“Every Honor Guard Invents Their Own Standards”

DrillMasterCommentary, Instructional Leave a Comment

Quoted from an AFROTC cadet. A cadet who is going to commission into the USAF/USSF. The quote was relayed to me.

If the above statement is true, then writing AFMAN 34-515 (the USAF Honor Guard manual) culminated in several years of wasted of time and abuse of resources. Standards are written and applied to uphold laws and regulations and avoid fraud, waste, and abuse.

Before We Continue

Many first responder honor guards do invent their own standards. They, along with “training organizations” try to play a guessing game or merge all the military standards everyone thinks they remember. This is why first responders don’t have a national standard and end up making something up on the spot an hour before a ceremony. It’s a sad state of affairs that individual teams (read: egos) and “training agencies” (again, read: egos) are absolutely hindering the establishment of a foundation let alone advancement in education and training of any kind.

A Little History

When I first joined the USAF in 1985, each base had it’s own honor guard doing it’s own thing. Much was the same, in general, but there were all kinds of little things that a base team would personalize. The flag fold was based on the written standard but at my base, Davis-Monthan, in Tucson AZ, back then (late 80s and early 90s), used three Airmen to fold with the Airman in the middle leaning and pulling hard away from the stars to ensure tight triangle folds. That was totally unnecessary. Worse, If you PCSd and joined the next base’s honor guard, you had to learn everything all over again because of these tiny “flares” that teams added and changed.

Let’s stretch that thought out to the extreme. You’re a crew chief on F-15s at Ramstein AB in Germany. You’ve been maintaining your aircraft the “RAB way” for the last three years and you deploy. Now you are working next to three crew chiefs from three different bases who all do it “their” way. Which method is right? Which one is best? Which aircraft will launch, do it’s job, and return the pilot safely home? Is this how we do things in the USAF, by inventing our own standards? Of course not. We will always benchmark best practices but we will also follow written standards because we do not put lives at risk.

Let’s go back to D&C. AFPAM 34-1203 has the standards for AF/SF marching. At summer training, all cadets from dozens of schools gather to learn for a certain amount of time. During that training they march back and forth to different classes and to chow. However, one school teaches their cadets to give commands backwards because it’s cool. Another teaches to march really slowly and still another teaches to march sideways. That utterly ridiculous, and it is, but so is that cadet’s statement that is the title of the article.


We have standards for everything because lives depend on many of those standards. We have standards for seemingly silly things, like D&C, for two reasons:

  1. If you can handle seemingly inconsequential standards (see the cadet training story above), you can probably be trusted with bigger and bigger standards (see the F-15 crew chief story above).
  2. Because the USAF, and all other services, are supposed to act as one, big well-oiled machine at every level. This even gets into the long list of the benefits of D&C.

Standards matter. If you are going to invent your own standards for what you might consider insignificant, what is to stop someone else from doing the same thing for something entirely different?

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