Color Guard Flag Protocol

DrillMasterAsk DrillMaster, Color Guard, Color Guard/Color Team, History, Honor Guard, Honor Guard Training, Protocol and Flag 86 Comments

There is so much information to learn when it comes to flag protocol. A flag is called a color when posted in a stand and carried by a color guard.

The National Ensign/American Flag

For the National Ensign/Color/American Flag, military and other color guards will always hold its staff vertical (Marine Corps, Navy, & Coast Guard and US Certified Ceremonial Guardsmen) or slightly incline it forward (Army only), depending on the service drill and ceremonies manual for regulation or ceremonial drill. The minimum color guard compliment requirement is the American flag and two guards armed with rifles, shotguns, or ceremonial fire axes. Sword, sabers, and fixed bayonets are not authorized for American color guards.

Fringe on the American flag is mandatory for all Army and Air Force color guards. Fringe is not authorized on the national ensign for Marine Corps, Navy, & Coast Guard color guards and displays.

Foreign National Flags

DoD Instruction 5410. Vol. 4 states military color guards can hold foreign national colors for a ceremony on US soil when a foreign government official attends and takes part in the ceremony and also rates honors. This includes arrival ceremonies by all foreign national dignitaries.

At right you can see Old Guard Soldiers carrying the flag of Australia. They are headed to the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier where the Prime Minister of Australia laid a wreath on behalf of his country.

Three or more foreign national flags can be carried in a separate block or line formation. Foreign national flags are put in order alphabetically in English.

Service Departmental Colors

The Joint Service Color Guard

When it comes to the service departmental flag (the flag with the coat of arms or seal of the service), it is only dipped in salute for the Star Spangled Banner, foreign national anthem of a friendly nation, to the Secretary and Chief of Staff/Commandant of that service, to individuals of equal or higher rank, and at military funerals. At no other time is the service departmental color dipped. On the commands of Present Arms or Eyes Right, if the above requirements are not met, the departmental flag remains vertical (Army-slightly inclined), no exceptions. Departmental colors are always carried with the American flag and never carried on their own or in the second rank of a massed color guard. Click here for information on Joint Service Order. For Joint Armed Forces, read here, here, and here.

All service departmental colors are required to have fringe. This also extends to JROTC, Sea Cadets, Civil Air Patrol, and Young Marine organizational flags. However, unit colors for the Navy using the historic Navy Infantry Battalion flag, pictured below, do not have fringe. This was the first US Navy flag.

Cadet Programs

Army JROTC Color Guard

The service departmental colors should not be carried by a cadet program. The program’s organizational/institutional colors should be carried.

Protocol presents an interesting dilemma for service cadet program color guards that compete since part of the competition sequence is to execute Present Arms and Eyes Right to include a flag dip. But the head judge for the drill deck does not warrant a salute.

JROTC and other cadet programs are authorized to carry the program organizational/institutional colors and facilitate the competition’s command sequence while not breaking protocol. Many teams carry their state flag as the second flag. However, this also breaks protocol since the color guard is required, by service regulation, to carry the organizational colors.

My suggestion is to carry the service JROTC, Young Marine, Sea Cadet, or Civil Air Patrol organizational flag, respectively, at all times. These colors should not be dipped automatically at any time. The colors commander gives “Present, ARMS!” and the guards execute Present. I suggest the head judge then calling out “First note!” as in the first note of the Star-Spangled Banner, the org bearer dips, the judge then calls out “Last note!” and the org bearer returns to Carry.

Other Youth Programs

The colors of other youth programs (Pathfinders, Scouts, etc.) should dip any time Present Arms or Eyes Right is given unless specific guidance is provided within the organization for that flag.

The Armed Services

  • Army and Air Force color guards may carry one foreign national, state, and territory flag in the formation along with a unit flag. (TC 3-21.5, AR 840-10, AFMAN 36-2203, AFI 34-1201, & AFPAM 34-1202)
    • State and territory flags are carried immediately to the left of the American flag, and to the right of the departmental/organizational flag.
    • Massed formations may have only unit flags beginning in the second rank.
  • Marine Corps, Navy, and Coast Guard color guards are not authorized to carry a state or territory flag at all, the second flag must be the departmental/unit flag. See State, Territory, and Tribal Flags below. (MCO 5060.2 & MCO 4400.201 Vol. 13)
    • Only the National Ensign and Departmental/organizational flag are authorized in these service color guard formations.
    • These service color guards may carry a foreign national flag in a separate three-man (one flag, two rifle guards) formation or carry it in the color guard next to the national (but this is not usual).
    • Massed formations (Regiment) may have only unit flags beginning in the second rank.
  • All military color guards will not carry any non-government flag, no exceptions. See POW/MIA flag information below. (AR 840-10, MCO 4400.201 Vol. 13, & AFI 34-1201)
    • Non-military flags are not authorized in any military color guard, no matter who carries the flag.
  • Joint Service color guards may only carry the American flag and two or more departmental service flags. No other flags are authorized in partial or full joint service color guards. (Service flag and protocol manuals)

First Responder Department Flags

It’s quite possible that this has not necessarily been considered before, but the police or fire department or sheriff’s office flag should only be dipped for the Star Spangled Banner, foreign national anthem, police/fire chief or sheriff, those of equal or higher rank, and at the funeral for a first responder. Click here for First Responder Joint Service Order information.

  1. First Responder Joint Service color guards should carry the American, state, and department flags.
  2. First responders should not carry military departmental colors.
  3. Check with your state, territory, tribal nation to see if the local regulations require flags to be dipped to the state, territory, tribal anthem, if there is one.

State, Territory, & Tribal Flags

Each state and territory creates it’s own laws and standards for their flag. Interestingly, when the Founding Fathers of the USA decided to call each Colony a State, other countries were a bit angered. A state = a country, which is a community under one government (yes, our state governments were supposed to have much more control).

With that knowledge, and short of reaching out to all 50 states and 16 territories to find their specific requirements, we can begin to understand that state and territory flags probably should not be dipped just any old time.

The State, Territory, and Tribal flag should be dipped for the Star Spangled Banner, foreign national anthem, and for the funeral of a member of the state, territory, or tribal government, and anyone ranked higher and a member of the US military.

When carrying all state (and territory) flags are carried as a separate formation (block or line), referred to as “S&Ts”, these flags have their own commander who is outside the formation. Guards are not necessary. The commands should be separate from the color guard, but executed at the same time. The preparatory command for the color guard is, “Colors!”, for the S&Ts, its “Flags!” as in “Flags, Carry, Flags!” It may sound strange, but it helps to create the separation. State flags are put in order by entry into the union or alphabetically.

For American Indian tribal flags, read here.

Use these guidelines, but I highly encourage you to research your state, territory, and/or tribal requirements. Begin with the Attorney General and National Guard Adjutant General.

The POW/MIA Flag

The POW/MIA flag is not authorized to be carried in ANY military color guard formation nor paraded on it’s own because it is a private organization’s flag. It is only carried as a personal color for the funeral of a former prisoner of war or military member who was missing in action.

The Flagstaff and Finial

The light ash wood guidon staff

The only authorized flagstaff for all military color guards is the guidon staff topped with the flat, silver Army Spearhead (spade) finial, pictured (Navy and Coast Guard units may use the battle-ax with local funding only).

  1. Upper Ferrule
  2. Spade Finial
  3. Middle Screw Joint
  4. Lower Ferrule
  5. Full Staff

Any civilian organization carrying flags may use any staff they choose (it’s best to use the guidon staff since it’s more rugged and made for color guards) with the flying eagle as the finial. The spread eagle is exclusively for the President of the United States. Note: NTP 13B, Flags Pennants, and Customs, states the spread eagle is for civilian officials and flag officers whose official salute is 19 or more guns.

Comments 86

  1. Drillmaster: I am member of American Legion. We lead our Founders Day Parade. Due to aging , our Color Guard numbers are dwindling.
    Can the US Flag be carried by single individual only with no guards or other flags? Thanks DM

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  2. Drillmaster: I am part of an organization planning the recreation of the historical welcoming ceremony for General Lafayette’s visit to our city in Nov 1824. The current plan is to have the Virginia Sons of American Revolution Color Guard present the colors at this recreated welcoming ceremony. Can you comment on the appropriateness for the color guard to carry the U.S. and French national ensigns given the following facts: 1) Major General Lafayette was a member of the U.S. Continental Army, 2) he was a French citizen but in 2002, Congress made Lafayette an honorary citizen of the United States, 3) “Lafayette”, in this case, is (obviously) an interpreter.

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  3. Hey Drill Master,
    I was recently competing in a Color Guard State JROTC competition as the front rifleman and the flag was in my face and preventing me from seeing, as a result my alignment was thrown off slightly. I was wondering if there is a protocol for a rifleman to move the flag from their face while marching in a Color Guard formation?
    V/R
    c/SFC Dotson

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      Cadet Dotson,

      Very good question! Then answer is, there isn’t at least an official protocol for any member of the color guard.

      However! It’s better to quickly move the color out of your face with your left hand, that goes for every team member, than be out of alignment and/or have incorrect spacing for any length of time.

      Color bearers in column formation in the service honor guards in Washington DC pull the silk out of their face as necessary. It’s quite common, just not well known.

  4. I work at an arena that hosts many different sporting events. We have a US flag hung in the rafters that we spot light during the national anthem. Some of these event have a color guard present during the national anthem. I have been told that it is disrespectful to spot light the US flag that is in the rafters when the color guard is present. Is this true?

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      Mr. Luppino,

      It’s not necessarily disrespectful, but it is inappropriate.

      The flag that is in the arena is there all the time. If you don’t have a color guard for the event, that’s the flag everyone faces. When a color guard is involved, the team is formally presenting the colors and only the flag they are carrying should be the focus while the Star-Spangled Banner is played or sung. Once the color guard is finished, the focus reverts back to the arena flag.

      From now on, please have the spotlight on the team for the duration of the anthem.

      DM

      1. When the color guard is present we spotlight the color guard and the arena flag. I will discontinue spotlighting the arena flag when the color guard is present. Do I understand correctly?

        Ron

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  5. What are the military color guard rules in regards to using the Garrison Flag at sporting events? I have received different feedback from various individuals. Is there a regulation or code that I can refer to when in discussions about it? There are many examples of it being used in that manner but I am being told that flag rules that the flag cannot be flat.
    Thank you.

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      Ms. Shannon,

      The Flag Code states that the American flag is not carried flat, but aloft and free. That is the symbol of our freedom. None of the flag guidance at the DoD or military service level makes any mention of a military flag being carried flat because the guidance only tells us what is authorized. Flags are displayed hooked to a halyard on a flagpole and colors are mounted on flagstaffs for indoor display or to be carried by a color guard. Again, these are the only authorized methods of display.

      I suggest not carrying any military flag flat based on this information.

      DM

  6. POTUS and a foreign leader of a communist country enter a US facility. POTUS is on site and awaiting the arrival of the FORNLDR with USMC and USA colorguard receiving. The US flag is left of the entry pt and communist flag is to the right – perspective; facing the entry (external > internal).

    Is it protocol for a communist flag to be presented in this manner? Is it protocol for two Marines to salute the arriving FORNLDR?

    V/R

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      Mr. Burrell,

      AR 600-60, Army Protocol; and AR 840-10, the Army’s flag manual, apply.

      After reading the description a number of times, I think it’s the audience perspective that you are giving of the entrance so, the US is on its own right. That setup is good.

      The Marines and everyone else should salute. We are technically not at war with the visiting FORNLDR or POTUS would not be receiving him. That the requires a salute/honors rendered for the appropriate times.

      FYI, the only communist country the USA is actively at war with is North Korea since the Korean War ended with a cease fire and is still officially active. Therefore, they don’t warrant an official state visit and the North Korean Flag wouldn’t be present.

      DM

  7. I work for a county police department, and am on the Honor Guard. The Honor Guard is a volunteer unit and not a full-time job for us. There are times when we only have two members to present colors. While I know there needs to be four, we have to use what we have.

    In the situation where there are only two members, do they carry the US and state flag, or the US flag and a rifle? If it’s the latter, does the rifle lead, or does the US flag lead? Thanks.

    Dan

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  8. Maybe I’m overlooking information elsewhere, but is there any protocols for using a non-military flag as a “practice” flag and hoisting it during practices ? (Navy color guard)

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  9. This question is not related to color guards specifically but about flag protocol which perhaps you can answer. I am a volunteer at a historic army seacoast fort which is now a national park. Occasionally we will have a parade of warships pass by headed for the harbor. Would it be appropriate to “dip the flag” as a sign of respect to the ships as they pass by?

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      Mr. Johnson,

      I’m so glad you are searching for the correct protocols! US Navy Regulations, Chapter 12 is where this information is found. You can download the PDF from my Resources page.

      DM

      1. Drill Master, Thank you for you quick reply. I did look through the Navy Regulations but it only described dipping the colors from vessel to vessel on certain occasions. I will continue my research, and thank you for this website and for your service.

  10. Good afternoon, I was confused reading one specific part of your instructions & couldn’t find it in 3-21.5. When you stated “State and territory flags are carried immediately to the left of the American flag, and to the right of the departmental flag.” Would a correct order be: US, State, Departmental(Army for me), and Organizational(Battalion for me) ? Trying to include more college cadets than the common US & state combo.

    Thank you

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      1. lightning response awesome. In another article of yours, you stated “These service color guards can also add a foreign national, territory, county, and/or city flag. Since TC 3-21.5 has information for Colors Reverse for a team of six, we can then understand that up to four flags may be carried by these three services.”, probably not, but would a flag of the school be able to be carried in the last position since our ROTC program is based under that organization? assuming we could find one with fringe, a spade, & everything else needed.

        Second question, I’ve been doing it for years but forgot if I learned it from the manual, an old high school instructor, or it was passed down, the spade finial needs to be flat at all times? (because angled means heading into war)

        Lastly, the max size of a team can be 6 personnel meaning maximum 4 flags correct?

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          School flags could be considered an organizational, I my view.

          Yes, spade is flat 100% of the time. Read the Spade Marker article on keeping it flat (I can’t link when I respond on my phone). “Going to war” is a myth.

          So, I wrote that article before I found the DoD Instruction that allows a single service to carry all service departmental flags. I think that would be the only instance to go past 4 color bearers, but there isn’t a stated restriction. My best guess is 6 on the team, max. Four on colors with two guards. You can have more Bearers if you really want.

  11. I am a member of an organization that will soon be hosting an event honoring Military veterans. We will have a joint service color guard. My question is: Does the moderator of the event announce “post the colors” before we have the prayer, pledge, and national anthem, or does the color guard hold the flags while we do all that and then post them? We would really like to do this correctly.
    Thank you.

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  12. Is it proper for a high school color guard to the American flag with only one rifle? If so which side of teh flag should the rifle be on?

    Can the rifle be substituted for a saber?

    Thank you.

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  13. Sir,

    I see Army JROTC Color Guard’s all the time carrying the US Flag and their State Flag only. From what I’ve read above, this is incorrect. They should also carry their departmental flag, is that correct?

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      1. My school Principal wants a color guard to carry a flag to the middle of the field at Football games and a large flag displayed on the staff. It often causes attendees to be focused on 2 separate flags. Is this okay to have two flags displayed while the national anthem is playing?

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          This is a very good question.

          The flag on the pole at the end of field is appropriate and having the color guard march out to FORMALLY PRESENT thr colors us just fine.

          The audience’s focus needs to be on the color guard, however, and the way to go that is to have the announcer say, “Ladies and gentlemen, please rise and turn your focus to the XYZ high school NJROTC color guard at the center of the field for the playing of the Star-Spangled Banner.”

          That statement, or something very similar to it, is a must.

          DM

  14. I am in a SAMS (Scottish American Military Society) that has Canadian members. How would it work with multiple countries represented. Do we need to represent every military branch of their country as well? With the Space Force, the team is getting a bit long. Or is there any difference for the colors presented at these Highland Games events? I would think it’d be the same no matter where you perform colors.

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      Ma’am,

      I highly suggest that you not carry all the service colors since the team is really international.

      Two guards and both national flags plus your state flag would be good. Since you follow the Scottish Rite, the guards would be armed with the broad sword (don’t have to).

      DM

  15. I’m with the Young Marines program (actually volunteering for 20 years and a Navy veteran). The 12th SgtMajor gave our adult volunteers a training on color guard- you can find that video on YouTube. I missed the first couple of minutes where he explained that the fringed flags are for indoors ceremonies only, and parade/outdoor ceremony flags should not have fringe.
    I see above you say the opposite. Honestly with young kids I’ve found it is easier in parades for them and easier to get ahold of replacement flags as well. I know in our program we usually leave it up to Unit Commanders to choose- what are your thoughts?
    Also, I’m in a bit of a pickle…..I only have 3 Young Marines for a color guard tomorrow at a school district wide ceremony. Usually schools do the pledge and then the TX pledge, should I march the Rifleman, American flag, and TX flag or should I only march the two flags?? Help, your guidance is appreciated!
    DD

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      Ms. Dillon,

      I’ve seen the video. Many in the Marine Corps and Navy believe there are two flag standards for “indoor” and “outdoor” flags, but here is where I have to say the SgtMaj was incorrect.

      That information comes from US Navy Regulations, but it is not clear unless one has a very good understanding of flag protocol. It truly does need to be rewritten. As for the reasoning of the navy’s no fringe rule, it was more of way to differentiate between the Army and the Navy back then. The Navy had a habbit of making sure their rules were the exact oposite or at least different enough to set them apart, which is partially why the Navy (Marine Corps and Coast Guard) cannot carry a state flag.

      Flags come in two types “indoor/outdoor” and what I call “outside”. An indoor/outdoor flag has a staff sleeve (pole hem) at the header end for sliding the flag onto a flagstaff. It can have fringe or not. An “outside” flag, the term I developed years ago to help others understand the difference, has a header at the header end of the flag. The header is thick, strong material, manila in color, and has two brass grommets in it to attach the flag to clasps on a halyard for hoisting outside on a permanent pole/mast. These flags never have fringe.

      Now, let’s go to MCO 5060.20, Marine Corps Drill and Ceremonies (used by the Navy and Coast Guard as well). It describes the type of flag and flagstaff to be carried and posted by a color guard. It states that fringe on the national flag for a color guard is forbidden. This follows the guidance of the Flag Code that states nothing will be attached to the flag and US Navy Regulations. Incidentally, that section of the Flag Code was written as a jab at the Army since most of the members of the committee were former Navy. We know this applies to flag displays as well as color guards because a color guard posts those displayed colors at times and it makes no sense to have two types of flags for a display when “display-only” flags are never described.

      Now, about your three for the color guard. The minimum for a military color guard is two rifle guards and the national ensign bearer. Your organization cannot carry the state flag (as previously mentioned).

      I hope this is helpful for you.

      DM

  16. Hello sir,

    I have two questions for you which I hope you can clarify for me.

    I’ve been doing honor guard work with EMS and Fire for almost 8 years and am still learning so much. Yesterday while working an event with another agency, I was told the American Flag does not, under any circumstances, perform any facing movements or hard changes of direction such as column right or left.
    I had not heard this before and cannot find much about it on the internet.
    The way we post our colors is very similar to this video here:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gi6Cg28WRnE&list=PLKsxn7sR19g5SNXis4D7No0pC_kxgU1M_&index=27

    However when we post, the American and State flag take a step forward, the American flag does a right face, the State flag does a left face and the flags are carried to their stands and posted.

    Are we doing this wrong??? Our Guard was trained by the local Airforce Honor Guard and that’s the way we’ve always posted but I’m certainly willing to admit that I’m wrong.

    Also, I’m aware that with various Colors Reverse movements the American flag will take a step to the left and then go into a mark time march and turn to face the opposing direction. Is this correct?

    Could you please elucidate on the appropriateness of the American Flag performing facing movements?

    Second question. You discuss how the spread eagle finial is only appropriate for the presidential guard but a flying eagle is appropriate for civilian guard. What is the difference between the two?

    I want to make sure my guards are squared away so I very much appreciate your time

    Thank you!

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      Mr. Poole,

      This is the longest and most thorough comment I’ve ever received on my website. I love it!

      Question 1 Answer: Partly true. There’s no such thing as “American flag bearer only” restrictions/allowances.

      Restrictions: A color guard does not execute About Face or (To the) Rear March. That’s it. What you have been told are “Hard Turns” are pivots when marching. A pivot would be a flanking movement either 45 or 90 degrees. A color guard does not execute pivots. This is not a stated restriction but is understood because what a color guard CAN do is explained in the three drill and ceremonies manuals (download for free from the Resources page) and my book, The Honor Guard Manual. None of the moves listed for a color guard requires a pivot when marching and for ceremonial drill, facing movements are not executed. A color guard will not execute a flank or column movement. Direction changes in line formation are accomplished through the execution of Wheel movements and direction changes while in column formation are accomplished by rounding all corners (as shown in the video you shared).

      Allowances: While standing the color guard can execute Right Face from Line Formation and Left Face from Column Formation. Only when posting the colors (using the technique found in TC 3-21.5) can the color guard execute Right Face from Column Formation to post the staffs into stands. For ceremonial drill, the color bearers execute an individual about turn using the T-L-Step method that is shown in my video that you posted as an example.

      I quick comment on how you post colors: you say both color bearers step forward, stop, execute a facing movement, and then march off to post. The reason for the facing movement is probably because at one time didn’t want the flanking movements to be one right after the other and decided to have the simultaneous halt and face. That looks better than two differently times flanks. What you could do instead is to just simply march forward in a wide arc. Round you corners and post the colors. This method of stepping forward is usually used for a split post where the stands are separated by significant space and it’s easier to get to them be stepping forward. If the stands are only separated by 12″ or so and are directly behind the team (within a few feet), using the T-L-Step would be perfect. While I love my fellow Airmen, not everyone has a thorough knowledge of colors posting techniques. You may have been trained with good intentions but poor information.

      The Colors Reverse (Army) and Countermarch (Marine Corps) are essentially the same thing with a minor difference, but both have the team members executing flanks for the move. The American flag bearer executes a Left Face-in-March with one step forward to the left and then marches in place, turns in four steps and waits for the rest of the team to come on line before giving forward or split it (to then halt). Flanking movements are required here.

      Question 2 Answer: The spread eagle looks like an eagle on his perch standing up and stretching his wings out to the side. a flying eagle has his body angles forward and the wings spread a bit but mostly angle to the rear as if ready to take flight.

      Please let me know if you have any further questions or if I need to explain better.

      I hope this is helpful.
      DM

      1. Sir,
        Thank you so much for your prompt reply! I was very encouraged to hear your response. This clears up much of the confusion I had.
        I had been meaning to purchase a copy of the Honor Guard Manual for about a year but had not gotten around to it. I purchased a copy last night and it should arrive soon. I’m anxious to read it!
        To close the loop of communication and ensure I am understanding correctly:
        -Color Guards never execute “About face” or “Rear March”
        -Color Guards do not execute pivot movements while marching
        -Color Guards are allowed to perform “Right Face” from Line formation
        -Color Guards are allowed to perform “Left Face” from Column formation
        -Color Guards are allowed to perform a facing T-L Step (We have adapted the name TLC with the C standing for close for our purposes) about turn to post
        -The American Flag bearer performs a Left-Face-in March for Colors reverse (which to my understanding is a combination of a turn and step correct?)
        Again I appreciate you taking the time to answer my questions and I will likely have more in the future. I have been in the Honor Guard realm for a little while but still have much to understand.
        Would it be acceptable to you if I sent you a clip of my Honor Guard posting colors at an event for you to critique? If you have the time.
        Thank you once again. It means a lot to me.

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          Mr. Poole,

          I’m glad my response was helpful. I’ve pasted your text below and added my answers after the asterisk.

          -Color Guards never execute “About face” or “Rear March”
          *Correct

          -Color Guards do not execute pivot movements while marching
          *Correct, except for Colors Reverse

          -Color Guards are allowed to perform “Right Face” from Line formation
          *Only for posting the colors but no other time

          -Color Guards are allowed to perform “Left Face” from Column formation
          *Correct

          -Color Guards are allowed to perform a facing T-L Step (We have adapted the name TLC with the C standing for close for our purposes) about turn to post
          *-TLC (“T” – “L” – Close) is a facing movement. T-L-Step is a turn. To perform the TLC and then step adds an unnecessary step and creates two movements for the left foot instead of a consistent flow of L, R, L

          -The American Flag bearer performs a Left-Face-in March for Colors reverse (which to my understanding is a combination of a turn and step correct?)
          *Correct

          Would it be acceptable to you if I sent you a clip of my Honor Guard posting colors at an event for you to critique? If you have the time.
          *I always have time for critiques and feedback and am more than happy to help. You can always send photos and video to me through my Facebook and Instagram DrillMasterTraining accounts.

          DM

          1. Well thank you sir!
            This has been so helpful and encouraging.
            I will definitely do that because I would highly value your input.

  17. What is the procedure when someone still refuses to move after shouting “Make way for the colors”? Let’s say someone is purposefully trying to antagonize or hinder the ceremony and so they refuse to step aside

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      Mr. Hernandez,

      This is an excellent question, one that only comes with increasing concern almost daily.

      You’re traveling in column formation and the lead guard calls out the phrase twice. What happens next needs to be practiced by color guards. My thinking here is that the team has probably come to Mark Time automatically by now and the commander should call the team to a halt. Whatever happens, the team should never get physical with a member of the public except for personal defense or defense of the colors. This is the extent that the color guard can go. After this, the team turns around to take another route or allow the original route to be cleared.

      Patriotic Americans, security, and even law enforcement may get involved. Let’s hope this never happens.

      DM

  18. What should a Color Guard Team do if someone decides to block the path that the Color Guard is taking? Do you simply move around them or shout or stop? I’ve always wondered but never found an answer.

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      Mr. Lopez,

      The lead guard will call out with a loud voice, “Make way for the colors!” The guard can call out a couple times. The team can Mark Time or even halt while people move.

  19. I work in a facility where all residents are currently incarcerated. My question is, Can a currently incarcerated individual serve in a color guard?

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      Mr. Langston,

      I don’t know of a situation where an inmate would be given the privilege of having any position on a color guard, but I don’t know the context of the situation.

      Nothing I know of forbids a prisoner from serving on a color guard, but we look to manuals to see what we are supposed to do, not what we are not supposed to do. Military manuals state the requirements for being a member for each military service and that includes not being incarcerated. I would use those guidelines for civilian agencies as well. However, again, I don’t know your situation.

      DM

      1. I apologize, I did not explain my situation. I am working in a rehabilitation center for inmates. a large section of my population are veterans, most were discharged under honorable conditions. They have expressed an interest in forming a color guard to render honors at ceremonies that take place in the facility.

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          Mr Langston,

          Having some context definitely helps. I can appreciate veterans rehabilitating themselves and I think this could be a positive step in that process. Replica rifles are available from http://www.glendale.com to help with this.

          Please let me know how this project turns out. It’s worthy of writing about here. You can send me an email through my contact form on the Home page.

          DM

  20. We are first responders and veterans who do a multi era military color guard (revolutionary war to current soldier) for our city’s 4th of July parade. Couple of questions; Are there any regs on pole height? We have upgraded to 9ft poles to keep the flags out the carriers face. We carry multi era national colors in the order of era with the current national colors in the proper place then descending order, state flag then the city flag. And do we dip all but the current national colors or only the state and city flags? Are we ok in our protocol?

    1. Post
      Author

      Mr. Shields,

      The US military carries 9’6″ staffs and has done for decades. You are fine on staff height as long as all of them are the same and carried at the same height.

      All of the historic American flags are treated just like our current national flag and never dipped. Only the state and city flags are dipped.

      As a suggestion, you can carry the current national, state, and city flags with two guards in the color guard proper in line formation (abreast) and then have the historic flag bearers in single file column formation (one behind another) behind.

      If you carry each historic American flag in line formation with the current, then the state and city flags will be at the far marching right and might lose focus.

      The two situations I mention above follow protocol and the choice is yours.

      Let me know if you have any more questions.
      DM

  21. My school principal is not letting my school’s JROTC program use replica rifles in our color guard. Is there a specific regulation that says it required outside of Army Regulations? And does Army JROTC fall under Army Regulations since we didn’t take an oath to actually join?

    1. Post
      Author

      You wear the Army uniform and you are in an Army program. You and your fellow cadets fall under applicable Army regulations.

      TC 3-21.5, Drill and Ceremonies, requires the guards to carry rifles. However, the principal, as well intentioned as he or she may be, can override that requirement and even the requirement to wear a cover (hat) in uniform.

      While some may want to deride the seeming idiocy of a political decision like this, it is the principal’s prerogative to make these decisions for on- and off-campus activities because you represent the school.

      If you have the inclination, I suggest that you spread the word among cadets and parents and bring this up to the school board. You can and must do this in a respectful manner.

      Once you have a large group of supporters at the school board meeting, you can respectfully let your voice be heard. It’s my belief that if you solely down the road of “the Army requires the guards to carry rifles”, you won’t get far at all.

      I think you should mention that, but your emphasis needs to be on the benefits of not only marching but handling equipment as well. In the military, we carry and use rifles, swords, and flagstaffs. These are weapons of war that have been brought into the ceremonial drill world so that we can train, practice, and perform to the best of our abilities no matter what the situation.

      I have more in this article here: https://thedrillmaster.org/2020/04/07/the-benefits-of-military-drill/.

      Write up a short speech and tell the board. Have a couple of cadets speak who have excelled at drill and improved after marching or rifle spinning.

      Even if you don’t change anyone’s mind, you can still be a part of and learn from the process.

      Please let me know how things go.

      DM

  22. Do all the JSCG need to be the same size?

    Example: National, US Army, USMC, USN, USAF, USCG are 4.4 ft x 5.4ft, US Space Force is 3 ft x 4 ft.

    Flags are not uniform in appearance, is this an appropriate Joint Service Color display?
    .

    1. Post
      Author

      Sir/Ma’am,

      All staffs must be the same length and all flags in the display must be the same dimensions. All service departmental colors come in 4’4″x5’6″ and 3’x4′.

      DM

    1. Post
      Author

      Hello sir,

      We are supposed to carry our own colors and not the colors of another service. AR 840-10, MCO 5060.20, AFI 34-1201, and DoD Inst 1005.8 talk about a Soldier carrying the national and being the right rifle guard, and a Marine being the left rifle guard. Manning of the color positions is not specifically addressed, but understood to be a member of the service. The MCO does add a bit more clarification for manning. The SF flag is only carried by the USAF until Guardians can man the position.

      DM

    1. Post
      Author

      Mr. Maxfield,

      If you are part of a veteran group, the following two paragraphs apply. If you are part of a civilian group, the first paragraph applies and the second is a suggestion.

      Any time the color guard is in public the colors must be unfurled. There is never any time when a color remains furled when uncased. If you do not have a cases for your flags, after the color guard members exit their transportation, they need to don harnesses and belts as appropriate, ensuring the harness sockets are as close as possible to the same level without the American flag bearer’s socket being lower. Once all uniform issues are taken care of, then they can take their rifles and colors out of the vehicle, (uncase,) and unfurl the colors. Once the ceremony is finished and the color guard members are at their transportation, the guards pack their rifles away and help with furling the colors. Once the flags are taken care of and put away, then uniform items (harnesses, belts, etc.) are removed.

      Color bearers hold their flags in accordance with the Army Training Circular, the Marine Corps Order (both found on the Resources Page Here), or my book, The Honor Guard Manual.

      DM

  23. We have a small Wreaths Across America event this Saturday during which a local scout group will function as Color Guard. The WAA script for our ceremony says, “at this point the Color Guard will order arms.” What does that mean in our situation?

    1. Post
      Author

      Ma’am,

      Since Scouts do not carry rifles, the command would be better termed, “Order, COLORS!” all it means is to bring the equipment (in this case only the flagstaffs, but also includes and rifles) to the ground at the position of Order. This command is what the color guard commander (the American flag bearer) gives for the colors guard.

      Please let me know if you have any further questions.

      DM

    1. Post
      Author

      Hi Chief,

      It depends on your service which flags are authorized. If you are Army or Air Force/Space Force, you can carry all those flags. If you are Marine Corps, Navy, or Coast Guard, you can only carry the national and departmental/organizational.

      DM

  24. Question: I believe I know and have the answer to the following question, but I want to double check my assumptions and experience. Marine Corps Color Guards can or cannot conduct a color guard ceremony with non-military personnel (i.e. Law Enforcement, Fire Department, American Legions, etc)??

    Thanks

    1. Post
      Author

      Sir,

      There is no published restriction specifying combined (not joint service) teams, however, the standard is military only for color guards. We know this because none of the manuals have any other option.

      Additional, since military members are forbidden to carry no government flags, we can then extrapolate from that guidance that members also cannot march on the same team when those flags are carried by others- no association with those organizations since that would possibly be seen as endorsement.

  25. This season the NFL will feature a second song in addition to the National Anthem. This second song is being defined as the “black national anthem”. What is the protocol for the color guard, with the American flag presented, while this second song is played?

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      Author

      Mr. Gerard,

      As with any other music played, the team should stand at Attention. In regulation drill terms, they would go back to Carry. In ceremonial drill terms, they would resume Right Shoulder.

      DM

  26. At a sporting event, during the Anthem, if there is a color guard on the field with a flag, and a flag on a pole in the stadium, which is the proper flag to face during the hymn?

    1. Post
      Author

      B,

      This is a great question! First, it’s the flag that you can see. If you can see both, then you should face the color guard. The color guard is there to formally present the colors and should have all attention focused on that flag. After the Star-Spangled Banner, the focus is no longer on the color guard flag.

      DM

  27. We will be conducting a Navy retirement and my question is, other than the National Ensign and the Navy colors, is there another flag that can be used?

    1. Post
      Author

      Do you mean another flag that can be presented/posted or presented to the retiree?

      If it’s for the retiree, only the small-star national ensign is folded and presented at government expense. If the retiree wishes another flag, it would be at the Sailor’s expense.

  28. This may sound stupid but I have a question of precedence. I am a Veteran training a Junior AMVETS COLOR GUARD. We are required to carry the National Colors and Our Junior AMVETS Flag. We have a POW/MIA event where we post the POW/MIA flag. Up to now they have been marching with the organization flag to the right of the colors. I know this is wrong but how do we post the POW/MIA flag without carrying it in our formation???

    1. Post
      Author

      Mr. Elkins,

      The national flag must always march at the far right in line formation and at the front in column formation.
      The Flag next to the American (on the left) could then be the state and to the left of the state, could be the organizational. Without the state, the organizational marches to the left of the national.
      Most veteran organizations completely ignore the POW/MIA flag protocol of not including it in the formation and only uding it as a personal color for the funeral of a former POW.
      The POW flag should be preposted off on its own near the missing man table. I know that this could ruffle some feathers so, as a sort of middle ground, you could present (and post) the colors (US, state, & org or US & org) and then, at a special time in the ceremony, you could have one color bearer post the POW near the table. That might be the best.

  29. We are celebrating French Alliance day during the American revolution. Our color guard is carrying US and French national colors. I assume the US does not dip during the French anthem. Does the French flag dip for the US National Anthem?
    Thanks

    1. Post
      Author
      1. f marching with colors if the staff is going to hit something carry the american flag . what do u do can u dip the flag to enter a room or do u bring it down to u side .

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          Author

          Mr. Lopez,

          Thank you for the question. You bring the staff to Port. Port for the flagstaff means it is carried at the right side with the right arm pointing straight down, lower ferrule about 6″ off the marching surface, and the left forearm horizontal across the front of the body with the left hand grasping the staff.

          There is much more to understand about this position for a color team: coming down at once, rippling up to Right Shoulder, and when and how to accomplish each move. My book, The Honor Guard Manual, has a complete explanation.

          DM

    1. Post
      Author

      That’s an excellent question!
      Technically, none of the JROTC units are authorized to carry all of the service departmental colors. Per each manual, it’s just the parent service color, in your case that would be USN, that the unit is authorized to carry. The organizational color, again in your case, the NJROTC color, is the most appropriate for the unit.
      Now, having said that, I completely understand why JROTC units carry all the departmental colors. It’s a patriotic thing and appreciated by the general public for parades. But, only the national and departmentals should be carried. No other flag is authorized in that formation (not the state and NEVER the POW/MIA flag). Any other time, carrying all the departmental colors it’s not appropriate.
      I hope that helps.

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          Author

          Mr. Perez De Armas,

          No, not supposed to. Each service drill and ceremonies manual specifically states that the departmental/organizational is carried by the second color bearer.
          Many people tend to miss this. It is a mandatory flag carried at all times. Only the Army, Air Force, and Space Force can add a state or foreign national flag.

  30. In followup to previous email regarding color bearers being seated the deceased members would be in the triple digits not double digits .

  31. Is it proper for the color bearers to be seated holding the colors during an outdoor memorial day service. During covid our Legion shortened the service and moved it outdoors to a local memorial. However we had a tradition of reading a list of all deceased members with a reply which we omitted last year. Community members desired we continue the reading. Even tho we are a small rural community the list is in double digits and the majority of our color guard are in their 70s. It is generally quite windy so posting would require special anchoring of the base.

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      Author

      Mr. Persson,

      There is no provision in any drill and ceremonies manual for a color guard member or members to be seated while still holding the colors. However, the manuals were written for those who are of age and able bodied. I have attended at least one funeral where a single color bearer was seated in a small scooter. I see nothing wrong with having veteran honor guard members serve as long as they wish in their own capacity due to their health circumstances. I think we all need to recognize the need for honors and the possible physical limitations of those who wish to render those honors and understand when we are not able to perfectly fit into the strict standards designed for the younger generation. a little leeway is appropriate here.

      DM

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