All About the Color Guard

DrillMaster Ask DrillMaster, Color Guard, Color Guard/Color Team, Honor Guard, Instructional, Protocol and Flag 54 Comments

Please read this article very carefully. The following information is based in regulation drill. Much of the information directly relates to ceremonial unit color guards. Even though this is not about ceremonial drill (honor guard), color guards are ceremonial in nature and all must adhere to the standards.

Written in 2018, updated in 2022 for clarity.

Definitions

  • Military color guard. A uniformed Active Duty, National Guard, or Reserve color guard made up of a minimum of four members.
    • This then extends to all Veteran Service Organizations, First Responders, ROTC and JROTC cadets, Scouts, Explorers, and any other uniformed military or paramilitary organization. If you follow one of the three drill and ceremonies manuals, you then must abide by the other manuals that influence that D&C manual.
    • For first responders who follow the ceremonial aspects of The Honor Guard Manual, much of this applies, see also the Manual.
  • Flag, Silk, Colors, or Color. Different terms for the same thing.
  • American, US, Ensign, National Ensign. Terms for the American flag.
  • Color Guard and Color Team can be used interchangeably.

Who is Represented?

All Ceremonial Guardsmen have somewhere in their creed a line that states something to the affect of,

I represent all members past and present”.

The only way to view this information is to think, “Who does my team represent?” If you are in the military, a first responder, a JROTC or other cadet, the answer is easy- the uniform you wear is the service or profession you represent. Other organizations might not have it stated so clearly. I’ll help you with that.

A veteran organization, whether formal or not, wears a uniform. If most people not associated with the military assume JROTC cadets are Active Duty military, its a safe bet someone might think you are too or at least associated with one or all of the branches of service. Here’s the take away: you DO represent all of the military branches. Even if your team is made up of three retired/veteran Sailors and one Soldier, you represent all of the other services as well. Now, pick a manual, Army, Marine Corps, or The Honor Guard Manual, and follow it and the associated protocol and flag manuals for it.

General Information

The senior guidance for the flag comes from Title 4, United States Code, Section 7. All manuals mentioned refer to this section commonly called the “Flag Code”.

The three military drill and ceremonies manuals are:

  1. Training Circular (TC) 3-21.5 (US Army)
    • AR 840-10
  2. MCO (Marine Corps Order) 5060.2 (USMC, USN, & USCG)
    • MCO 10520.3
    • Navy and Coast Guard, NTP13(B)
  3. and AFPAM (Air Force Pamphlet) 34-1203 (USAF & USSF)
    • AFI 34-1201
    • AFPAM 34-1202

All three D&C manuals, plus the other required Protocol and Flag Manuals are available for download here.

The Honor Guard Manual is the only published manual for first responders and others wanting to incorporate ceremonial drill into their program.

Equipment for the Color Bearers

Colors Harness. Air Force: black clarino (shiny poromeric leather) for performances, dark blue web (same style) for practice. Personal note: If you get any other type of colors harness/sling/carrier than the one show here, you will be restricted in size and quality. Your hand won’t be able to fit at the cup and there are a couple of others issues I’ve come across as well. The AF mandates this type of harness (AFI 34-1201) that is shown below, the Honor Guard Leather Flag Carrier: Double Harness. This image is from Glendale Paradestore.

Ceremonial or Web Belts. All services except the Air Force and Space Force require belts for team members.

Flagstaff (vs. “Flagpole”). This has to do with pole arms from ancient armies. A staff measures up to 10′ in length. A pole is anything longer. A flagstaff is what color guards carry and used for indoor display. A flagpole is a permanent structure outside with a single or double halyard. All color guard flagstaffs must be the same length and use the same finial.

Note: The American flag should not be higher than the other flag(s) in the formation. The only exception to this is when the color bearers are so different in height (and/or waist level) that the colors harness sockets* are at different levels but as close as possible to the same level. The American flag is never lower.

*What we are supposed to measure is the finials of the staffs when at Carry (Right Shoulder). However, it is much easier to look at the harness sockets and adjust them since the staffs must be the same length.

All military service color guards use the two-piece light ash wood guidon flagstaff with a ferrule at each end. The AF may also use one-piece staffs. Metal staffs are not authorized.

Staff height goes according to the size of the flag:

  1. Organizational flag: 3 feet by 4 feet, mounted on an 8-foot staff. Battle streamers are not authorized on this staff/flag. AF/SF may use the 7′ staff but only for posting the colors indoors. At no other time are 7′ staffs authorized.
  2. Ceremonial flag: 4 feet 4 inches by 5 feet 6 inches mounted on a 9.5-foot staff. Battle streamers are authorized on this size flag and staff, but may not be authorized for your unit to carry. Check your specific manuals.
  3. Army JROTC all-female color guards are most often authorized to use aluminum staffs for a color guard competition. It depends on the Standard Operating Procedure for the competition. Other than this, no one is authorized to use a metal staff.

Possible reasoning for not having fringe on the American flag

4 U.S. Code § 1 – Flag; stripes and stars on

The flag of the United States shall be thirteen horizontal stripes, alternate red and white; and the union of the flag shall be forty-eight stars, white in a blue field. (July 30, 1947, ch. 389, 61 Stat. 642.)

Subsequent chapters talk about adding stars. Fringe is never discussed.

4 U.S. Code § 8 – Respect for flag:

(g) The flag should never have placed upon it, nor on any part of it, nor attached to it any mark, insignia, letter, word, figure, design, picture, or drawing of any nature.

Flagstaff Finial. The only finial (top for the flagstaff) authorized for all services is the silver-colored Army Spade/Spear. Navy and Coast Guard units may use the Gold-colored battle-ax. The spread eagle finial is not authorized for any color guard other then the Presidential Color Guard. Some states, organizations, or foreign countries may have their own required finial (e.g. MD, TX).

Flags

An “Outside Flag” has a header with grommets. This flag is flown from a stationary or mounted pole on a halyard only. Outside flags are never fringed.

An Indoor/outdoor Flag/Color/Colors/Silk is a flag carried by a color guard. It has a staff sleeve (pole hem) for mounting on the flagstaff. Read these, All About Flag Sizes. See this article: How to Properly Mount a Flag on a Flagstaff. The Case for Cased Flags and Colors.

See also How to Properly Mount a Flag on a Flagstaff.

Flag Fringe. The Army, Air Force, and Space Force require gold-colored fringe on all flags carried by a color guard and for static display all of the time. These flags are called indoor-outdoor flags, have a staff sleeve (pole hem), and do not have grommets. The Marine Corps, Navy, and Coast Guard have gold-colored fringe on all flags except for the national at all times. Please read this: To Fringe or Not to Fringe, That is the Question.

  • Army, USAF, & USSF: Fringe on all colors carried by a color guard. Fringe makes the flag a “ceremonial color”.
  • USMC, USN, & USCG: Fringe on all flags carried by a color team except the National Ensign.

Cord and Tassels. The gold cord and tassels is not authorized for the US military. The only cord and tassels authorized for the American flag is colored red, white, and blue. This cord is mandatory on the national for MC, N. & CG color guards and is optional for the national for Army color guards.

Streamers. When authorized, replace the cord and tassels on the MC departmental/organizational flag.

Equipment for the Guards

Guards, depending on their organization, have several options.

Military, VSOs, Cadets. You are authorized to carry a holstered handgun, but that just doesn’t give off the professional tone that we look for. The M1 Garand, M14, and M1903 are perfect rifles for ceremonial applications. Any kind of more modern rifle (M16, etc.) does not present a ceremonial image, but are authorized and, while we need to maintain an obvious realism, there is always the ability to use the replica M1 Garand or M1903 sold by Glendale Paradestore.com. If you do decide to go the ceremonial replica route, please do not get the solid wood Parade Rifle or Mark 1 as they will not convey a professional military appearance. Rifles should have slings.

First Responders. LEOs usually carry a rifle or shotgun. Firefighters, depending on their region usually carry either a ceremonial fire axe or rifle. The Ceremonial pike pole is not recommended because it is not distinct and does not have easily recognizable features like the axe. See The Honor Guard Manual.

Swords/sabers are not authorized for military teams unless the team is mounted (e.g., Army Cavalry [saber], Marine Corps [NCO sword] or Scottish Rite [broadsword, please keep at Carry]) or historic (e.g., USS Constitution [cutlass]). See also, Of Flags and Sharp Objects.

No Bayonets!

OK, your school was called up hundreds of years ago to fight in a battle and the corps of cadets marches with fixed bayonets. So does the Old Guard (the only unit in the Army authorized to do so). And the platoons of Marine Barracks Washington. And the Navy Ceremonial Guard. And the Air and Space Force Honor Guard. Even the Coast Guard Ceremonial Honor Guard marches with fixed bayonets. What you will never see is the color guard of any of those units with guards that have fixed bayonets on their rifles. Never. Why? Because a color guard is a purely ceremonial element. Color guard members do not fight nor do they represent the ability to fight. Color guard guards, stop fixing bayonets out of ignorance (“we’ve always done it”) or arrogance (“we do it because…”).

LEO color guards with fixed bayonets- you don’t fight. Period. Please stop for the because you are not a fighting force and the reasons stated above.

Scouts. The 40″ or 60″ wooden walking staff is most appropriate for Scouting and similar activities for the guards.

Others. Some organizations prefer to not have any kind of weapon for their guards (e.g. Seventh Day Adventist Pathfinder color guards). Unarmed guards for a color guard is appropriate.

Techniques

Marching. The majority of the services take a 30-inch step forward at quick time (AF/SF- 24″) and a 15-inch half step (AF/SF- 12″). Both steps for the Army and AF/SF require a heel strike, no stomping. Half step for the other services requires a toe strike.

Staffs. The flagstaffs always remain vertical when at Attention and Parade Rest (Stand at Ease). Do not push a staff forward for Parade Rest, that is a guidon movement only. When at Carry, the Army, AF, & SF must angle the staff slightly forward (I suggest about 6″ from the nose).

Tucking Colors. Again, this is regulation drill, not ceremonial drill. For ceremonial drill, all colors are tucked- see The Honor Guard Manual for specifics. However, MC, N, & CG will have the silk gathered under the right arm and to the right of the staff when at Order and Parade Rest. Army, AF, & SF are not authorized to tuck the silk.

Click here for information on marching at Port, Angle Port, or Trail Arms. Don’t forget to read about Cased Colors here. Learn about posting and presenting the colors here and know when to post or present.

Positions. Do not mix positions! (e.g. color bearers at Order and rifle guards at Port.) If one of the team members is at Carry (Right Shoulder), then all members are. This includes all positions: Order, Port, Trail, etc. The team must look, act, and move as one.

Say Cheese! Many a photographer, seeing a color guard standing in column for formation, has approached the team from the right side and asked the team to turn right for a picture. Don’t do it! This puts the American flag to the left of the other flag(s) and the team is then immortalized for setting up incorrectly. Members of the team must know better and ask the photographer to take the picture from a more appropriate position.

Authorized Formations

The minimum standard for all services. You must carry the US and your service’s departmental colors. Color guards are not authorized to replace the departmental flag at any time with any other flag. The image below is called Line Formation, members abreast. Cadets, read about the state flag here.

The minimum color guard authorized for services. Note: this three-man team is not standard, but may be used in certain circumstances. Try to use a full 4-man team at all times.

Note: Do not follow the pictures in the 2022 AFPAM of the Airmen holding the staffs with the left hand with the right hand at the side. The right hand holds the staff, the left hand remains at the side.

The Wedge or “V”. This formation is quite common with scouting-type programs for parades. Not authorized for military.

The Line with US in Front. This formation is extremely rare. Flag Code Sect. 7, AR 840-10, MCO 10520.3B, and AFI 34-1201.

Massed Flags Formation. Similar to the above. Services carry solely military flags (regiment, battalion, wing) in the massed flags formation. Do not mix departmental or state/territory flags in with the mass formation. Below are massed flag formations for even and odd numbers.

Column Formation and By Twos. Both are authorized for maneuvering through narrow passageways during performances and for greater distances when traveling (to and from a performance/ceremony).

When traveling By Twos, the flag bearers lead and guards follow. Once the team arrives at their designated position, the team executes Mark Time and the guards move into positions in line formation and can march forward or halt.

For Column Formation, the right/lead guard always leads with the American flag bearer directly behind, then the departmental flag and left/trail guard. In this formation, the team is prohibited from turning in place to the right (unless immediately posting the staffs in stands), that puts the US subordinate to the departmental. Instead, use the Every Left On method.

NOT AUTHORIZED. US in the Middle, but Taller. Not authorized for any color guard, ever. The position of honor is to the right of the formation. That is the only position for the American flag. The only time the American flag is taller in the middle of a line of flags, is for a permanent (flag poles outside) or non-temporary (posted in stands inside a building) display, never when carried. Flag Code Sect. 7, AR 840-10, MCO 10520.3B, and AFI 34-1201

Foreign National, State, POW/MIA and Other Non-military Flags

All Services. Military personnel in uniform or civilian clothing are not authorized to carry any non-military flag AR 840-10, MCO P5050.2 and AFI 34-1201. This means all military color guards are not authorized to carry the POW/MIA flag in or outside of a color guard formation. The only time the flag is carried on its own (never with guards) is during a funeral for a former POW. It is not carried in parades. Read all About POW/MIA Protocol here.

The Service Departmental Flag does not dip to anyone except the The Secretary and Chief of Staff of that service or equivalent and anyone ranked higher, including foreign nationals. The flag always dips in salute to the Star Spangled Banner and Taps at a funeral.

Army, AF, & SF. Foreign national and state flags are authorized in the color guard formation as an additional flag (singular); this additional flag will not replace the departmental. You can also add a state, territory, County, and/or city flag.

MC, N, & CG. You may not carry any flag other than the National Ensign and the Departmental. State and Territory flags are only carried by Marine Barracks Washington Marines for certain ceremonies in and around the nation’s capital. The only color guard formation authorized for these three services is right rifle guard, US color bearer, departmental color bearer, and left rifle guard.

Marine and Navy Joint Service

When a foreign national color (or colors) is authorized for a ceremony, another three-man color guard (or more) is most often formed and is subordinate to the standard color guard team shown above. There is one exception here. The MCO does authorize the foreign national to be in the color guard proper to the left of the national and right of the departmental.

Full and Partial Joint Service Colors

Please read here, here, here, here, and here, for more information on joint service colors. Yes, quite a bit of reading.

Comments 54

  1. Question:
    Can a 4-member Color Guard perform a left face carrying the Colors?
    Where in the regulation can I find this?

    My understanding is:
    1. At the halt, order the colors
    2. Perform a left face
    3. Carry the colors.

    Just to clarify my question.
    The Color Guard is in column formation carrying the colors.
    Entering in single file to an event.
    Order of march
    Guard, National Colors, Army Flag, Guard.
    The Color Guard needs to perform a left face to face the audience
    They present the Colors facing the audience.

    Then they exit the place.
    At this time, can they do a right face while carrying the colors?
    I’m hoping the question is clear enough!

    Thank you!

    1. Post
      Author

      Hello sir,

      No need to go to Order. We do that for an armed squad or platoon (or larger formation) and are used to that, but colors is different.

      The team can enter at Port (Trail) or Carry, present, and then leave at Port (Trail). The commands would look like this:

      Form up in column formation with normal spacing
      (Port, Arms, staffs to Trail, if there is a low clearance area through which the team passes. Go to Angle Port if there is a doorway) or call
      Carry, Colors
      Forward, March
      Mark Time, March (automatic on a predetermined spot or called, allow about 4 steps so that the team can get closer together so that they are at Close Interval when they turn)
      Colors, Halt
      Left Face
      Carry Colors (If team entered at Port/Trail)
      Present, Colors
      Order, Colors
      Right, Face
      Port, Arms (staff at Trail)
      Forward, March

      Colors should leave at Port since their colors are no longer the focus. Here is some further reading for you, if you wish:
      https://thedrillmaster.org/2015/12/15/how-to-present-the-colors-at-an-event/
      https://thedrillmaster.org/2018/01/20/all-about-posting-or-presenting-colors/

      Here is an example colors posting video (I know you’re just presenting, a “show-n-go”: https://youtu.be/gi6Cg28WRnE

      I know that TC 3-21.5 does not have Port/Trail for colors in it, but it is a good position for low ceilings and Angle Port is also not in there but it’s the only way to move through a doorway or similar area. The articles I reference above will explain those positions. Please let me know if you have any further questions.

      I hope this is helpful.
      DM

      1. Thank you.

        The video does not show the color guard at the carry (meaning, colors actually on the harness).
        The colors are not doing face movements.
        Please clarify.
        Again, and sorry for the redundance.
        The guards will be at right shoulder arms.
        The colors will be carried, on the harness.

        Can you perform a left face?

        I guess, the answer is Yes?

        Was my understanding in the Army that you could not do a left face while carrying the colors and guards were at right shoulder arms.

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          Author

          The video was just an example presentation and posting. The team did not enter at Carry on Purpose. It’s all ceremonial technique, but useful in some situations.

          You can execute Left and Right Face at Carry. The TC doesn’t cover every colors situation, unfortunately. However, if you read about the posting sequence, the team executes a Right Face from column to post the staffs into the stands.

          DM

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      Sir,

      I’m not sure what you mean by honor cord, but for the US military, which includes cadet and veteran organizations, the gold-colored cord and tassels is not authorized on any flag in a display or while carried. The Army authorizes and Marine Corps, Navy and Coast Guard require a red, white, and blue cord and tassels for them American flag in all displays and when carried.

      DM

  2. What is the protocol when there are two color guards in small town festival parade? Is it appropriate to have more than one color guard?

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  3. 1) Do color guards wear a cover indoors?
    2) where can I find the nsn for appropriate staff, finial, and stand? Didn’t see them in regulation

    1. Post
      Author

      Sir,

      1) Yes, a color guard is covered indoors and out. The only exception to this is inside a chapel.
      2) MCO 10520.3 has NIINs for all kinds of equipment. The flagstaff NIIN is 00-214-9125.

      DM

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      Sir,

      Short answer: no. Here’s the reasoning: all three D&C manuals state exactly who mans each position: NCO for national and junior enlisted for the rest. Drill and ceremonies is an NCO and enlisted function.
      Strangely enough, the flag bearer of a couple hundred years ago was an officer, a Naval Ensign who carried the National Ensign.
      Today’s manning issues create problems for National Guard and Reserve units and you will see an officer and even senior enlisted as a bearer or guard. It’s not appropriate, but is understandable to a point.

  4. Good afternoon Drill Master,

    I have not been able to find the reference in AR 840-10 regarding the material of a staff, only the length of the staff. My ROTC program currently has metal telescopic staffs, which I am not a fan of. I would like to be able to provide the appropriate regulations and references to my program so we can be better representatives of the Army and our school. Could you help me out with this? Thank you in advance.

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      Author

      Cadet Davis,

      The colors staff is the same as the guifon staff. The newest edition of TC 3-21.5 has only drawings, unfortunately, but we know that the guifon staff is only light ash wood with the flat, silver Army Spearhead (spade) and come in two-piece sets.

  5. Good Morning Drillmaster,

    First, I am a retired SSG with twenty years service in a N.G. Band, most as a drum major on the street. I was also the drum major in the recent Maine Bicentennial Band. In the, unfortunately, delayed parade, we were the first unit behind a military color guard, USANG I believe. This unit half-stepped the entire length of the parade route, out of step with our drum cadence. It was a very hot day and this slow pace really impacted the music. I never saw this type of cadence in all my years on the street; if anything, we often tried to keep up with the color guard. Can you tell me if things have changed for these marching units in the military? Thanks much in advance.

    1. Post
      Author

      SSG Bennett,

      Great question!

      The constant Half Step and even, what I call, the Half Step Stomp is an insideous technique that has weaved its way through every marching program at the cadets and explorer level and into parts of the military.

      We both know that Half Step may be required when marching at certain times. The step is described in all three drill and ceremonies manuals and is authorized to use. But, it’s only used for short distances.

      It’s extraordinarily frustrating to be behind a team that does not know what they are doing when the band is well rehearsed. But, as you asked, have standards changed?

      No, standards have not changed. Half Step is used sparingly, only when it’s necessary.

      Why does this happen?

      I’ve been teaching since 1985 in some form and my concentration focused on marching in 2006. In all this time, I have come across a few people who have the idea in their head that marching is somehow approached differently.

      Marching is essentially walking at Attention with certain restrictions (arm swing, step length, etc.). The thinking that it is somehow different: constant Half Step, stomping, stepping over imaginary logs, all seem to stem from the belief that marching must, in some way, be “specialer”.

      Lack of awareness of the our drill and ceremonies manuals, lack of practice, and a general belief that just because we graduate Basic or Boot Camp is all we need for the rest of our military career all lead to this type of bad performance.

      I hope this helps answer your question.

      DM

      1. DM,

        Thanks for getting back so quickly. This will likely have been my final parade and it was an interesting way to bow out. In my twenty year 195th A.B. career, we participated in a huge number of parades here in Maine and all over the country. The most interesting one by far was the big Saturday night Mardi Gras parade in New Orleans in 1988. We were a few units behind the Budweiser Clydesdales and as I tell people, they had eaten well. As the drum major, I could, fortunately, evade their”detritus.” Everyone else had brownish stains on their dress blue trousers. In no parade did we ever have to half step the whole route.

        Be well!

        REB

    1. Post
      Author

      NJROTC Cadet,

      The MCO covers only one type of colors presentation and posting which does not call for any facing movements.

      However, color guards come across multiple situations for presenting and good judgment is called for.

      Facing right from line formation and facing left from column formation are acceptable. The national bearer must be at the right in line and at the front in column, no exceptions.

      DM

  6. Sorry about that, the question is do military Colorguards go to present arms during the Pledge of Allegiance or do they stay at right shoulder arms?

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      CW4 Garrepy,

      The guards go to Present Arms, but departmental and organizational flags do not dip. These flags only dip in certain situations, one of them being for the Star Spangled Banner.

      Army Regulation 840-10 and Marine Corps Order 5060.20 state the rest of the conditions (depending on your service). AFI 34-1201 has that info also, but our last Chief Warrant Officer retired in the 1990s. :-)

      DM

  7. Good morning drillmaster. Two military color guards go to present arms during the Pledge of Allegiance or do they stay at right shoulder arms?

  8. For a US Army JROTC Color guard team, is the Color bearer allowed to grab the flag (itself) when marching outdoors in order to prevent the flag from hitting either themselves or their team members in the face?

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      Ms. Noyola,

      AR 840-10 allows for a color guard to carry the 9’6″ flagstaff with a 3’x4′ flag attached. That eliminates the problem. For those who don’t have that equipment combination and the flag does stay in the face of the color bearer, use the left hand to pull the flag material to the left out of the face, repeatedly, if necessary.

      I hope that helps!
      DM

      1. When you say “use the left hand to pull the flag material to the left, repeatedly, if necessary” does that mean the color bearer is not allowed to hold on to the flag material in place as they are marching (for example at a JROTC Color Guard competition)?

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  9. We are having trouble finding a coast guard representative to carry the CG flag for our event coming up. Who would be able to carry that flag in the absence of a coastie? Could a veteran of another branch carry it?

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  10. Great information. Thank you. I would like your input or a ‘point in right the direction’ for information regarding civilian color guards and regulations for flag standards (frills, flag/pole sizes, differences from military protocol, etc…)

    A bit of background: I am a former Marine and I am a leader of an Employee Resource Group for Veterans within our company. We’ve been asked to open ceremonies for an event at work that falls on Veterans’ Day. I have asked someone from each branch to carry their respective flag and I would be acting as the Color Sergeant and carry the National Standard.

    1. Post
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      Mr. Callahan,

      Thank you for your service and the question.

      The only information a civilian color guard has is the Flag Code. However, through my research I find that every civilian organization has always gone to the military for further guidance. Since the Army is the senior service, a majority of that guidance has come from Field Manual 22-5, Drill and Ceremonies, which is not Training Circular 3-21.5. The next most common regulation is Marine Corps Order 5060.2, Drill and Ceremonies. Both are available for download from the Resources page here.
      As veterans, we are still required to follow our service standards and since your team will be full joint service, the Army standard is required and military protocol is in force. I recommend 9.5′ guidon staffs with silver hardware and the Army Spearhead and 4’4″ X 5’6″ colors all with fringe.
      I actually have used staffs that are less than half price, if you are interested.

  11. Hey DrillMaster,

    As an AFJROTC Cadet performing in a Competition Color guard, the memo the hosting school sent out said we must comply with AFM 36-2203 standards of holding the flags with the left hand and freely swinging our right arms while the rifles are at Right and Left shoulder.

    Reading the article I noticed you said,
    “Note: Do not follow the pictures in the 2013 AFMAN of the Airmen holding the staffs with the left hand with the right hand at the side. The right hand holds the staff, the left hand remains at the side.”

    Previously, we have done it the “normal” way where we would use our right hands to hold the flag as it just makes sense, so I am just wondering to as why AFM shows a picture of Airmen using left hands, if we are not suppose to be using left hands? Just wondering about your thoughts and opinions on this situation, and which way is truly the right way, as everything is contradicting itself.

    If it is indeed where the left arm holds the flag, how would you perform Carry Colors and At Close Interval, Dress Right, Dress?

    Thank you for your time,
    Losey.

    1. Post
      Author

      Cadet Losey,
      Great questions! Dress Right is accomplished at Order, the flag is at the right.
      I won’t go into details, but there is one AF unit that contacted the office that publishes AFMAN 36-2203 and told them about the discrepancy of the left hand, which made its way into the manual to editions ago in pictures and now in this most recent edition, is backed by text.
      Another unit, along with the other, will not follow this ridiculous left-hand technique. There’s no reason for the change, it’s out of left field, and goes against decades of not only Air Force, but also Army tradition.
      The correct way to hold the staff at Carry is with the right hand at shoulder height with the forearm horizontal and left hand at the side. If there is strong wind, the left hand is placed on the staff under and touching the right hand.

      Air Force JROTC cadets are to read AFMAN 36-2203 and follow the techniques pictured. Rifle guards then use MCO 5060.2 for transitions (because they are at the outside shoulder at Carry) and color bearers use TC 3-21.5 for transitions all while still using USAF techniques. AFI 34-1201 and AFPAM 34-1202 have equipment information and other standards that apply. Download these from the Resources page here.

  12. DM, with multiple color guards (CG) in line (6) when the colors are retired can the CG march out in front of the others guards??

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      Author

      I’m sorry, I don’t understand the question.
      You have six separate color guard formations or you have six color bearers?
      Whatever the number of color bearers, they can move behind or in front of the rifle guards to facilitate posting or retrieving.

  13. DrillMaster, I am arranging a welcome home for a flight of Veterans returning from Wash DC on an “Honor Flight”.
    Two color guards units want to participate in the procession through the airport when the Vets return. What is the proper use of two color guards? One will lead the procession. What do I do with the other?
    Thanks, Dick

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      Hi Linda,

      Great question! First, you would need to establish a standard and decide if your team will follow military standards and use rifles, or have your guards be unarmed. You will also need some sort of uniform – even kahkis and a polo with a baseball cap would be good.

      Next, you will need at least three people – American flag bearer and two guards. Once you have the people, getting the equipment is the next step. Two flags, flagstaffs, and rifles.

      Train using TC 3-21.5 or MCO 5060.2 and practice, practice, practice.

      Advertising your availability to go perform would be good as well.

  14. Just curious what reg this is coming from, that the staffs be the same height?

    “All color guard flagstaffs must be the same height and use the same finial.”

    “Note: The American flag should not be higher than the other flag(s) in the formation. The only exception to this is when the color bearers are so different in height that the colors harness cups/sockets are as close as possible in height, but the American flag is never lower.”

    I’m looking through TC 3-21.5 and AR 840–10 and it’s not jumping out at me.
    Appreciate the help.

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  15. The Color Guard of four, for the Marine Corps League, stopped in the middle of the Forth of July parade and fired a volley of three rounds. Where can I find in print that this is not proper protocol?

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      Hello Sir,

      Thank you for the question. If I understand you correctly, the color guard stopped and the two rifle guards actually fired three rounds.

      I get all kinds of questions here and through social media and just when I think I’ve heard of the most outlandish and disrespectful acts, the list gets topped again.

      This is obviously not authorized and I would say that I have no idea how this could enter anyone’s mind, but it comes down to a disregard for standards. The color guard members went through Boot Camp, served, and now rely completely on their memories of their training instead of digging in the manual.

      The manuals that govern all Marine Corps, Navy, Coast Guard, Marine Corps League, Sea Cadets, MCJROTC, NJROTC, and Young Marines color guard activities are MCO 5060.20, Drill and Ceremonies, and MCO 10520.3, Flag Manual.

      Your question boils down to, “Where can I find a list of’ don’ts’?” There isn’t one because that list would be endless. What we do have in Chapter 7 of 5060.20, is exactly what a color guard CAN do, period. When we get into the thought process of “Well, it doesn’t say we can’t do XYZ”, then we are on a slippery slope and missing the intent of the regulations.

      Long answer, but I wanted to communicate the importance of following our service manuals.

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