About the image at the top: The cadets here are in a middle school leadership program that is similar to high school JROTC. Some middle schools do not have the funding for equipment and some schools choose not to issue rifles.
Armed and Unarmed Teams
In the JROTC competitive drill world, teams are split into two categories, Armed and Unarmed. For each category a single school can enter four teams into competition for a drill meet, an armed drill team, an unarmed drill team, an armed color guard, and an unarmed color guard.
An Unarmed Color Guard?
The Armed and Unarmed categories do not apply to the color guards, only the drill teams. Even though a color guard is entered into the Unarmed category, the guards still carry rifles, it’s required by all three drill and ceremonies manuals. The categories create the ability for a school to enter two color guards and therefore more cadets can participate.
An Unarmed Color Guard
A color guard inside a chapel is usually unarmed but it depends on the chaplain. He can always allow the guards to carry rifles. It’s always best to check rather than assume.
Unfortunately, this requirement is only explained in Marine Corps Order 5060.20. All of the service honor guards (ceremonial drill) follow this guidance, but many people outside of the ceremonial drill world do not know about it from only reading the the regulation drill manuals.
Below is an image of the Commandant’s Four, the color guard from Marine Barracks Washington (MBW). Marines assigned to MBW, also called “8th and I” because it’s on the corner of those two streets, are the Marine Corps’ Honor Guard performing ceremonial drill. They are presenting the colors in the Cathedral Church of Saint Peter and Saint Paul, commonly called the Washington Cathedral. Inside the church, the color guard is uncovered (they do not wear hats) and the guards are unarmed (when a salute is required, they render the hand salute). In this photo, the team is in the middle of executing Countermarch in their unique MBW style that is not authorized for the Fleet or cadets. The national color (American flag) bearer is then Sgt Kenneth Newton, 37th Color Sergeant of the Marine Corps.
With the God-given right to keep and bear arms under constant threat, JROTC is beginning to come into view. For decades, law-abiding citizens as well as cadets have used firearms without issue. All Army and Marine Corps (possibly Navy as well) JROTC units were issued demilitarized M1 Garands and M1903s when they began as units. From what I gather and my own experience, Air Force JROTC units were not issued rifles until the late 1980s and early 1990s and most of them received the new Daisy Drill Rifle.
Daisy has made air guns for over 100 years and began manufacturing the drill-purpose rifle in the 1990s. The rifle, along with the Glendale DrillAmerica rifle, has now replaced a majority of the demilitarized rifle in JROTC programs around the world. These replica rifles are essentially very well made toys. This is not to downplay their purpose and use, but the reader must understand that while they look like the real thing, it is impossible to use them as a rifle except for drill and ceremonies.
The New Unarmed Color Guard
I received two messages not long ago relating a similar story. Suddenly, the school principal is not letting the school’s JROTC program use the replica rifles in the color guard.
The main question was, is there a specific regulation that says a color guard is required to have the guards armed? The answer is, absolutely. You wear the service’s uniform and you are in the service’s program. You and your fellow cadets fall under applicable service regulations. TC 3-21.5, MCO 5060.20, and AFPAM 34-1203 (formerly AFMAN 36-2203, AFM 50-14, & AFR 50-14), all require the guards to be armed. However, that argument alone not going to get you what you want.
A Political Move
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 the cadets represent the school. Some schools have even overridden the requirement to wear a cover (hat) in uniform.
Make an Argument
I suggest that you spread the word among cadets and parents and bring this up to the school board in a respectful manner. Once you have a large group of supporters at the school board meeting, you can respectfully let your collective voice be heard. It’s my belief that if you go solely down the road of “the (service) requires the guards to carry rifles, it says so right here”, you won’t get far at all.
Make your argument from here: 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.
You should mention the requirement, 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 and exhibition drill worlds so that we can train, practice, and perform to the best of our abilities no matter what the situation.
Even if you don’t change anyone’s mind, you can still be a part of and learn from the process.