Of Flags and Sharp Objects

DrillMaster Ask DrillMaster, Commentary, Honor Guard, Instructional Leave a Comment

Colors with Bayonets

Colors with Bayonets

Can a color team use rifles with bayonets or even use swords or sabers?


As the title suggests, flags and sharp objects do not go well together! Never ever, ever, ever put bayonets on rifles or march swords/sabers for a color team!

When a color catches the tip and the wind drags the color across so there is either a nice big rip, run, snag or pulled thread(s) that ruins the color, don’t you dare whine.

There is a reason why rifles with mounted bayonets or swords/sabers are not in pictures in any of the service drill and ceremonies manuals. The color guard pictures only show rifles for the guards. Period.

Somewhere in my office here in my house I have a picture of me on the Davis-Monthan Base Honor guard back in the early 90s. The picture is of the color team I am on presenting the colors for Arizona Senator John McCain when he visited the base. The Senator and Base commander are in the background and the color team is at the front of the photo with the wind blowing the colors back. Neat photo. Until you see that we were actually dumb enough to have bayonets on our 1903s! Now, it’s a little embarrassing, but we didn’t realize back then and had no guidance.

No bayonets and no swords or sabers. The ONLY exception to this is NCO swords/sabers are authorized for a mounted color team.


“As I was!”

DrillMaster Ask DrillMaster, Commentary, Drill Teams, Honor Guard, Instructional Leave a Comment

“As I was”? Stop talking to yourself, talk to your platoon/flight. What does “as I was” mean? Nothing. The term is “As you were.” Here is some info for you from AFM 36-2203, Drill and Ceremonies, which you can download here:

Use the command AS YOU WERE to revoke a preparatory command. After the command of execution has been given and the movement has begun, give other appropriate commands to bring the element to the desired position. If a command is improperly given, the individuals execute the movement to the best of their ability.

Here is another example from MCOP 5060.2:

The command, “AS YOU WERE,” cancels a movement or order started but not completed. At this command, troops should resume their former positions.

Got it? Good! Now, when you make a mistake calling a command, you need to let your unit know that they need to disregard the last word(s) out of your mouth and you can do that by simply stating, “As you were.”

As you were, Sir!
Oh, one more thing: don’t get me started on “As you were, Sir!” Keep your mouth zipped in formation. There is no such thing as “As you were, Sir”! Carry on.

Routine Mapping Tool Sample

How to Write Drill

DrillMaster Ask DrillMaster, Commentary, Drill Teams, Instructional 1 Comment

Drill is not boring, unless you do the same thing over and over or you execute very simple moves with “dead” time in between.

How can drill be “exciting”? Variation. Variation of:

  • Hand, arm, leg and head movements
  • Body movement
  • Step style
  • Tempo

You can get a sample of some drill movements in Exhibition Drill For The Military Drill Team. This is a great starting point or reference for any drill team, armed or unarmed.

What can a team do to add visual emphasis? (Not a complete list- use your imagination!)

  • Use certain uniform designs
    • Stripe(s) down the outside seam of the trouser leg and cuff of the sleeve
    • Select uniform colors that provide contrast
  • Use uniform additions
    • Two-tone gloves
    • Shoulder cord
    • Ascot
    • Belt
  • Marching
    • Unusual drill
    • drill that moves quickly
    • Tempo contrasts
    • Arm, hand and head movement layered over drill (and/or)
    • Body movement layered over drill
    • Manipulation of a uniform item (i.e. head gear)

How do you start writing a routine?

This is Set 5 (page 5) of part of a routine

This is Set 6 (page 6) of part of a routine

Go to the Downloads page and download a copy of a DrillMaster Routine Mapping Tool (there are different sizes for different applications), print out a few copies and begin by making dots where the team or you, as the soloist, will begin. I recommend using 8 counts as your standard and think of where you want the team (or you) to be in 8 counts and draw a small circle or an “X”. On the next sheet draw a dot where the “X” is on the first sheet and then, using 8 or less counts, put an “X” where you want the team to be. Repeat those steps. Each page you write becomes a set. A set is a formation, even if it is not a complete formation- you have a certain number of Drillers stop at a certain set and others continue marching to form the formation on the next set.

As you write, think of what this looks like from the front, the performance side, where the Head Judge stands, and try to create a routine that will look its best from that side/angle- this is part on which the Overall Effect and Composition Analysis judges will be critiquing and rating. Just writing something without having direction in mind can lead to a visually confusing program.

Routine Mapping Tool Sample

On each sheet you will notice lines where you can create notes about equipment and/or body manipulation or anything else that is pertinent to the routine at that particular point.

I prefer to write the drill book and then create the equipment work and layer it on top of the drill. As I write I sometimes have an idea of what the equipment and/or body work is going to be and make notes on each page. Sometimes the ideas do not work and I rewrite the drill or the equipment work.

Yeah, but what about arm, head, leg, hand and body movement?

It’s up to you, I’ll get you started on your studies:

DrillMaster Offers Certifications

DrillMaster Announcements, Color Guard/Color Team, Drill Teams, Honor Guard, Instructional, Judging 3 Comments

The DrillMaster offers the only trainer, instructor, coach 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.

“Nothing in the world is worth having or worth doing unless it means effort, pain, difficulty… I have never in my life envied a human being who led an easy life. I have envied a great many people who led difficult lives and led them well.”

~ Theodore Roosevelt

These courses of study give you a sound educational foundation to help you begin or enhance your military drill instructional and/or judging career. The courses are self-paced. When you notify me, I will email you the link to the test. You then receive a grade and continue to the next block (if applicable).

You receive a firm foundational education- beyond that which is taught anywhere else and a certificate suitable for framing. The blocks of instruction require downloading of free materials and/or the purchase of books.

  • DrillMaster Certified Trainer
    • Modified Block I/II: Regulation Drill and Protocol
  • DrillMaster Certified Pathfinder Drill Specialist
    • Modified Block I/II: Regulation Drill and Protocol
    • Introduction to Exhibition Drill
  • DrillMaster Certified Honor Guard Trainer*
    • Modified Block IV: Ceremonial Drill

*Only available to DrillMaster Honor Guard Academy graduates- may be taken in conjunction with an academy. Certified to train your own unit only.

  • Certified DrillMaster- Regulation Drill & Protocol
    • Block I: Drill and Ceremonies
    • Block II: Protocol and Flag
  • Certified DrillMaster – Exhibition Drill Endorsement
    • Block III: Exhibition Drill
  • Certified DrillMaster – Ceremonial Drill Endorsement
    • Block IV: Ceremonial Drill
  • Certified DrillMaster – Adjudication Endorsement
    • Block V: Adjudication and Adjudication Theory


Use the contact form on the front page of this website for information on testing and course fees.

Honor Guard Gloves

All About Uniform Gloves

DrillMaster Color Guard/Color Team, Drill Teams, Honor Guard, Honor Guard Training, Instructional Leave a Comment

White Gloves

“Flag Bearer Gloves”

I constantly see pictures of cadets, Active Duty, Reserve and Guard, and first responder teams wearing gloves that look terrible. Whether its the “Flag Bearer Gloves” (at right) or the dress gloves with a snap or no snap, they all are either (loose) or a bad idea (look almost “industrial”). The picture at right is a bit misleading since you cannot see the back of the gloves. That’s taken care of in the picture that I created that is farther below.

Bad gloves

The image at left is another one of gloves that I absolutely will not recommend. These are the ones that get stretched out and floppy so that they will eventually just fall off. It’s difficult find pictures of white gloves with a darker background.

The issue is that any time you extend your arms (colors, pallbearers, and firing party), your wrists show. The standard for the service honor guards is to wear a short sleeve shirt or roll the long sleeves up twice and pin them.

The gloves that I’ve talked so much about on my Instagram account are either cotton or a stretchy material that comes in thin and lined. My favorite website for uniform and other items, paradestore.com, has these great gloves listed by the title, Honor Guard Gloves. All three have long wrists so they need to be folded for that finished, professional look. These gloves never fall down. The gloves that do fall are the tiny ones that flop around. Even the ones with snaps are really poor. If you get the ones with those big hook-and-pile straps, every time your arms are extended, everyone will be able to see those straps instead of a professional, finished look.

Which look do you really want?

In the image above, the picture at the top is of a pair of gloves that I wear. These are the Sure Grip Honor Guard Gloves that come in a summer weight and also a lined glove that can help with cooler temps. Both have stretchy material with a long wrist that requires a double fold. The cotton Honor Guard Gloves have a shorter wrist requiring one fold. These three are the ONLY gloves I can recommend. The others do not present a professional image. Note: Snap Military Gloves are good for dress occasions.

For information on first responder uniforms, click here.

Winter Gloves

Those in the northern region will need appropriate gloves for their ceremonial uniform for the winter months

Check with your uniform supplier or online for generic gloves without a label or a subdued label in either brown or black (you will want to coordinate with your shoes and ceremonial belt, if applicable).

“Military Flavor”

DrillMaster Ask DrillMaster, Commentary, Drill Teams, Instructional 2 Comments

‘Our drill team does a Stomp routine for our program this year.’

‘Our drill team does cheer-like movements and we sing/chant throughout our routine.’

What is “Military Flavor”

This is a term that we cannot define so that it is crystal clear. We can define it, but it is more of a subjective term.

  • Military flavor is a “uniform.” Why is “uniform” on quotes? Because it is up to the discretion of the Driller. Going to wear your Sunday-go-to-meetin’s? [Loud buzzer sound] Thank you for playing. Not gonna work. What is a uniform? It is distinctive clothing. Something simple but not bland. Something that is complete, head to toe. HINT! —-> Do not forget about the head.
  • Military flavor is an “attitude.” We can call this “military bearing,” which is the appearance, attitude, and conduct of a military member. Strong military bearing earns respect. Now you get the idea.
  • Military flavor is “style.” Body movement can be a huge factor here (see the first video, above). When you add a piece of equipment (rifle, sword/saber or guidon), military flavor can still be in question due to body movement*.

*One can borrow different styles from different activities, but those styles should not comprise the majority of the routine if they are not based in military drill.

So, there you have it: guidance for military flavor.

One thing that a judge can get mired in is subjective judging and “military flavor” is a term that is subjective. The least subjective the adjudication system, the better.

All About Posting or Presenting Colors

DrillMaster Ask DrillMaster, Color Guard/Color Team, Honor Guard, Honor Guard Training 1 Comment

Honor Guard Color Guard at PortThere is quite a bit of information and several situations that every color team needs to know to maintain the American flag in the position of honor – on the marching right or in front. The American flag never marches any other position. Never. Military and para-military (just about every organization that has its members in uniform) should follow military guidance and never march the American flag in the center. The position of honor is to the right- not the center. All flags are marched so that the finial (top ornament, the spade) is as close to the same height as possible.

Color Guard- No Way

What Flags do we Carry and in what Order?

Joint Colors

Military, Civil and Citizen teams have different requirements. The colors listed are in order from the marching right (viewer’s left):

  • Military teams (the US military, ROTC, and JROTC, and other cadet organizations) carry the American, (state,) and service colors. The organizational color would be last.
  • Civil teams (law enforcement, firefighters, and EMS) carry the American, state, municipal, organizational and even fraternal colors. The fraternal color can be omitted when presenting for local government functions.
  • Citizen teams (Scouts, fraternal organizations) carry the American, state, and organizational colors.
    • Tribal teams , on Tribal lands, would carry the Tribal Nation’s color, American, and state colors. Outside of Tribal lands, the American would be first and then the Tribal Nation’s color. Some Tribal teams also carry service colors.

Side note: If a military color team is going to carry the following colors, this is the order. No exceptions.

  1. American flag
  2. State flag
  3. Military service flag

Carrying more than one national flag?

Let’s say you are part of an Emerald Society Pipe and Drum Corps and Honor Guard(a first responder fraternity). Many of these teams carry not only the American flag, but also the Irish flag. Why? The first cops and firefighters were Irish. The tradition continues. Back to our situation of two national flags: All national flags are treated the same on American soil – they are never dipped in salute. Ever. Both remain upright even during both national anthems, if they are played. All other colors dip in salute.

Joint Service Order for Military Colors

This is the only order for service flags, service emblems, etc. For more information on why this is the order, click here to read Joint Service Order of the Colors. The right/lead rifle guard is a Soldier and the left/rear guard is a Marine.

  1. Army
  2. Marine Corps
  3. Navy
  4. Air Force
  5. Coast Guard

Note: While service color position remains the same, if all service personnel are not able to be present for the team, their order should go as follows as far as knowledge is concerned: regardless of service or rank, the most knowledgeable (as far as color guard experience) member should be the US color bearer and the second most knowledgeable should be the right rifle guard. Third in this sequence should be the left rifle guard with descending familiarity following from there.

Joint Service Order for First Responders

Full disclosure: I developed this. While this is not a hard-and-fast rule, I thought it necessary to create an order of precedence based on the implementation of each service. From my limited research, I came up with the following:

  1. Law enforcement officer (LEO)
  2. Fire
  3. EMS

Using the guidance from the military, team make up might look like this:

  1. Right/lead rifle guard: LEO armed with a rifle/shotgun, second-most experienced member
  2. American flag: LEO, most experienced member
  3. Other flag (State, etc.): Firefighter/EMS, can be least in experience
  4. Left/rear guard: Firefighter/EMS armed with a ceremonial fire axe, third in experience

Keep in mind the guidance that the most experienced member should be the US color bearer, regardless of service/profession.

LEO/Fire Working Together

I encourage and enjoy joint work, but there is an issue that must be addressed: Technique.

Does Height Matter?

Experience before aesthetics. Not if you have the luxury of each member of the team being around the same height, but for cadet and civil teams, it should come second to knowledge and experience. Yes, the team might look “off”, but it’s best to have knowledgeable members of the team in key positions rather than have aesthetics. Click here and read this article.

Flag Stuck, etc.?

Problem during the Performance? That’s why God invented the right and left guards for the team! The guards are there to fix whatever issue they can. For more, read this article here.

Hangin’ Around

Waiting for the ceremony still requires proper protocol.

  1. Arrive at the site at least one hour early
  2. Practice while in your travel uniform (this ensures no one thinks the ceremony has already begun and gives the team time to figure out their movements)
  3. Change into ceremonial/Class A uniform
  4. Hang out* with equipment ready in-hand and all team members in their proper place (American flag at right or in front of other flags- yes, even just hanging around – cameras are everywhere)
  5. Ten minutes prior to show time, line up at staging position at Stand at Ease (or Parade Rest) ready to perform

*An example of how NOT to hand around. This is a USAF Base Honor Guard team, I have pictures of other services, this is just an example.

base honor guard, color team, color guard, honor guard training

A USAF Base Honor Guard Color Team


Color Guard MC Left About

Left Wheel, Right Wheel and About Wheel. These are terms that honor guards use to describe turns accomplished by the color team most often outside. Right/Left Wheels use the center of the team as the rotation point which means half the team marches forward and the other half marches backward to rotate the team 90-degrees in an average of eight steps for teams with four to six members. The team executes the About Wheel in the same direction as the Right Wheel rotating the team 180-degrees in 16 steps.

Color Guard Wheel JPEG


While colors can be and sometimes are posted outdoors, my experience leads me to recommend that you present and not post. The wind just never plays well with other others. We, in the military try to avoid this as much as possible with the alternative being a color team that posts near the podium for the event. The members present and then stage the team for everyone to see. Sometimes this may not be a viable solution and you will have to have the event and location dictate how the color team handles the colors. See also, How to Present the Colors at an EventWhat is Authorized when Presenting the Colors, and How to Plan and Coordinate a Color Guard Event. This article, How to Present the Colors at an Event, has great information.

Note: As a rule of thumb, colors enter at Right Shoulder (Carry) and depart at Port Arms. Entering at Port is fine if necessary.

  1. Enter
  2. Halt in front of and facing audience
  3. Present Arms for National Anthem or Pledge (never both)
  4. Port Arms
  5. (Color bearers move to post colors and rejoin guards)
  6. Depart

Standard entrance and departure.

Colors Posting Process

To Present or Post, that is the Question!

Posting the colors is for special occasions. How special? That is up to the organization. Graduations are a special time, that would call for posting the colors. Weekly events would probably warrant pre-posted colors at the least or presenting the colors only.

The Show-n-Go. This is the honor guard term for presenting the colors for an informal/semi-formal event. The colors are pre-posted on the stage/front of the room and the color team enters, presents (Anthem), and then departs. No posting.

With the Show-n-Go, the colors do not matter. As long as the American flag pre-posted, the color team can present whatever they carry as their standard colors (American, State, etc.).

How to Enter

The standard entrance is to enter from the viewer’s right, present to the audience (then post) and depart. See the image above.

To enter from the viewer’s left, use Every Left On. Also, read this article.

Every Left On

How to Exit

The standard exit is to the viewer’s left. See the standard entrance/departure image above.

To exit to the viewer’s right, use Every Left Off. The commander calls, “Step!” and the left rifle guard steps across, as close as possible to the team member on their left. Step any further away and the departure for the team looks terrible.

Color Guard Left Exit

Presenting with the Pledge

The color team moves into position as normal, but the team does not execute Present Arms. The audience recites the Pledge at the prompting of the master of ceremonies. A member of the color guard does not being or recite the Pledge. You are at Attention and that requires silence except for commands.

NOTE: The Pledge and National Anthem DO NOT go together. It’s one or the other. DO not use both. If you do not have the ability to sing or play the Star Spangled Banner, then reciting the pledge is appropriate (except for military organizations- military in uniform do not recite the Pledge, they remain at Attention).

Entering and Departing to Music

Music is not mandatory. If you are going to have music, it is best that it be live. If not, a recording can sound quite unprofessional. The standard entrance and exit music for presenting/posting the colors is the Trio section of the National Emblem march by Edwin Eugene Bagley. Here is the YouTube video of the USAF Heritage Band playing the march. The link begins the video at the Trio section. This tempo is about 120 SPM (steps per minute). For the colors, you want a tempo of about 90 SPM.

When to Retire/Retrieve the Colors

Retrieving the colors is reserved for the extra, extra formal occasions. Do not retire the colors for weekly or even monthly meetings. Retirement is for very formal galas or balls. Use the posting sequence in reverse.

  1. Enter
  2. Halt in front of and facing audience
  3. Color bearers retrieve colors and rejoin guards
  4. Present Arms for a few seconds (flags do not dip)
  5. Port Arms
  6. Depart

The Colors Reverse and Counter March How-to

DrillMaster Ask DrillMaster, Color Guard/Color Team, Honor Guard, Honor Guard Training, Instructional Leave a Comment

We can read in the Army Training Circular (and the Marine Corps Order) how to execute the move and even see the provided diagram, but it sometimes really helps to see exactly what the feet do. The Colors Reverse, called Counter March in the Marine Corps, Navy, and Coast Guard, turns the team around 180 degrees without executing a wheel movement.


Remember: Service color guards, by regulation, must carry, at a minimum, the American flag and the service flag. Teams are not authorized to replace the service flag.


Colors Reverse

(9 Feb 18) The following diagram shows the Training Circular states for the commander. Facing as in Marching is only for the commander when the move is called at the halt.

The OFFICIAL WORD from HQ Army JROTC is (not a quote):

The only position to execute a Facing as in Marching (Face-in-March) is the colors commander and that is only from the halt. Everyone else executes a flank. The whole team executes flanks when the command is called while marching. Flanks, not Facing as in Marching.


Counter March

The command is given from the halt, while marching or marking time. If given while marching, the command is on two consecutive left steps.

During the movement, the team’s steps will not be exactly half or whole, they will be just a little less to make proper distance and alignment.

ALL STEPS ARE AT THE SAME PACE FOR YOUR SERVICE! Whether you are marching forward at a full step, half step or marching in place, DO NOT SPEED UP, maintain the same tempo all of the time. Use a metronome app on your phone.

NOTE: If you have to take extra steps, that is acceptable!


  • RRG- Right Rifle Guard
  • US- US Color Bearer
  • SVS- Service Color Bearer
  • LRG- Left Rifle Guard

For the Right Rifle Guard

The RRG takes steps on the outside of the team, LRG moves inside these footprints. The steps that lead from the team, should be just large enough to bring the guard on the outside of the AZ and LRG and no farther or you will take forever to make it back to the team. Make your steps as equally spaced as possible for all three sets of steps (from, across, and to the team), but do not make all of your steps equal- only within each set. Begin Mark Time when you get in place.

For the US Bearer

The US Color Bearer, in place(!), executes a Left Face-in-March (not facing movements!), take two steps to move into the place where the SVS Bearer stood, executes a Right Flank-in-Place*, and begins marking time.

*There really isn’t a term such as that, I just made it up to illustrate that you do not move forward on this flank.

For the SVS Bearer

The SVS Color Bearer takes a half step forward, flanks, takes two almost half steps, flanks, takes a step forward and then takes up Mark Time.

For the Left Rifle Guard

LRG does the same thing as the SVS Color Bearer following right behind and then taking two more steps, a flank and a step forward, and then begin Mark Time.


Take the above information and put it into this setting: Colors Reverse, MARCH, is called on two consecutive left steps (Counter March, MARCH ends on the left foot in the Marine Corps style).

The First Right Step: US Bearer executes an immediate Right Flank, takes one step forward into the AZ bearer’s position and begins marking time while turning 90-degrees in place to the left.

The Next Left Step: SVS Bearer and LRG execute a Left Flank, march across, and flank into their positions, just like the technique outlined above in the From the Halt section.

The Next Right Step: RRG executes a Right Flank, takes one step forward, marches across, and and flanks into position, just like the technique outlined above in the From the Halt section.

And finally, the image from the Army Training Circular for the four-man color guard.


How to Shape a Beret

DrillMaster Ask DrillMaster, Drill Teams, Honor Guard, Instructional Leave a Comment


How do you shape a beret?

I’m glad yo asked!

First: Cut out the lining.

Second: Cut the cardboard so that it is just a small arch about 2 or 3 inches across the bottom so that whatever device you wear fits nicely.

Third: Put on your beret and make sure it (the leather band around the bottom) is as parallel to the ground as you can get it with the cardboard centered over your left eye. Make a fold of the material that starts right nest to the cardboard and goes toward your right ear. This fold should not cover any of the area where your device will rest. Tie the ribbon so that the beret fits your head snugly. Some cut the ribbon, others just tuck it under the beret.

Fourth: Take a shower with your new beret on and get it soaking wet with hot water as soon as you enter the shower. Make sure you form it like I explained above while it is wet and the steam is getting to it. Let it drip dry ON YOUR HEAD. Don’t take it off until it is almost completely dry- or completely dry if you can stand it that long. You can also use a mannequin head if you have one.

Fifth: Let it sit flat overnight so that the fold can hang over the side of a table or whatever flat surface it is on to make sure it is totally dry. It should look like the Duke’s beret in the picture above; that picture is the standard.

Now your beret is ready to wear!

Note: some people suggest shaving the beret to get rid of all of the fuzz on it. You can do that, but it tends to look a little strange and sometimes even get a slight shine. Also, if the beret has tiny tab at the top in the middle, cut it off.

The Ribbon
Tie it so that the beret fits snugly on your head and then fold it up underneath the beret. You can cut the excess ribbon, but don’t make it too short to tuck underneath!