How To Present the Colors at an Event

DrillMasterColor Guard/Color Team, Honor Guard, Honor Guard Training, Instructional 33 Comments

You really should read the article, All About the Color Guard, first. Actually, that will probably lead you on a good rabbit trail into the Why of the Color Guard series as well, plus more.

I was talking with one of the JROTC instructors at one of the local high schools where I teach in the afternoons and he was relaying the story of their color guard presenting the colors for a professional ball club and how the training I gave the team really helped since it provided the cadets and the instructors with a repertoire of moves from which they could choose to make their colors presentation look as professional as possible. Then it hit me- I really need to write an article about this! Yes, all of this information is in my book, The Honor Guard Manual, but, I really want to get this information out as far and wide as possible- as I always say, “Education is key”!

For the announcers: here is a great article on what to announce for the different situations announcers may encounter. Click here for the article, P.A. Announcement: Color/Honor Guard.

UPDATE: Which way does the team face? A cadet contacted me on Instagram asking about the proper direction to face for presenting the colors. That is an excellent question! Below, the images concentrate mainly on professional events where the team must hit a certain mark for the TV cameras. However, there are high school and college games that come into question, although many college games, if not all, are probably on the same level of a professional event with TV cameras.


I appreciate why a team would face an end zone from the opposite end zone instead of facing only the home team stands and fully support that thinking, this is exactly what my color guard used to do while I was drum major of my high school band. Doing it is very appropriate, here’s why: it’s a game, not a war. Yes, I understand that some may build a sport up to the level of “doing battle on the field”, but it’s not even close. The other team is not made up of enemies. The other side of the field or court is full of spectators: parents and grandparents who are out to see their student play his or her heart out. Everyone is there to support their team and enjoy the sport. Facing only one side does not create a sense of mutual respect.

Sporting Events

There are a couple (at least) different ways to enter, position, and exit a sports field. Some, provide a unique “problem” on how to accomplish the ceremony while keeping the flag in the primary spot (to the marching right or in front). Once you read this, you will not encounter any more “problems”.

Below I have created images to illustrate the different ways to enter and exit the different fields you may come across. If it is a professional sport, your team will have a certain spot to hit at a certain time while facing a certain direction for the TV camera all coordinated with the timing for the broadcast.

Do you need to find out how to execute the moves mentioned above (e.g. Every Left On/Off, etc.)? Get these books that will explain everything for you (click on the title):

The Honor Guard Manual

DrillMaster’s Color Guard Coach’s Field Manual

Basketball Court

Basketball Colors Presentation

Entrance from the viewer’s left. For this setup, the team would form up in column formation and wait. At their cue, they would march forward, round their corner to the right at the corner of the court, and at the center line, execute Every Left On, to rearrange the team for the presentation. The team may wait at the back of the court and again wait for another cue, or continue to march forward once in line formation and hit their mark for the presentation. An alternate to this is rounding the corner at the key and executing Every Left On at center court.

The same principles apply for Baseball and Football.

Baseball Diamond

Entrance from the viewer’s right. For this setup, the team marches out to the pitcher’s mound, or behind second base in single file, picks up Mark Time at a predetermined spot, and executes a Colors Turn-On. The farther back the team, the more audience is able to see the team from the front, but also begins to look smaller.

The exit would then be either a Colors Turn-Off to exit to the viewer’s left, or Every Left Off to retrace the path of entry.

Baseball Colors Presentation

The Football layout is similar to the Basketball layout.

Football/Soccer Field

In this example, the team only faces the home team side. The team could form in line formation, march forward and stop at the 20 yard line and thereby present the colors to most of both sides of the stadium. This does not work for all stadiums, just something to consider.

Football Colors Presentations

Ice Hockey, however, is a little different. Notice the Big difference in carpet positioning at the beginning.

Ice Hockey Rink

Ice Hockey Colors Presentation to the Right

The first setup involves entering, traveling down the carpet and presenting to the right. This involves Every Left On. To exit from here, the team execute a Colors Turn-Off.

Ice Hockey Colors Presentation to the Left

The second setup involves traveling down the carpet and presenting to the left. This involves Colors Turn-On. To exit from here, the team execute Every Left Off beginning with the Right Rifle/Axe Guard.

The “T” Matt

Every once in a while I receive a question or a comment about a unique colors presentation predicament that makes me think for a couple of minutes. This is one and here’s my suggestion for a couple of ways to enter and exit.

If you need to split for a singer, entering in a Column of Twos is probably going to be your best option.

If you don’t need to split, entering in a single column, hitting the left side of the mat to snake around into line helps the trail guard get into position much easier than having the team enter at the center and leaving the trail guard to move really quickly over to the side. The flags in the diagram are at an angle to help show the team.

Exiting can take the form of a Colors Turn (Army/AF) or Countermarch ((MC/N/CG) and then the lead/right rifle guard steps off and on the next left the US bearer steps off, and the rest of the team on subsequent left steps. Bringing the colors out of the harness socket to either Straight or Left Angle Port (rifles to Port as well) is a good idea since the color guard’s job is finished and the focus should no longer be on the team.

If you are split because of a singer, the singer needs to leave first so that you can maneuver with as much room as possible. The team faces inward, US and guard move first and wait for Other flag and guard, all steps off and leave in Column of Twos or single file. The flags in the diagram are at an angle to help show the team.

Comments 33

  1. We are doing our first Wreaths Across America in our town and I am the speaker/MC. The local VFW will be presenting the colors. If they are beside me at the start of the program I do not have to command that they present the colors? I’m guessing the only command I will have to give is to retire the colors at the end of the ceremony while Taps is played?

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      Mr. Flory,

      As the MC and at the appropriate time, you will say something like, “Ladies and gentlemen, please rise for the presentation (and posting) of the colors.” The color guard should enter, stop centered on the audience, face the audience, and the color guard commander will give “Present Arms” for the anthem to be sung or played. Once the anthem is over, the commander will give another command (there’s confusion out there, but they will go back to the position of Carry, most likely), have the team face and then march off. If posting the colors, they will move to post, reform, and depart. Once the color guard is out of view (within reason, your best estimate) of the audience, then you can say, “Please be seated.” The rest of your ceremony can take place.

      If the ceremony is outside, it’s best not to post colors, just have the team come in, present, and go. If it’s inside, posting is appropriate. If the colors are posted, then at the end of the ceremony, ask the audience to stand for the retiring of the colors and the sounding (not playing) of Taps. The team will retrieve the colors, move to stand facing the audience (just as when they entered), and go to Present. Taps is not sounded. When Taps is finished, the color guard will go to Carry and leave.


  2. Thank you so much for all the information! I work with marching band colorguards (dancing with flags, rifles, sabers, etc). For football games, if the marching band is on the field at the same time the honor guard is presenting, what is appropriate during the presentation for band drill/staging and colorguard flag positioning relative to the honor guard? Thank you!

    1. Post

      Hello Christina,

      It’s my pleasure to create content that others find helpful, I’m glad you do.

      FYI. For the marching band color guard, traditionally, the flags go to Present by dipping their flags forward (left hand holding the bottom of the pole at waist level centered on the torso, and the right hand on the pole at mouth level with the arm extended forward) and the weapons could use the military method (not really expected) or a respectful pose that you create (there’s nothing standard in the DCI/WGI/BOA community as far as I know).

      As for drill. I suggest your visual designer create a pregame show that allows the JROTC/ROTC color guard to enter from an agreed upon position that would allow the audience to focus on the colors as they are brought forward. The band could remain in place or close the formation behind the colors. Present Arms and the band begins to play. If I still wrote marching band drill, I’d get out my Pyware software and write an example (which might be a good idea…).

      Example 1: the colors could form on the away team sideline, facing the home sideline. The band and colors enter (together) and the pregame show begins. However, this can exclude the away side audience (they aren’t the enemy, just the opposing team). I just updated that portion of the article to make an alternate suggestion.

      I hope this is also helpful. If you need anything else, please let me know!


  3. We are having an Army JROTC military ball this coming Saturday, May 6th, for all Army JROTC high schools on Guam. The colors will be marching up the center of the aisle between tables (main ballroom floor) and stopping before the head table sitting at the top of the stage, and facing the ballroom and cadets (i.e., the ballroom floor is looking at the head table and the head table is looking at the cadets). Should the colors face the audience (cadets) or the head table (senior guest) when the national anthem, territorial anthem, and Army song are played? NOTE:
    The majority of the audience is the cadets on the main ballroom floor (about 300), and if the color guard is facing the head table, the color guards backs will be facing the majority of the audience.

    1. Post

      LTC Paul,

      The information you need is in TC 3-21.5, beginning with paragraph 15-24.

      With a head table, the team faces it. Without a head table, the team faces the audience.

      All my best to everyone attending the ball!


    1. Post

      Mr. Null,

      A colors presentation does not involve the team moving at all. The color guard moves to a predetermined location, stops, presents the colors, and then departs. Eyes right is never part of this, ever.

      Eyes right is for a parade or review, not a colors presentation. However, to answer your question, Eyes Right for the Army, Air Force, and Space Coast, the national color bearer turns his head. For the Marine Corps, Navy, and Coast Guard, the national color bearer does not turn his head.


  4. Hello, I tried to read all of the questions and comments and they did help me. I have a group of high school Boys Scout presenting and posting the Colors for a Veterans day school assembly. I will have 7 flags (USA, Army, Marines, Navy, Air Force, Cost Guard, and POW/MIA) in order of appearance with the US flag on the right side. You mentioned that there should also be guards. Should I just have the two guard just walking along side, no rifles? I think you mentioned something like that in one of your responses. Should they also carry the Boys Scout flag or are the Armed Forces flags sufficient?

    1. Post


      I appreciate your question. Your scout color guard can have unarmed guards or no guards at all. Please do not carry the POW/MIA flag. That is not carried in a color guard. It should be posted in the stand to the viewer’s right of the American flag before the ceremony begins. Bring in the American and US military service flags and post them. The scout organization flag would not be appropriate with the others.

      For more information on why it is placed in that position, please read,


  5. Thank you, for this excellent information. I have a protocol question at an event, does the presentation of colors in order go 1st always? Can an opening prayer go before? Appreciate your service and the info you provided

    1. Post


      The standard for US military is to present the colors and then have the chaplain step forward for the prayer. No matter the situation, the colors are presented first either to the public or to the honor guard (e.g., before the funeral) if there won’t be a formal public presentation.


      1. Can enlisted command the Honor Guard to present the colors at a military event or does it always have to be an officer? Thank you.

        1. Post


          To ensure we are on the same page, an honor guard is a unit that consists of ceremonial elements of which color guard is one. Officers command honor guards, enlisted command elements. The Colors Sgt bears the national colors and commands the team. The US Army has an option for the battalion SGM to command from outside the team but that is only for certain military parades (pass-in-review) and a formal dining-in/out. All other times, the Colors Sgt commands the team.

  6. I have a variation on the snake mat scenario without a singer. How would you handle a situation where the center aisle only allows for single file column entrance and no front space to snake around to ensure the flag order remains correct. Basically, how do you avoid an inverted line formation in this situation?

    1. Post
  7. When presenting, or posting the colors on a stage, what is the protocol for the placement of the official party in terms of the colors being presented with the official party behind the flag?

    1. Post

      This is a unique situation. Army Training Circular 3-21.5 states that the color guard faces the official party and then posts the colors (or the team can depart). If there is a stage, it sounds like the presentation should be accomplished off and in front of the stage and then the team can go onto the stage to post. I hope this helps.

    1. Post

      Taps should be played at a funeral or at lights out. It is also common at remembrance ceremonies. Anyone in uniform in the vicinity of hearing the music should render a hand salute or execute Present Arms. All veterans are authorized to salute when out of uniform per the 2000 NDAA, however, the Marine Corps does not authorize the hand salute when in civies (hand over heart instead).

      1. I am an Air Force veteran. I attend lots of events where the National Anthem is played or the colors are presented. I normally wear a hat. I always salute the flag wearing my hat. Is this wrong? If I take my hat off (indoors), I place my hand over my heart.

        1. Post

          Mr Madigan,

          In the National Defense Act of the early 2000s, all veterans were authorized to render the hand salute. You and I would follow the same procedures as when in uniform as you have stated here. You are not wrong.


    1. Post

      Mr. Kickham,
      Great question! The answer is, it depends.

      Rifles are mandatory because they are shown in all three service drill and ceremonies manuals. That means Active Duty, Guard, Reserve, veteran organizations, and all cadet organizations must carry rifles. This also includes law enforcement teams.

      There are very few exceptions and they are: 1) All scout programs, including Sea Scouts, do not allow members to carry rifles at any time and 2) when presenting or posting the colors, rifles are not carried.

      Firefighters and Sea Scouts use the ceremonial pike pole for the guards except Ina church setting.

      1. Drill Master, from a previous post:

        **Rifles are mandatory because they are shown in all three service drill and ceremonies manuals. That means Active Duty, Guard, Reserve, veteran organizations, and all cadet organizations must carry rifles. This also includes law enforcement teams.

        There are very few exceptions and they are: 1) All scout programs, including Sea Scouts, do not allow members to carry rifles at any time and 2) when presenting or posting the colors, rifles are not carried.

        Firefighters and Sea Scouts use the ceremonial pike pole for the guards except Ina church setting.**

        We are a Scottish American Veterans Organization (US & British Commonwealth Active duty and Veterans) and with our Color and Honor Guards, we typically use one or two sword bearers to escort the flags. Most commonly we use the Scottish Basket Hilted Sword, as this is a sidearm commonly associated with the Scottish Highlanders and our heritage. Would we be considered an exception to the rule?

        Thank you.

        1. Post
  8. When marching, is the American flag always on the right of any other flag? Also when posting the flag in a gym setting for a program, should the American flag always be on the right as the audience is looking at it?

    1. Post

      Mr. Consbruck,
      Yes, the American flag is always on the marching right when the color guard is in line formation and in the front when the team is in column formation. No other flag is to its right or in front here in the USA. We can get into service peculiarities when overseas, if you require that information.

      As for the position of the flag in a seated audience situation, it should be to the audience’s left, which is stage right, in line with or behind the speaker.

  9. Hi! I have an event next week. We will be presenting the colors (only US Flag) ~ in the program it says “Present the Colors”. Is this correct?

    Also I have only one person carrying the flag in. I read that we need to have a person on each side of him ~ is this correct? this is a civilian event. Should I ask someone from our local police department and our sheriff’s office? Is he ok to walk alone?

    Thank you!!

    1. Post

      Hi Leslie,

      Glad we were able to get the details taken care of through email! Guards are not mandatory, it depends on the era the team represents, if they Scouts, and a couple other details.

      All the best to you for the ceremony!

    2. What were the replies to the questions?

      What is the proper wording to say?
      1 Army person bringing in the flag.
      A person will lead us in the Pledge of Allegiance

      Please answer the questions

      1. Post

        Ms. Nelson,

        You commented on my website at 10:30 pm and again at 10:23 pm Eastern Time. I do not stay on top of comments 24 hours a day, I hope you understand that I answer questions as I find time in my schedule. I’ll address each question you presented.

        Your first question: What were the replies to the questions?

        My answer: What questions are you talking about?

        Your next question: What is the proper wording to say? 1 Army person bringing in the flag. A person will lead us in the Pledge of Allegiance.

        My answer: The proper wording for what? The “Army person” entering with the flag?

        The “Army person” is a Soldier and the Soldier will formally present the American flag. The wording for the announcement (“please rise” etc.) is in the article above. The individual who will lead the audience in the Pledge can then say what is also in the article above (“join me” etc.).


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