I’ve been asked this and similar questions before and I’d like to give you my best practices from my years working with honor guard units around the world.
How to Practice
If you have weekly or monthly practice for a couple of hours, make sure that the whole team is grounded and completely standardized in the basics:
- Standing Manual (everything you can accomplish while unarmed and standing still).
- Manual of Arms (rifle, pike pole and fire axe).
- Manual of the Flagstaff. You must ensure that all members have the exact same style in everything they do.
- Two-man Flag Fold (it’s a very good idea to have at least two members of the team consistently preparing for the inevitable).
Divide your team into 2 groups: trainees and trained/certified members. Beginners need to be introduced to the honor guard and briefed on how training is accomplished and tracked, the leadership of the team, etc. Veterans of the team need to practice for upcoming events and be given position assignments. Try to rotate positions so the team does not have just one or two people who can command a color team or fold a flag.
Training For a Full-Time Team
While your team needs 2 groups as well, one for trainees and one for trained members, the usual daily routine for your team will be at least one or two funeral run-throughs and then specific training for rotating team members through colors, flag fold, pall bearers and firing party. Ceremony-specific training will also be on the agenda for special requests received during the week.
For a complete delineation of honor guard training, see my book, The Honor Guard Manual. It lists and completely describes all aspects that an honor guard might perform.
A Note on Documenting Training
I spent my last 7 years on Active Duty with the USAF as a Unit Training Manager and became very familiar with the importance of tracking and documenting training. Whether you have purchased my book, The Honor Guard Manual, or not, download and print for all of your team members, the Honor Guard Training Record (see the Downloads page) that I developed that is based on the Manual. This record gives you an excellent way to keep track of who has received what training and when. It also tells you who the trainer was.
Some Helpful Downloads
Here are some documents that I created over the years to help with training, they may be of help for you and your team. Use them as is or change them to suit your needs. (Arlington Police photo)
Example Honor Guard Job Descriptions (Word documents)
- Equipment Custodian Duties
- Flight/Platoon Sgt Duties
- General Guidelines
- NCOIC Duties
- OIC Duties
- Scheduler Duties
- Trainer Duties
- Simple Training and Qualification Checklist (Something I created during my time on the Kadena Air Base Honor Guard)
- Thorough Training and Qualification List (Honor Guard Training Record)
OIC= Officer in Charge; NCOIC= Non-Commissioned Officer in Charge