The Flagstaff Spade Marker

DrillMaster Color Guard, Color Guard/Color Team, Honor Guard, Honor Guard Training, Instructional Leave a Comment

The Flagstaff

The guidon staff comes in three sizes for the US military:

  1. 8′ – for guidon flags and 3′ x 4′ colors (all services)
  2. 9’6″ – for 4’4″ x 5’6″ flags (all but the Air Force)
  3. 9′ – for 4’4″ x 5’6″ flags (Air Force, for some reason, as of 2019)

The Finial

A finial is a device or ornament at the top of a color guard flagstaff, outdoor flagpole, a lamp, and even at the ends of a drapery rod. Really. We will concentrate on the flagstaff.

The US military uses only the Army spearhead (also called the spade) on all guidon flagstaffs . With first responders being paramilitary, it makes perfect sense to follow military standards. The Navy and Coast Guard may, with local funds, purchase the battle-ax finial for use on flagstaffs. Read this article to see how to replace the spearhead.

Placing the Marker

When we stand at Order, Parade Rest (Stand at Ease), and Carry (Right Shoulder), the spade should be flat to the front. In order to do this, for many years, we (older guys) would use thumbtacks that we could feel with our fingers with the staff on the deck and/or see when carried. You can see the thumbtack on the upper half of this staff (the visual marker) on my kitchen floor.

A small-head (less noticeable) thumbtack is good, the one in the picture is a large-head. On the upper part of the staff the marker is used to align the staff when in the harness socket. A very small nail driven into the wood also works. You want to use something that the color bearer can feel on the lower portion of the staff and see on the upper half of the screen. However, anyone outside of the color guard formation should not be able to detect either marker.

At Carry/Right Shoulder

On the upper half of the staff a good way to mark the staff is to hold it at Carry (Right Shoulder), ensure the spade is flat, and take a ballpoint pen and draw a straight line on the staff right between the bearer’s eyes so that it is about two inches long. Press into the wood a bit to ensure the mark is made and make the mark on the side of the staff so that the fringe gather is pointing to the rear (spade) or to the front (flying eagle, battle-ax) so that the fringe is in the proper position when the flag posted (read this article for a full explanation). The line should be placed where it can be seen by a taller and shorter color bearer.

Another method would be to use a thin strip of tape in place of the pen mark. A thumbtack or small nail are good also.

At Order and Parade Rest/Stand at Ease

On the lower half of the staff, on the front side of the staff with the spade flat and the fringe gather in the preferred direction (see above), you can cut a small “V”-shaped groove (the point of the “V” would be toward the core of the staff) into the wood that the color bearer can feel even while wearing a glove. You must now protect the groove and ensure it will not snag any material that comes in contact with it. Sand the area so that it is smooth and put several coats of polyurethane on the groove.

Another method is using a thumbtack, small nail, or strip of moleskin so that you can feel it with your gloved fingers.

What do you use?

What are some ideas that you use that other teams might be able to use?

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