I received such a great question that it spurred me into creating a new tag #DrillMasterRecommends, and writing this article. Thank you, Jari Villanueva, The Taps Bugler!
Question: I’m looking at updating our organization’s flags. Our new Honor Guard would like to purchase an American flag a state flag, poles for each and bases. What do you recommend?
For a non-military color team, you could use just about any combination of flagstaffs, ornaments and colors. However, non-military honor guard units are still military-type units and must follow either the Army’s drill and ceremonies manual, Training Circular (TC) 3-21.5, Marine Corps Order 5060.2, (Both available in the Resources section of this website) or The Honor Guard Manual. As far as colors go, nothing has changes from manual to manual. However, I encourage first responder honor guard units to follow the United States Certified Ceremonial Guardsman guidance set forth in my book, The Honor Guard Manual, the only complete guide for honor guards available.
So, here is what I recommend:
Ceremonial Fire Axe: Plano America has the perfect replicas for ceremonial use.
Flagstaff and color (flag): Proper standard ceremonial colors are 4′ 4″ x 5.5′ on 9′ 6″ light ash 2-piece guidon flagstaffs with the silver Army Spearhead/Spade finial (also known as a topper and ornament). When working in smaller areas (crowded ballroom, for instance) or if you are going to actually post the colors, 3′ x 5′ (or 3′ x 4′) colors on 8′ flagstaffs is recommended. For complete information, please read All About the Flagstaff then Flagstaff Ornaments, All About Flag Sizes and whether or not your colors should have fringe. Finally, read How to Properly Mount a Flag on a Flagstaff. Flagstaffs other than described above (i.e. aluminum) are not authorized in the military and that goes for JROTC as well. The only exception to that is Army JROTC all-female color guards may use the aluminum flagstaffs.
Flagstaff fringe: Fringe should be on all of the flags (Army/Air Force) except the National (Marine Corps, Navy, & Coast Guard). Note: the Flag Code states nothing will be attached to the American flag. That means no fringe on it, which also goes with other country’s flags- most do not use fringe. If you ever have the opportunity to carry a foreign national flag along with the American, both should be the same.
Color Bearer Harness: (I suggest parade and practice equipment) The most professional harness, what I’ve used for years and what the presidential service honor guard color teams use, is the black clarino (high gloss) or white leather harness with either chrome or gold-colored hardware just looks superior. Match the hardware color with the uniform accents and the hardware on the flagstaffs for a complete look.
Stands: (I suggest at least 2) My first choice is the Military Floor Stand. This is the required stand for the USAF/SF by AFI 34-1201 and all other services use this stand for ceremonies in DC. Years ago I worked with Wendy Lazar, the founder and previous owner of Glendale Industries (www.paradestore.com), and this stand is now offered without the extra hardware which holds 2 more flags.
My second choice would be the cast iron Admiral Floor Stand which comes with a small plastic sleeve to support a guidon flagstaff’s ferrule or you could also use these Floor Stand Adapters and even use carrying cases.
Covers: Flagstaff covers the military uses are these Canvas Covers. However, the canvas is relatively lightweight and can easily wear or get a hole in it from a misplaced Army Spear. The nylon cover is more durable or you could use the airline carrying case for each of your flagstaffs.
Military color teams do not execute the case/uncase sequence during ceremonies except on very rare occasions. JROTC color teams do perform these tasks as part of a competition. The nylon cover is not authorized for competition. Colors are uncased before a ceremony 99.9% of the time.