How to Start an Honor Guard
“We can’t just say we’re an honor guard.” Sure you can, why not? However, it is a little more involved than that. Besides deciding to do it, if you are in civil service: the fire service, EMS, Border Patrol, detention or law enforcement, you will need certain permissions from supervision. Most likely, you will be able to obtain these with relative ease, but the issue comes to the bottom line: $$. Many honor guard fund raise with all kinds of activities. You will need an initial outlay of at least a couple thousand dollars.
If you are in the military, the process is a little more complicated, but it is doable. Much more coordination is necessary and research into what is available at any military installation nearby. In any case, do your research!
You will need to think of what types of ceremonies you will be involved in. Mainly colors presentations and parades? You will need a minimum of 4 members for a color team (2 colors and 2 weapons/tools). Do you see funerals in the future? (6 pall bearers, 4 [min] firing party, 4 on colors). Note: pall bearers can perform double duty as firing party.
This is your first consideration after you have your membership taken care of. The right equipment is mandatory, obviously. Take a look at this article, DrillMaster Recommends: for a Color Team, for my thoughts on what an honor guard color team needs as far as equipment.
Just like membership, you will also need to think of the ceremonies you will be in: funerals? You need to obtain a casket (use sandbags in it), a wood platform to practice with to take the place of the hearse/caisson (or use a firetruck) and either another wood platform that is much lower or a mock up just like the ones used at cemeteries. You can also use a bier which is sometimes called a rolling device, truck or church truck.
This is a very important consideration that comes next. The DrillMaster offers the DrillMaster Honor Guard Academy (40-hour and 80-hour) and the DrillMaster Honor Guard Clinic (16-hour). You can also develop your own training program by using the only published honor guard manual for training police, law enforcement, emergency medical and military honor guard units, The Honor Guard Manual.
You should also track your team’s training, which can be accomplished through the complete system contained in The Honor Guard Manual. As a matter of fact, here is the PDF document that I created to track training. It mirrors the USAF’s paper-based training documentation (I would like to make this system digital one day- working). Go ahead, download and use it. I hope that it helps your team and that, if you haven’t already, you might pick up a copy of The Honor Guard Manual in support of my efforts. I’d rather see a trained honor guard than one that only has a little bit of knowledge.
This is your last consideration, if at all. Distinctive unit honor guard uniforms, if the team chooses to go that route, what are you going to look like? The team will need some sort of dress uniform and a way to identify that this uniform belongs to an honor guard member (badge, patch, aiguillette, etc.). Military cap? Bell cap? Marine Corps-type uniform? Military-type uniform? Single- or double-breasted blouse (jacket)? What kinds of buttons? White shirt? Boots or low quarters? The Lighthouse Uniform Company is a great place to start. To minimize costs, I suggest keeping the department’s Class A uniform and adding an Honor Guard arc, double-line name tag and/or a shoulder cord or aiguillette.
The picture at right is me in my “DrillMaster Ceremonial Uniform.” Read the article, “Your Uniform Makes me Uncomfortable” for a complete explanation of the uniform’s accouterments. It may give you some ideas as to what you would like for your uniform.
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