Following the Army’s Drill Manual for all Services

DrillMasterColor Guard/Color Team, Instructional 14 Comments

MacAruther Color Guard Dipping Cased ColorFYI: this article is about JROTC colors in a competition only. Competitions don’t reflect “real life” colors presentations. But competitions do offer a great opportunity to hone some great skills.

The JROTC units from the Marines, Navy Air Force, and Coast Guard all have something in common- they all have to follow the Army Drill and Ceremonies Manual, Training Circular (TC) 3-21.5 at some point for competition. But where does MCOP 5060.20 and  AFM 36-2203 end and the TC begin? Good question! Let’s explore this.

Read also, The Case for Cased Flags and Colors.

One thing before we begin, you don’t dip a cased color. Just like you don’t salute a cased color. It’s cased, put away.

If you are in Army JROTC, you don’t need to know any of the following, although it may be interesting.

Competitive Color Guard

For the colors sequence that has the team uncase and then case the colors, there are some Army movements and some service movements (from the MCOP or AFM) that teams follow. That may sound confusing, but let’s look at the sequence and break it down move-by-move to see what we are talking about, specifically.

A= Army
M= Marines, Navy and Coast Guard
AF= Air Force


A– Color bearers, right hand in front of mouth grasping staff, left hand on harness cup/socket. Guards at Right Shoulder
M– Add Ready, Cut. Guards at outboard shoulder. Left hand on staff directly underneath right hand only if windy.
AF– Color bearers right hand on staff at shoulder level, attention and marching have left arm at side, not on harness socket. There isn’t a command in the AFMAN for this, however. Left hand on harness socket only if windy. Guards at Outside Shoulder (see MCO for rifle techniques).


A– Guards swing arms, team marches at Close Interval (4″-6″).
M– No arm swing, team marches at Close Interval.
AF– No arm swing, team marches at Close Interval.


All services follow the TC


A/AF– Follow TC
M– Follow MCO.


A– Follow TC in technique as closely as possible, but there isn’t a standard set in the manual to go from Right Shoulder to Sling.
M/AF– Follow MCO in technique as closely as possible, but there isn’t a standard set in the manual to go from Right Shoulder to Sling.


All services’ rifle guards follow the TC. For the color bearers, the technique used to bring the staff to horizontal must match your service’s guidon salute technique! This means M must bring the staff to Order (no trim/strip) and bring it up to horizontal and A/AF must follow their arm and hand positions as outlined in their manuals.


A/AF– Follow TC.
M– Follow MCO.

11. POST

A/AF– Follow TC.
M– Follow MCO in technique for guards.


Read here for an idea of what to say.

A/AF– Request to enter the Field/Area/Floor.
M– Request to enter the Deck.



A/AF– Follow TC.
M– Follow MCO

16. LEFT WHEEL (Fwd)

All services follow the TC


A/AF– Follow TC.
M– Follow MCOP.

18. HALT

A/AF– Follow TC
M– Follow MCO.


A/AF– Follow TC
M– Follow MCO to include trimming/stripping the colors.


All services follow their manual.

Next the team is called to Attention and the sequence continues. I think you get the idea of what is going on. There are little subtleties that each service must identify as their own and stick to them. One subtlety is Mark Time. Each service has a slightly different explanation as to how to execute this movement:

A- Toes come two inches off the marching surface.
M– Toes come two inches and heels four inches off the deck.
AF– Toes come four inches off the marching surface.

So, we see that all is not just one or the other. If you are not aware of the nuances, then your team is not performing at its optimal and that’s not a good thing.

Comments 14

  1. Drill Master, I have a question. During the Armed SQD competitions the sequence calls for the caller to command Port Arms while marching then, Double time March, Quick time March, Rear March. In that sequence the caller should be at Port Arms NOT Sling Arms correct? Now if that is true when does the caller go to Port Arms and when does she go back to Sling Arms?

    1. Post

      Great question!

      I made this into an article.

      Paragraph 4-26 of TC 3-21.5 (addressing only marching) has several bullet points that explain Double Time. The second bullet has this parenthetical guidance: “When armed, Soldiers will come to Port Arms on receiving the preparatory command of Double Time.” And then we read the Note, which tells us that troops must be at Port before the command is called. That leaves the commander position up in the air. Both of these together don’t make sense.

      Paragraphs 5-2 (M4) and B-1 (M16 Appendix) have bullet points that state “The command Port, ARMS must be given before the command for Double Time.”

      Paragraph 5-17 (M4) has a bullet that states “All individual and unit drill movements can be executed at Sling Arms except Double Time, Stack Arms, and Fix and Unfix Bayonets, which are executed from Order Arms.”

      Paragraph E-18 (Sword/Saber Manual Appendix) states “E-18. Port Arms (see figure E-10) is executed on the preparatory command Double Time of the command Double Time, MARCH.”

      Only those in charge of a formation are armed with a sword/saber. Movement to Port with the sword is an indication to me that the commander of the formation who is at Sling, should then bring the rifle to Port on the preparatory command.

      Nothing indicates when to return to Sling or even Carry for the commander carying a sword. So, that decision is left up to us and that means a judge cannot complain about your decision. My suggestion is to move to Sling as soon as the team as back at Quick Time just before the Column Left, which comes very quickly.

      I hope this is helpful.

  2. Didn’t AFMAN change so now the Air Force Color Bearer puts left hand at shoulder level (they changes text to match the picture they had, and the picture doesn’t even look like they are at Close Interval)? I think the Air Force JROTC Nationals judge using the Army TC standards, so at competitions should we simply perform using that? I have never been to an AFJROTC drill comp where the Rifles are on opposite sides (both to outside as shown in AFMAN). Thanks for any suggestions since it is still confusing.

    1. Post

      AFMAN 36-2203 (2013) does not show a change (Left hand on the staff, it’s a mistake. If it was a change, it would be announced as such.
      You don’t often see AFJROTC teams following the AFMAN because they are forced to march the TC or they don’t read their manuals, or both.

      1. Thank you sir. I am looking in AFMAN 36-2203 (19 Jun 2018) page 96. If we are not given any restrictions in a drill comp, I assume we should follow AFMAN? If so, is that picture wrong, ie not showing proper close interval? And I assume you would go rifles on the outside as you mention above? Thanks again for all you do.

        1. Post

          I don’t have access to the 2018 PDF version of the manual, unfortunately, so I am unable to answer your question about the image. Yes, I suggest following the AFMAN when you do not have restrictions.

          1. 7.33.2. Positions of the Flag at the Carry. At the carry, the ferrule of the staff rests in the socket of the sling. The flag bearer grasps the staff with the left hand at the height of the shoulder, only using the right hand to steady the staff in a strong wind. The staff is inclined slightly to the front. The flagbearer comes to the carry when the adjutant directs GIVE YOUR GROUPS PRESENT ARMS (Figure 7.10.).
            Figure 7.10 looks the same.

          2. Post
          3. Yes sir, that and the inconsistent/inaccurate pictures are a reason I would like to simply follow the TC. It appears to be more detailed and consistent.

          4. Post
    1. Post
  3. Drillmaster, could you please help me out? In which drill manual can you find that Marines are supposed to go shoulder to shoulder for a forward march? I can´t find it in the MCO.

    1. Post

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *