The Colors Reverse and Counter March How-to

DrillMaster Ask DrillMaster, Color Guard/Color Team, Honor Guard, Honor Guard Training, Instructional 5 Comments

We can read in the Army Training Circular (and the Marine Corps Order) how to execute the move and even see the provided diagram, but it sometimes really helps to see exactly what the feet do. The Colors Reverse, called Countermarch in the Marine Corps, Navy, and Coast Guard, turns the team around 180 degrees without executing a wheel movement.


Take the above information and put it into this setting: Colors Reverse, MARCH, is called on two consecutive left steps (Countermarch, MARCH ends on the left foot in the Marine Corps style) while marching forward, marking time, or while at the halt. Your tempo NEVER changes, it must remain the same no matter what step you are taking.


When called from the halt, all services go right into the move, no preparation steps.

Whether you are marching forward at a full step, half step or marching in place, DO NOT SPEED UP, maintain the same tempo all of the time. Use a metronome app on your phone.

Remember: Service color guards, by regulation, must carry, at a minimum, the American flag and the service flag. Teams are not authorized to replace the service flag.

Colors Reverse (Army and AF)

  • RRG- Right Rifle Guard
  • US- US Color Bearer
  • SVS- Service Color Bearer
  • LRG- Left Rifle Guard

I’m reworking the diagrams. The Face-in-March is not what the Army must execute, it’s flanks for all pivots, just like the Countermarch, below.

Countermarch (MC, N, & CG)

The command is given from the halt, while marching or marking time. If given while marching, the command is on two consecutive left steps.

During the movement, the team’s steps will not be exactly half or whole, they will be just a little less to make proper distance and alignment.

  • RRG- Right Rifle Guard
  • US- US Color Bearer
  • SVS- Service Color Bearer
  • LRG- Left Rifle Guard

Outside Flanks.” For the Fleet and cadets: you are not authorized to execute Countermarch using inside flanks, like the color guard of Marine Barracks Washington. You must execute standard flanking movements, “Outside Flanks”, where you pivot on the outside foot, the opposite foot of the direction you are going.

The Marine Corps’ Counter March for the Color Guard can be somewhat of a mystery. Why? The guiding directive, MCO 5060.20 is not as crystal clear as one would like.

Before we continue: “If a female is part of the color guard she wears trousers and not a skirt, for uniformity. When designating the uniform for the color guard, consideration should be given to the effect that the color bearers’ slings may have on ribbons and badges. Slings are adjusted so that the colors are the same height when at the carry or, if this isn’t possible, the national colors are slightly higher than the organizational colors. If necessary, have the senior color bearer slightly taller than the organizational color bearer. All members of the color guard wear the pistol belt (white belt if in blues [yes, even the female members -DM]); the color bearers wear the pistol belt over the sling to keep the sling firmly in place. If the color guard is wearing the service cover, then they use two chinstraps. One is worn normally and the second one is worn under the chin.

“All colors carried by the color guard are attached to staffs of equal height. The standard color staff consists of a 9 1/2-foot, hardwood pole capped at each end by metal ferrules. The use of the all-metal staff is only authorized for Marine Barracks, Washington, DC. A metal spearhead screws into the top of the staff.”

Alignment of the color guard members. The text and pictures* do not match in the manual. “The color guard is formed and marches in one rank at Close Interval with the color bearers in the center. While marching, members of the color guard do not swing their free arms. “

*Some of the pictures are of Marines attached to the honor guard in DC and thereby show hand positions that are not authorized for the rest of the Fleet and JROTC units: knuckles horizontal when at attention and index finger pointed to the ground when using the strong grip on a flagstaff.

Counter March text from the manual


1. The command is “Countermarch, MARCH.” It may be executed while halted, marking time, or marching. When marking time or marching, the command of execution “MARCH” is given as the left foot strikes the deck. When this command is given while marking time or marching, the color guard will take one more 2-inch vertical step in place or one more 30-inch step forward with the right foot before starting the half steps for this movement. If executed from the halt, the color guard will immediately begin the designated steps starting with the left foot. (See figure 7-18.)

Counter March

2. The national color bearer pivots to the left [a Face-in-March works, so does marking time, stepping to the left and turning in place. DM], moving into the position formerly occupied by the organizational color bearer, facing the new direction of march and begins marking time.

3. The organizational color bearer takes one-half step forward, pivots to the right outside the national color bearer, moving into the position formerly occupied by the national color bearer, facing the new direction of march and begins marking time.

4. The right color guard takes two half-steps forward, pivots to the left, outside the organizational color bearer, moving into the position formerly occupied by the left color guard, facing the new direction of march and begins marking time.

5. The left color guard takes three half-steps forward, pivots to the right outside the right color guard, moving into the position formerly occupied by the right color guard, facing the new direction of march and begins marking time.

6. Upon completion of this movement, the entire color guard marks time until it is halted or until it receives the command “Forward, MARCH” or “Colors, HALT.”

Notice that in the description above the pivot foot is not necessarily indicated. One can then assume that a pivot on the outside or inside foot is appropriate. Also, even though step counts are given, it does not mean those counts are when the pivots must take place.

Take a look at this video and see what I mean about the pivots happening on the inside (right rifle guard) and outside (MC color bearer and left rifle guard) feet and step counts- all team members take three steps and pivot on that third step. Start at 3:46 to see just the Counter March performed twice.

NOTE: JROTC units are not authorized to execute Mirror Present (as shown in the video) from outboard shoulders, that is an 8th and I technique only. The same with the inside flanks. Everyone outside of Marine Barracks Washington must use standard flanking movements.

Also, notice that the Marines glide as they march- this is proper marching technique and comes from using the hip, buttocks and leg muscles as they were meant to be used. Let us not forget the core muscles as well!

The text coupled with the video should help many in the MC, N & CG JROTC cadets better understand their responsibilities.

Comments 5

  1. For AF/Army is the video correct or am I looking at it wrong? I.E. The Army TC says the guards take one full and 3 half steps, but it looks like they do something different in video. Also, in the AF/Army foot diagrams, it looks like the RRG depicts one full and 3 half steps but the LRG doesn’t. Am I just not understanding it? Thanks for all you do and the great info and instruction you provide.

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      In the diagrams that I created, I do have the half and full steps indicated. There are separate diagrams. The foot placement diagrams did not enable me to indicate step size. Read everything there.

      1. Thank you sir. It looks like the RRG diagram is correct for Army/AF above? Looks like it depicts full step and and 3 half steps after face-in-marching. I have watched national drill comp videos for Color Guard and been to local drill comps, and none I have seen execute this as laid out. They simply do some flanks and no half steps anywhere. For them, it is easier to execute (easier to also stay on step with 4 people). I assume that not many people and judges really know what is correct for this movement?

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  2. Doesn’t the Army TC say the guards do one full and 3 half steps? In the video, it looks like they they do something a little different (so is what they do correctt?). In the AF/Army foot diagrams above, it looks like this is shown correctly for the RRG, but the LRG looks different than one full and 3 half steps. Am I looking at it all wrong? Thanks for all you do, and the great info you provide.

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