Sigonella NJROTC Color Guard

The “Why” of the Military Color Guard – Regulations

DrillMasterColor Guard, Color Guard/Color Team, Honor Guard Training, Instructional, Protocol and Flag, Regulation Drill Leave a Comment


No, not that kind of makeup, if you need that kind of advice, my daughter, Courtkne, is a licensed cosmetologist and an expert aesthetician. This article is about why certain flags and certain equipment is required for a military color guard.


Over the next few weeks this will be a series of articles because the information is just so much. I’ll break it down by service. One thing that won’t be included is specifics for cadets. Each cadet organization has seen fit to write its own standards (except Army, Marine Corps, and Air Force JROTC, thankfully) that unfortunately deviate from the parent service standards. What makes it worse, is the standards change slightly over time. This makes for a dizzying array of standards to keep up with. However, all hope is not lost. The parent service standards are always going to be relatively rock solid and cadets can always default to them.

Let’s begin with an overview of the regulations that we are to follow. Remember out of the three type of military drill: Ceremonial, Regulation, and Exhibition, this series only addresses Regulation Drill.


This article is about regulation drill, not ceremonial. This is about what is mandatory for a color guard, flag precedence, and required equipment, not specifically techniques.

Active Duty, Guard, and Reserve

  • Army: TC 3-21.5, AR 600-25, & AR 840-10
  • Marine Corps, Navy, & Coast Guard: MCO 5060.2 and MCO 4400.201 Vol 13 (Flag Manual)
  • Navy & Coast Guard adds: NTP 13B
  • Air Force: AFMAN 36-2203, AFI 34-1201, & AFPAM 34-1202.

Additional information on uniform specifics comes from each service’s uniform regulation

  • Army: AR 670-1
  • Marine Corps: MCO 10209.34
  • Navy: NAVPERS 15665I
  • Air Force: AFI 36-2903
  • Coast Guard: COMDTINST M1020.6.

Veteran Service Organizations

Many veteran honor guard units use either the Army Training Circular or the Marine Corps Order for their color guard. However, many seem to be unaware of the other regulations from that service that have an impact. My book, The Honor Guard Manual is always an option. Using it helps eliminate the “better manual” argument.

First Responders

Like veteran organizations, police, fire, and EMS honor guard units use either the Army Training Circular or the Marine Corps Order for their color guard or they make up things. My book, The Honor Guard Manual is the first responder national standard that more and more departments are adopting.


For cadets, it can get a bit complicated:

  1. AJROTC – TC 3-21.5 is the standard applied across the board.
  2. MCJROTC – Follow the Marine Corps Orders listed above.
  3. NJROTC – The Cadet Field Manual, NAVEDTRA 37116, has information that is not aligned with both Marine Corps Orders, unfortunately.
  4. AFJROTC – Follow the Air Force regulations listed above.
  5. Young Marines – The Young Marines Ceremonies Manual is published guidance from HQ YM that has information that is not aligned with both Marine Corps Orders, unfortunately.
  6. Sea Cadets – Follow NSCPUB 300.
  7. Civil Air Patrol – Follow CAPPAM 60-33, which is an altered copy of AFMAN 36-2203. CAP Reg 900-2 unfortunately seems to replace AFI 34-1201, & AFPAM 34-1202.

Above, I used “unfortunately” rather liberally and I could have continued. These cadet organization publications seem to have been written without even glancing at the associated parent service manual. Cadet organizations are under the service and therefore cannot deviate from service standards. I’ll give you some examples.

Civil Air Patrol. CAPR 900-2 states that the gold eagle finial is appropriate for the color guard US flagstaff. No, it’s not. Air Force uniform = Air Force standards. The spread eagle finial is only for the US President and Vice President. The same regulation states the CAP ceremonial size flag can have gold fringe or not (USAF requires fringe on all flags) and if it does have gold fringe, a gold cord and tassels will be attached. The gold cord and tassels is not authorized in the USAF. Plus, adorning another flag with cord and tassels and not the American flag is inappropriate. But again, we do not use a cord and tassels in the USAF.

Another example is the NJROTC Cadet Field Manual. In the pictures of the manual of arms for color guard, many pictures are just plain wrong. We do not flare elbows out to the side when manipulating the rifle, they are tucked in to the side. Nor are the elbows supposed to be tightly pinned to the flagstaff at Carry, but relaxed. Casing the colors does not take three people, it’s only supposed to be two.

Young Marines, your manual has many inconsistencies, like the other cadets organizations, but could be written in such a way as to accommodate the youngest (and shortest) members when it comes to colors guard.


To wrap up this first installment, I must communicate to you that I understand that funding plays a role. However, there is never an excuse to present the colors outside of the regs. And any excuse is just an excuse. Merely stating that “they are supporting their community” dismisses the responsibility we have when holding that American flag or being a part of that formation. Standards are standards and they begin when you volunteer to join the organization. Those standards increase when you begin wearing the uniform and increase even further when you pick up a piece of equipment.

Next week is Army Standards!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *