An Embarrassing Color Guard Performance

DrillMasterAsk DrillMaster, Color Guard/Color Team, Honor Guard Training, Instructional 2 Comments

I created this article for two reasons:

  1. Help deflect questions that usually arise and come my way. The questions go something like this: “Can we do this/[is this proper] for our color guard?”
  2. Communicate to everyone, even Active Duty, Guard, Reserve, law enforcement, and firefighters that what you do is usually caught on camera and/or video and affects others in some way and that is communicating that ‘they must know what they are doing, so we can do it too’.

I am not writing this to lambast anyone. It’s all about educating. Bad Navy Colors2I reposted the picture at right on my Instagram page from the Yankees baseball team page. In the comments of that picture on my account, you can read comments from an individual who tears into me for pointing out the huge mistakes saying that I should “punish in private, etc.”. While that is a great rule to follow, there are dozens of JROTC cadets and even members of the military who ask me questions all the time about pictures just like this. See Reason 1, at the top.

Yogi Berra just passed (25 Sep 15) and the team paid their respects having a Navy Reserve color team from the NOSC (Naval Operational Support Center, NYC) come to present the colors since Mr. Berra was a Sailor. It was a great ceremony and everyone can give kudos to the Sailors there to present the colors, their hearts were in the right place. However… Their technique mars the performance and heart does not come into it!

If we dissect the top picture, we see the problems:

  1. The colors are in the incorrect order
  2. The right rifle guard is at Reverse Port, which is not authorized for a color team
  3. The left rifle guard is in a different position from the other- but she is the only one who is correct!
  4. The color bearer’s left hands should be at their sides since there isn’t much of a breeze.

Bad Navy ColorsIn this next picture, courtesy of, we get a closer look and find even more that is wrong.

  1. The color bearers’ right-hand grips are incorrect
  2. Now both rifle guards are at Reverse Port, which is again, not authorized for a color team

How did this happen? One very plausible theory is that not one of the Sailors cracked open MCO P5060.20, the Marine Corps drill and ceremonies manual that the Navy and Coast Guard also follow. They may have been taught what to do- maybe even last-minute, buy another Sailor.

This reflects poorly on the military. During my career in the USAF, we always heard the phrase, “As an NCO*, you should [fill in the blank].” NCO is Non-Commissioned Officer which is the equivalent of PO or Petty Officer, which each of these Sailors seem to be. We can see the ranks of two PO1s and one PO2. The rifle in the second picture blocks the US color bearer’s rank.

We NCOs/POs are experts in drill and ceremonies. I get it, our day-to-day jobs probably do not allow those in today’s military to march and practice as often as we would like unless assigned to a specialized unit. Preparation and knowledge are the keys to successful performances. But, we know this already. So, these egregious mistakes in this instance are inexcusable.

Comments 2

  1. None of the sailors in the pictures are Petty Officer 1st Classes. There are two Petty Officer 3rd Classes and one Petty Officer 2nd Class (and then the one whose rank isn’t visible). I am in NJROTC in South Carolina and know my Navy ranks and rates thoroughly. Just wanted to help you out.

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