each certification you then have the knowledge necessary to start creating a foundation of education for those you train. You can build on my knowledge and experience and go further!

This is an overview, please contact me to find out complete details.

Use the contact form at the front page.

Certified DrillMaster

This is for drill team and color guard trainer/coach and for an honor guard trainer. My books and manuals from each service are part of the courses for Regulation, Ceremonial, and Exhibition Drill.

All training is self-paced reading and then several tests.

World Drill Association Adjudicator

You will be a fully trained visual adjudicator for military drill!


Colors- The Leather Tab Issue

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I posted this on my Instagram account and realized that this really need to go to as wide and audience as possible.

Click here to read the article, How to Properly Mount a Flag on a Flagstaff. Yes, there is a correct and incorrect way to mount a color!

If you still have colors with leather tabs, secure them by a small screw and then tape. Eventually, the tab will disintegrate and you can have a seamstress sew in the new standard, which is the hook-and-pile fastener.

Most, if not all, colors now come with both parts of the hook-and-pile fastener (Velcro, or another brand) already attached at the top and bottom of the color, inside the pole hem. You still need to drill a small hole and put a small screw into the staff so that the adhesive doesn’t allow the flag to slide down the staff- learned that the hard way…

Suggested Sports Field Entrance and Exit

DrillMaster Ask DrillMaster, Color Guard/Color Team, Honor Guard, Honor Guard Training, Instructional 0 Comments

I just finished a critique for a first responder color guard colors presentation which gave me an idea to write this article. Also see the How to Present the Colors at an Event article here. This one will go a little more in depth.

Instead of a four-step interval, I suggest that the team enters with shoulders touching so that you present a unified formation, able to navigate through the field.

As you approach where you need to stop to present the colors, the team can begin to separate, the commander- American flag bearer, can say, “Split”, wait four or even six steps as the team evenly spreads out, and then call, “Mark Time” and finally, “Halt”.

The other option to this is to separate automatically on the Mark Time command and wait for Halt. I think this technique may serve you better.

Going From Third Base

If the team enters from the third base line, marching in a single file column formation and using the Every Left On technique, would be perfect.

The image on the left shows Every Left On. You can see how the team progresses from a column formation entering from stage left into a line formation for the colors presentation. There is a very unique way to accomplish this with a standard four-inch spacing, but it can very well be adapted for a 2-, 4-, or even 6-step spacing.


Once the team stops, giving Present Arms, would be a good idea, instead of waiting for the first note. That way, the Anthem can begin on the visual signal of the color team going to Present.

If you are a trained and certified Ceremonial Guardsman, remember, you are the ceremonial expert everywhere you go, you are the one to tell the hosting organization what you do, how you do it, and when.


I also suggest that, when leaving, you could give the command, “Port, Arms”, which brings the colors down to your side (you have finished your job and are no longer the focus), turn to your left with a Colors Turn-off command, and depart.

The Color Guard Wedge Formation

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Never, ever, ever, ever, should a color guard use this line formation with the American in the middle.


Someone will say, “But the American is higher.” That is NOT the standard. The standard is all colors at the same height and the American flag on the marching right. The American flag should never be taller for a color guard. The only exception to this is for cadets. Since there can be such a variation in height, the American flag must be as close to equal in height as possible without being shorter. Only in this case can it be taller.

This line formation is the only formation authorized for the military.


See the Wedge, Know the Wedge, BE the Wedge

Except if you are an Active Duty, Guard or Reserve color guard. “No Wedge for you!” It’s called The Wedge. Scouting and other civilian organizations use it all the time and so do some veteran’s groups.

For others (LE, fire, cadets, veterans) in a parade, the Wedge is an option- however, you must execute it properly! Here is some guidance. Referencing the images below, you must have at least three flags. Odd numbers of flags work best. The American flag goes first, the next most senior flag goes behind it and to the right. The next position is to the left of the second flag. The guards are last on each end. Some teams do not use armed guards, having a member of the team marching unarmed is acceptable and some teams do not even have guards.

Click here to read about marching a POW/MIA flag.

Here is an example using LE and fire flags. Spacing is up to you, one step away and one step back is a good place to begin. Three steps is also just fine. It depends on how wide the street is and how many flags are on your team.


The Color Guard and Multiple National & State Colors

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Multiple National Colors

So, what is a team to do when you have more than one national color? Here is some information to consider:

  1. When overseas Air Force Base Honor Guard teams carry both colors when called to present them on base and in the local community. The photo here is of the Spangdahlem Air Base team when we (I’m on the American flag**) were in France. We were on an American Military Cemetery so the American is to the marching right and we carried the French flag as requested. However, we could have separated the national colors, and followed the guidance for what is next.
  2. None of the service honor guards in DC march two national colors together, they are always separate, but the only reference for this in a service manual that is not specifically for an honor guard, is the Marine Corps Order. In this picture, you see the Marine Barracks Washington team assembled to practice for an arrival ceremony from a foreign national Marine commander. The C4* is on the left of the picture carrying the Ensign (American flag) and the Marine Corps battle colors. On the right of the picture you see another color guard with the foreign national colors and two guards.

**If that image looks familiar to you, it should. Take a look at my logo. It’s the color guard image I used as the silhouette.

Must foreign national colors always be separated? My guidance is that you should at least try, but if you do not have the personnel to handle this situation, then there is really nothing you can do but march the American flag on the marching right, other national color, and the State or service color. Or just the two national colors.

Foreign flags are flown in (English) Alphabetical order. If you carry more than two national colors, the American is always first on American soil and then the next two flags would begin in alphabetical order (e.g. Belgium, Netherlands, UK, etc.).

From the information above, you would require a minimum of a team of four for the American flag color guard and then color guards of three members each for the additional foreign national colors.

Multiple State Colors

State colors are flown in order of entrance into the Union. One state color marches in the the American flag color guard. If necessary, two could march with the American flag, but no more.

If you need to march any more than two state colors, follow the order mentioned above and march all of the state colors as a single unit; a platoon or even straight line in column formation, no guards.

The order of precedence for the state flags United States.

  1. Delaware
  2. Pennsylvania
  3. New Jersey
  4. Georgia
  5. Connecticut
  6. Massachusetts
  7. Maryland
  8. South Carolina
  9. New Hampshire
  10. Virginia
  11. New York
  12. North Carolina
  13. Rhode Island
  14. Vermont
  15. Kentucky
  16. Tennessee
  17. Ohio
  18. Louisiana
  19. Indiana
  20. Mississippi
  21. Illinois
  22. Alabama
  23. Maine
  24. Missouri
  25. Arkansas
  26. Michigan
  27. Florida
  28. Texas
  29. Iowa
  30. Wisconsin
  31. California
  32. Minnesota
  33. Oregon
  34. Kansas
  35. West Virginia
  36. Nevada
  37. Nebraska
  38. Colorado
  39. North Dakota
  40. South Dakota
  41. Montana
  42. Washington
  43. Idaho
  44. Wyoming
  45. Utah
  46. Oklahoma
  47. New Mexico
  48. Arizona
  49. Alaska
  50. Hawaii

Territory Flags come after State Flags

  1. District of Columbia
  2. Virgin Islands
  3. Puerto Rico
  4. Guam
  5. American Samoa
  6. Commonwealth of the Northern Marianas Islands

County flags come next.

Then city flags.

Then Organizational flags.

Click here to read about marching the POW/MIA flag.

The “Silver Brass” of the Silent Drill Platoon

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In the late 1970’s, the number one rifle inspector
with the Marine Corps Silent Drill platoon passed on his
brass, or the buttons and emblems from his uniform, to his
successor. The brass continued to be passed on, and over
time, the cleaning and polishing turned the once gold-colored
brass silver.

“Being able to wear the silver brass and to be
privileged to fill the prestigious roll of rifle inspector is
an honor,” said Cpl. Tyler Dutton, the number one rifle
inspector for the SDP. “It took a lot of hard work and
dedication over the past three years to get to this point.
My time will soon be up and it’ll be my turn to pass on the

Dutton isn’t the only Marine to display the coveted
silver brass. Each member of his inspection team, or the
Marines that perform during the rifle inspection, display
the brass in their own unique way. The first Marine in the
inspection, or the “single,” has silver slip rings on his rifle.
The next Marine, known as the “throw out,” has a silver
gas tube on his rifle. The last Marine in the inspection, or
the “double,” has a silver charging handle on his rifle. The
inspector himself wears silver buttons, emblems, waist plate
and screw posts.

“Being on the drill team is an honor. Being on the
inspection team is a privilege,” said Dutton. “My team put in
a lot of time and hard work to make it. Knowing the amount
of responsibility they have, they practice every day after
everyone else is done to make sure they are at their best.”
This year was a memorable one for the SDP.

Captains Ted Hubbard and Matt Smith, previous and current
parade commanders, familiarized Col. Christian G. Cabaniss,
commanding officer of the Barracks, with the tradition.
Shortly after, Cabaniss brought it up with Gen. James F.
Amos, commandant of the Marine Corps, who then officially
presented the silver brass back to the SDP, reviving the
retired tradition.

When crowds flock to the Marine Corps War
Memorial in Arlington, Va. or pack the seats at the Barracks
for a parade, a sense of history and tradition is clear. What
isn’t are the little details, practices and traditions Marines
cherish most.

“I will never forget the time I have spent on the
platoon with my brothers,” said Dutton. “The silver brass is
the platoons; I’m just the lucky one who gets to wear it.”

From Pass in Review, Apr-Jun 2013, WWW.BARRACKS.MARINES.MIL

Making Things More “Ceremonialer”

DrillMaster Color Guard/Color Team, Commentary, Honor Guard 0 Comments

“Ceremonialer” is the term I created as I’ve watched members of the military, first responders (many who are veterans), and cadets perform movements that do not bring any more reverence or honor to what they are doing at ceremonies .

Similar terms would be:

When it comes to the American flag and rendering honors, never should anyone use the thinking, “It’s not specifically prohibited, so we can do it.”

While the following may seem like more of a personal pet peeve of mine (which they are) than anything else, there is reasoning behind why a team should not perform these movements and techniques.

The Head Bow

  • Description: During Casket Watch, the Watch Guards posted at the casket bow their heads until the Relief Watch Arrives for the changing of the guard(s). This is also applicable to other ceremonies.
  • Why not to do it: When at the position of Attention, Parade Rest, or Ceremonial at Ease, the head and eyes are straight forward. Period. Another reason not to do it is, communication. It can be very difficult to nearly impossible to communicate with posted Watch Guards during a memorial service. Communication is crucial during ceremonies and the Watch Commander needs to make eye contact with the posted Guards and those guards need to be aware of what is going on around them. I also highly recommend “unarmed” guards (no rifle, or fire axe)

Casket Watch Preferred Technique- Heads up. Courtesy of Today.com

The Colors Presentation

  • Description: the rifle guards spin their rifles in between positions or the team moves into a completely unauthorized configuration for a colors presentation.
  • Why not to do it: The Flag Code and a service drill and ceremonies manual/The Honor Guard Manual are the resources required for the color guard to perform its job properly. That’s it. Never add any flamboyant movement or team configuration. There is a reason for the minimal standards that are written in the guidance; less is more. Stick to that.

Spangdahlem Air Base (Germany) Honor Guard in France, 2010.

The Flag Fold

  • Description: Two team members march to the front of the room with an American flag, they unfold it, open it up fully, and refold it before presenting the flag.
  • When to do it: (with thanks to KM for his input) Military participation in ceremonies that bring discredit to the armed services or exist primarily to raise money. Civilian ceremonies that exploit the military for personal and financial gain would fall under this category as well.There are numerous occasions where individuals will need to fold a flag but the only times that require it to be performed as part of an official ceremony are Retreat and Military Funeral Honors…so if the organization is not doing one of the two, then they need to seriously ask themselves if they should be doing it at all.

    If the flag fold is not being conducted for a functional purpose, or mandated by-law then it is inappropriate. What constitutes a “functional purpose”? It would be storing the flag or giving it to another person or organization.

    Storage: during an official ceremony, Retreat, simply because you took the flag down for the evening and obviously you have to fold it. Mandated by-law: during a military funeral.

    In the AF, the presentation of the flag is mandatory for retirees. The presentation is mandatory, not the flag fold. The actual tradition is to present the flag in a shadow box. All the outlandish ceremonies over the last 20-30 years is a recent occurrence.

    So to summarize, “flag fold ceremonies” are performed all too often and their impact/meaning waters down the significance of folding the flag.

    Public Affairs organizations in all branches strictly control and attempt to prevent this from happening. Unfortunately, volunteers, and even installation honor guard units “approve” and take part in such events without them being vetted through their responsible PA office.

Long Island, N.Y. (Feb 05) – BM3 Allen performs flag folding honors for a funeral service held at the Calverton National Cemetery. PO3 Allen is assigned to the Navy and Marine Corps Reserve Center in Amityville, N.Y. which coordinates and provides funeral honor services to the Long Island region. U.S. Navy photo by PM1 Matthew J. Thomas

The Tilt During the Flag Fold

  • Description: Two team members march to the front of the room with an American flag, they unfold it, open it up fully and, instead of going directly back into refolding it (as they should), they tilt the flag toward the audience.
  • Why not to do it: While, technically, The Tilt is benign and may add some sort of emotional accent, the move is not in any flag fold guidance. There’s nothing “wrong” with it, but it is not authorized.

NOTE: The example picture below is not meant, in any way, to shame the cadets performing the technique.

The Tilt Example William Blount High School TN AFJROTC