USN CG Colors

What Does “Order Arms” Really Mean For A Color Guard?

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Order Arms for a color guard can be confusing. Let’s see how.

TC 3-21.5 – Army

While this is for the Army only, AFJROTC and SFJROTC cadet color guards are currently, more or less, forced to follow the TC. For a thought-out approach to the AF/SF regulation drill color guard, click here to read this article.

The command “Order Colors” is not in the Army Training Circular but “Order Arms” is and it doesn’t mean to bring the staffs and rifles to Order. It’s extremely frustrating. One of the bullet points of paragraph 15-23 states that on the command Order Arms, the guards return to Right Shoulder.

Always at Carry/Right Shoulder?

Yes. Army ceremonies usually have the color guard at Carry throughout the ceremony and that is why the guards are to return to Right Shoulder when Order Arms is called.

But not always. Paragraph 5-18 states that during ceremonies when the colors are not forward (e.g., in line with the the companies) and remarks are being made, the bearers and guards execute Order and Parade Rest with the rest of the parade formation.

However, what the TC does not take into account is different ceremony situations where more information is required. In steps Ceremonial Drill Standards. These standards are readily available in my book, The Honor Guard Manual.

“Order COLORS” and then “Order ARMS”?

Some JROTC color guards will use the combination of commands when at Present: “Order Colors” to go back to Carry/Right Shoulder and then “Order Arms” to bring the equipment to the true position of Order with equipment resting on the marching surface. Since there’s no such thing as “Order Colors” to return the team to Carry or Order, the command is not used.

OK, so “Order ARMS” and “Order ARMS”

That just doesn’t make sense although I know some JROTC teams use it. However, it’s understandable since there’s no clear guidance in the TC for a color guard to use a specific set of commands when it is strictly on it’s own.

Separate Commands?

Since the TC can seem vague on commands, a mix-up sometimes occurs so that the team commander gives one command for the guards and another for the bearers. That’s not necessary nor authorized for any service color guard in this context (we can get into ceremonial drill where there is a myriad of commands that take care of every possible situation but that is a subject for another day).

What about Color Salute/Carry Color?

Paragraph 15-17 is the description of Color Salute. The only situation that I can think of where the organizational bearer would dip without the whole team going to Present would have the team approached by an officer in a setting outside of a ceremony. Color Salute would then equate to a guidon bearer’s individual salute that is rendered outside of a formation but a color guard will always be in some sort of formation.

The Solution

I don’t have one that would please everyone. My ceremonial background gives me an easy answer to this but ROTC and JROTC cadets cannot use those commands. My guidance would be to use “Carry Colors” to bring the team to Carry from Order and Present and to Use “Order Arms” only to bring the team to Order. That’s the only thing that makes sense.

MCO 5060.20 – Marine Corps, Navy, and Coast Guard

This one is easy. “Order Colors” is used interchangeably with “Order Arms”. A color guard uses “Order Colors” but in a ceremony where other armed elements are present, Order Arms would be given and the color guard would perform the same actions. “Order, COLORS/ARMS” actually means to go to Order Colors/Arms and “Carry, COLORS” actually means to go to Carry Colors in the Marine Corps Order.

AFPAM 34-1203 – Air Force and Space Force

I will keep emphasizing this

Quickly, I want to cover AF and SF formations that drill under arms. Paragraph 1.1.2. tells the reader to look at TC 3-21.5 or MCO 5060.20 for procedures for rifle manipulation. However, the guidance goes off to left field with the statement that weapon type determines the appropriate manual. The TC (2021) covers the M4-Series Carbine, M16, M14, M1903, and M1917 rifles. The MCO (2019) covers the M16, M1, and M14.

Here is what to keep in mind, however. AF/SF color guards that are not authorized to follow ceremonial drill, that is any color guard formed outside of the USAF/USSF Honor Guard or a Base Honor Guard (TIs at Lackland, AFJROTC, and SFJROTC), must follow the guidance of the text and images in the AFPAM and that means the rifle guards will be at the outside shoulder. Choose any rifle you’d like but even if the guards are armed with the M1903, they are still going to look to the MCO because that manual is the only one with procedures to synchronize the movements of the guards at opposite shoulders. AF/SF elements and flights should default to the TC, but the guards for a color guard must use the MCO. See also this article.

One more thing

The AFPAM has gone through several changes over the years, changes that are truly just ridiculous and look terrible. Ignore the color bearers at “Left Shoulder” (left hand on staff, right at the side), it’s not a position we use in the military, ever.

I bet you’d never read “ignore this section of the AFPAM” on this website but this article outlines why I say it and write it.

Essentially what the AFPAM states is…

Here are photos of positions and a couple of commands. Good luck with that.

There are five photos of a color guard (shoulder-to-shoulder and at Close Interval) for different positions. The only command in the color guard section is “Color Guard, HALT”. This isn’t just bad writing, it’s writing that doesn’t exist but should. However, knowledge of the TC and MCO are going to be essential. Do not use the MCO’s “Ready Cut” command.

Spang BHG Colors in Luxembourg

Carrying a Foreign National or All Service Flags

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This is huge. This changes 95% of color guards overseas as to make up (what flags are carried and when) and also affects some of the stateside teams as well. The protocol behind carrying foreign national flags was just assumed for many years. We can’t just assume anymore.

Installation teams, you MUST have all applicable manuals, regulations, instructions, and pamphlets in your library and you MUST read all of them so that you have the information that you are supposed to know. Many times, leadership changes hands at a Base Honor Guard (for instance) and the incoming leadership is just trained in techniques and procedures with currently known info with thought never given to the wider required knowledge.

Overseas installation honor guards/color guards, get ready to fully support these changes with documentation when the head of Protocol for your base comes and calls you to task for (correctly) not carrying the host nation flag. People don’t like being wrong or told that they are wrong. Just be professional.

One of the frustrations that comes from US military drill and ceremonies is that we have all kinds of guidance broken up into several manuals that never come together in one. Through my research, I’m trying to remedy that.

The Kadena Air Base Honor Guard. Unless an Okinawan official was a part of this ceremony, the carrying of the Japanese flag was not authorized. It also looks like this was on Kadena Air Base and having the JP flag to the far right is also not authorized.



a. Color Guard.

(1) A Joint Armed Forces Color Guard will be used at all DoD-authorized public programs where the presentation of colors is in the best interest of DoD. The Joint Armed Forces Color Guard will, when available, use:
(a) Two Army bearers with National and Army Colors.
(b) One bearer each for the Marine Corps, Navy, Air Force, Space Force, and Coast Guard with individual Military Service Colors.
(c) One Army rifleman and one Marine Corps rifleman as escorts.

(2) When a Joint Armed Forces Color Guard cannot be formed, a single Service color guard may carry each of the Military Service flags or the senior member of the senior Military Service in the color guard will carry the National Colors in accordance with the Department of the Army Training Circular 3-21.5.

b. National Flag of Foreign Nations and Other Organizational Flags.

(1) U.S. military personnel in a foreign location may carry the official national flag of foreign nations participating in official civil ceremonies sponsored and conducted by the U.S. Government or a State, county, or municipal government.
(a) An official of the foreign nation concerned must be present in an official capacity to receive such honors.
(b) The official must be an individual to whom honors normally are rendered.

(2) In all other public programs or ceremonies, Service members in uniform and in an official capacity must not carry flags of foreign nations, veterans’ groups, or other non-military organizations.

DoDI 5410.19-V4, September 29, 2021
Spangdahlem Air Base Honor Guard. Besides the team using incorrect procedures, carrying the Luxembourg flag may not be in accordance with the DoDI.

What the Above Means to the Military

This includes Active Duty, Reserve, National Guard, all veteran groups*, ROTC, JROTC, Sea Cadets, Sea Scouts, Civil Air Patrol, Young Marines, and any other cadet program.

*Apparently, vet groups don’t understand that the rules still apply to them.

Joint Armed Forces Personnel or Flags Only

Under paragraph a. we read that a joint armed forces color guard has specific membership requirements. Reading further, we see that a single service can carry all service colors if necessary.

This gives us all some leeway for parades with a better understanding of requirements.

Carrying a Foreign National Flag

I’ve been asked about guidance for carrying a flag of a foreign nation many times and through my research found the information in paragraph b. What this means is that, in order to be authorized to carry the host nation flag (“host nation” means you are stationed overseas) or a foreign national flag in the USA, the ceremony must be official AND a host nation official must be present and take part in the ceremony. So:

  1. Merely being invited to a local parade does not qualify to carry that country’s flag even if a local government official is present but not in an official capacity.
  2. Performing any ceremony on base does not qualify to carry that country’s flag unless a local government official is in attendance in an official capacity and not just attending.
  3. Most every ceremony held at an American Battle Monuments Commission overseas memorial or cemetery does qualify. You must ensure your team is within standards by checking with the requestor as to who will attend and speak.
  4. A foreign country is competing in a game (hockey, basketball, etc.) does not qualify to carry that country’s flag. There would not be an “official capacity” at a ball game, just attendance.

Colors may be preposted (setup in a display before the ceremony starts) for a ceremony on base, there’s no problem with that, but the color guard cannot carry the foreign national flag.

The Spangdahlem team again. This time on the grounds of an American Cemetery in France. Most likely this ceremony requires the team to carry the French flag.


No, not the couch you sit on, the Status of Forces Agreement. The US government has a SOFA with almost every country where we have bases. With some we have something similar to a SOFA, but you have to research what that is.

As an example of US bases in Japan, we have US Forces Japan (USFJ) Instructions. These instructions are based on the SOFA that the US has with Japan and governs specifics for Americans under the DoD (including civilians) living in country.

USFJI 36-2804, Display of Flags, gives specific guidance for all US military color guards (including JROTC cadets) that everyone must know. The document does not allow copying text, so here is a screenshot below.

The takeaway from the USFJI (which supersedes the DoDI, what another country wants, it gets), a Japanese national must be in attendance and part of a ceremony (matches the DoDI). When that happens, the Japanese flag is to the right of the American flag, even on base (supersedes the DoDI). The departmental must be carried, by the way. Any other time the color guard forms, only the US and departmental [and any applicable organizational] flags are carried).

What the Above Means to the First Responders

Carry on as usual.


What is the Position of Attention?

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This isn’t a complete definition, it’s to give us an idea of what we use it for at it’s basic level.

It’s the position from which all movement is performed. The body, held in a fairly rigid stance and yet without tension, must remain at Attention for facing movements, faces-in-marching, the hand salute, and movements with the guidon, flagstaff, sword, and rifle.

Marching begins and and ends at Attention. While marching team members remain at the position unless otherwise called (At Ease March, Route Step) but every precise movement (column, flank) must be called while the individual/formation is at Attention.

We can then conclude that the position is purely functional when we start training. Most everyone at the stage of training relates the position to standing still. It then expands to have greater meaning with more training.

Advanced Concepts

Now let’s explore the purpose of Attention from a performance standpoint. When you read “performance” think of an exhibition or regulation drill routine or even a colors presentation.

  1. For the individual. Attention relates to the physical and mental demands necessary to carry out an individual’s part of the performance with exactness and consistency. Remember, from this point, “Attention” doesn’t just mean standing still.
  2. For the team. A position that gives the best advantage for members to adjust their alignment, distance, and orientation relative to other team members. A formation is not merely the basic block of a platoon/flight. “Formation” now means any grouping.
  3. For the audience. The projected image of the team. Uniformity of technique and/or the contrast in positions and movement. Consider the traditional expectation(s) of the audience.

Now What?

What do we do with this knowledge? How can we put it to use?

  1. When we begin to train (drill team, for instance), we use basic information and positions. We then build on that information and slowly expand the knowledge of the team members. This realization helps team members understand their responsibilities as an individual and as part of the smaller groups of which the individual is a member (squad, rank, group of 4, etc.), and the team as a whole.
  2. “Game Face” is a term used to develop and set a mental attitude about one’s performance in sports. The position of Attention reflects this attitude for the drill team or color guard member.
  3. Uniformity is going to provide the team with the ability to clearly communicate with the audience from the first moment of the performance. Contrast provides a level of entertainment in the form of intrigue.
  4. Audience members come with a certain expectation (bias) that is based on general knowledge and experience. Most everyone watching your performance, no matter where it is, has at some point seen someone in uniform most likely standing at Attention. If not, you are now setting a standard to which other similar situations are to be judged (to some extent).
  5. The adjudicator(s) of your performance should not have a bias when it comes to judging your performance except for the team to meet certain standards (Flag Code, protocol, drill and ceremonies procedures). Even an expectation of any level of excellence is not appropriate. Judges are to judge what is presented through the lens of the scoresheet using an appropriate scoring scale that should have a rubric (a written guide for grading) for each scoring increment.

“Every Honor Guard Invents Their Own Standards”

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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?

What Makes a “Military Uniform”?

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My sincere thanks to Brent Becker (again) for his vast uniform knowledge. I sent him a message years ago and he gave me the information for this article, Creating Your Own Exhibition Drill Uniform. Brent has done it again. Providing information and educating the military drill world is only going to help us all. We need to understand all aspects of our history to help us understand where we are going.

Identity and Intended Use

Military uniforms grew out of fashion preferred by French Nobility of the 17th Century – civilian overcoats adapted and mass-produced for enlisted and conscripted soldiers. The purpose of uniforms 300+ years ago was to help soldiers identify with King and Country – to represent the ruing power by wearing their colors, which also helped combatants distinguish friend from foe on the battlefield – not unlike sports teams today.

So, first and foremost, there’s a symbolic element: By incorporating the colors and marks of one’s homeland, the military uniform becomes a vestment of patriotic nationalism. This notion of symbolism could be applied to contemporary drill uniforms – incorporating colors significant to the wearer or their institution/team can create both a sense of identity and esprit de corps without detracting from the decorum of the event…

Then there’s the idea of uniformity itself – the desire for sameness; standardized attire that, that to some degree, equalizes all servicemen & women serving in the armed forces. I feel the effect is twofold: There’s a (positive) “humbling effect” to uniformity as well as a unifying bond created – the proverbial “common thread” uniting all who have served, are serving, and will serve in the future. In this way, the military uniform is not just part of the nation-state’s identity, but can become a huge part of the wearer’s identity as well – again, we find an impetus for significance here that can create added relevance for all involved…
Consider also the effect and impact uniforms and uniformity can have on the human psyche: The notion of standardized cut & color for a standing, regular army was revolutionary in late 17th Century Europe – and seeing hundreds, if not thousands of smartly-dressed soldiers outfitted in the same jacket and colors must have been downright intimidating to one’s enemies! In modern times, and as the nature and technology of warfare evolved, military uniforms became less about creating a striking, imposing visual impression and more about disrupting and obscuring one’s self from view – camouflage is the desired impact on the battlefield today. But formal (symbolic) uniforms maintain a ceremonial role for formal, solemn, and ceremonial occasions.

Ultimately, I suppose any garment can be used as a “uniform” – but with over three centuries of tradition influencing European Military styles, the mold is very much set and based on the overcoats preferred by French noblemen in the mid-17th Century. And while nations have risen and fallen and the length and silhouettes have shifted in that time, the three-part core concept of a blouse/shirt, tunic/coat, and leggings/trousers remains very much intact as the foundation for military uniforms in the Western World.

Mandatory Parts?

Not as such, at least not in my experience. What constitutes “military style” varies from region to region and even across generations – although there are elements which feel “more military” or immediately read as more formal and martial to the civilian eye. For me, in my work, this is almost always buttons – rows of polished brass or nickel buttons on a jacket immediately recalls timeless pageantry, strength, and a certain armored and rugged masculinity to my mind. Decorative but austere braiding, especially in bars across the chest with tasteful flourishes, is always reminiscent of the ubiquitous West Point Cadet uniforms and has been the hallmark of any musical unit wishing to convey a military presence since at least 1930. Belts and buckles, like buttons, bring to mind an armored element – in fact, the buckle of today’s cross belts are a lingering remnant of armored breastplates designed to protect soldiers from early artillery and ancient projectile weapons.

Again, anything can become a uniform if worn uniformly – but much of how one dresses should be informed by the gravity of the occasion. For a drill meet or contest, a certain professional decorum is likely expected. In that case, whatever is worn should be properly tailored and pressed to present a polished image appropriate for drilling. Personally, I’m a firm believer that any special occasion is worth dressing up for – if you believe what you’re doing is important, your outward appearance should reflect that. Look important, feel important, be important – how one dresses can impact how one feels and subsequently performs!

Visual Effects

Contrast is the “secret sauce” to creating visual impact! Dark vs. light colors used strategically can help draw attention to areas of emphasis while concealing areas of less significance or those parts of the body still developing in skill. Dark or dull colors tend to recede or will be subordinate to light and bright colors. For example, if one’s footwork is particularly strong and significant to their routine, consider white bucks or spats; perhaps even white shoes to emphasize the feet. A bright color stripe on dark trousers will do the same for well-trained legs. The same concept can be applied to any shiny or metallic accessories – helmets, cords, or badges can catch light and draw attention to those areas. This can be leveraged to draw attention away from other areas that are not as strong – think of it as a “smoke-and-mirrors” strategy; the ol’ “Razzle-dazzle”, as it were. I always advise younger, developing groups to consider dark, undecorated (no stripe) pants and lighter-colored tops; symmetry while keeping the focus on the upper body until they develop the strength and control to showcase the lower extremities effectively.

DrillMaster’s DrillAcademy Video Training

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The links for each service’s D&C training playlist are below. This is in-depth training! I have more to add to each (different rifles and colors) but the training is solid having spent years researching and developing it. This is regulation drill, ceremonial drill is coming in the future.

I offer certification in all three or you can watch for general knowledge.


Marine Corps, Navy, and Coast Guard:

Air Force and Space Force:

What is A-A and A-B Drill?

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Why do you need to know this?

The more you know about the concepts of exhibition drill, the better you will be in designing a routine. This article is about A-A and A-B drill. It can be applied to both marching, body work (unarmed exhibition drill), and rifle work.

In the following descriptions I use the term Group to mean an individual, a squad, a rank, a portion of a squad, etc. Grouping is broken down like this (not complete):

  1. Grouping by squad
  2. Grouping by rank
  3. Grouping by group
  4. Grouping by Individuals

A-A Drill

This is marching/work that is the same for each group. In the example above, even the Bs would perform the same thing either at the same time (Simultaneous A-A) or in sequence (Staggered or Ripple A-A). Simultaneous A-A is the whole team doing the same thing at the same time. An example of Staggered/Ripple A-A would be the classic marching move Jones Sequence that was created in the late 1950s. The move is executed by squads (imagine a team with four squads). On the command March, fourth squad executes: To the Rear, Left Flank, Right Flank, and To the Rear, and continues to march. On the next left step after fourth squad executes the To the Rear, 3rd squad performs the same sequence. Second and 1st follow on subsequent left steps in sequence. Jones Sequence can also be performed by ranks beginning with the last rank and progressing up to the first.

A-B Drill

This is marching/work that is different for each group and is the same number of counts. Usually, simultaneous A-B work is the most effective. However, Staggered A-B can be effective. Staggered A-B happens when one group stops while the other performs.

Here is an example of both:

Below is an example of a relatively new method for exhibition drill, called Hybrid Exhibition Drill. Hybrid Drill incorporates armed and unarmed drill simultaneously. Most likely created by Paul Naki of the King’s Guard (HI) around 2018, this strange and yet incredible style is now it’s own subcategory under exhibition drill along with Ceremonial Exhibition Drill (service drill teams), Scholastic Exhibition Drill (school-based teams), and Independent Exhibition Drill (mostly solo and tandem work created by post-high school Drillers). Any further development of Hybrid Exhibition Drill is going to be well thought out and quite complex in order to make a lasting positive impact on the activity and the audience.

In this video you can see some A-A and A-B sequences. The A-A sequences are not strictly A-A since there are two Drillers and only one rifle. However, when you see the performance you will understand how both techniques (A-A and A-B) are applied.

Other types?

Is there A-B-C or other versions? Sure. As many groups as you have, you can create a sequence of moves but this can get complicated. For example, a grouping by squad for a team with 3 or 4 squads, and having a separate sequence for each squad for simultaneous performance may just be confusing for your audience.

What next?

If you are new to writing exhibition drill, use the Boxes of Three Method I developed as a basis for your creativity. Start with that as a benchmark and develop your own moves and/or A-A or A-B work. Click here to learn more about writing exhibition drill.

A Message From a CAP Cadet

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A short time ago I received an email through my website that is indicative of the messages I receive from Civil Air Patrol cadets and adults in general. This is my response to the cadet.

Dear CAP Cadet, my answers are after each of your questions preceded by “%”.

I’m trying to start a color guard at my Civil Air Patrol Squadron and I’ve been reading the USAF HGMAN to do it because CAPP 52-8 just seems like it was written by somebody who had no idea what they were talking about.

% Your perception is uncanny!

I understand the manual of arms and the basics but I’m having trouble understanding when the team should be at close interval and when they should be at shoulder to shoulder, and what the commands are to fix the spacing or if it’s done automatically. I was wondering if you could help explain it to me?

% Unless your whole team has gone through CAP ceremonial training (which is lacking), you cannot use the information you’ve read in the AF Honor Guard Manual. You must use regulation technique. I’ll explain that in a minute.

I was also wondering if there’s a CAP specific resource I’m missing because I have heard you say CAP does things differently from the Air Force.

% CAPP 52-8 is the Unit HG Program (ceremonial drill), but you need to start with CAPP 60-33, CAP D&C (regulation drill). 60-33 was written in the same manner as 52-8, unfortunately, and that is where CAP D&C begins to stray from USAF D&C. CAP was never supposed to create a different standard but did with reckless abandon. There are many nuances in AFPAM 34-1203, AF D&C, that many in CAP, AFJROTC, and others just do not grasp and that is due to the AF’s poor writing. However, poor writing is no excuse to go off on your own and “rewrite” a manual for a subordinate agency. CAP should have written a supplement for cadets.

Also watching your videos you use the terms “regulation”, “ceremonial”, and “exhibition” drill, could you help explain the differences between them? Thank you.

% Regulation Drill comes from the three service D&C manuals, TC 3-21.5, MCO 5060.20, and AFPAM 34-1203. They are the “regulations” that govern service drill and ceremonies that is applicable to everyone in uniform in the Department of Defense, ROTC, JROTC, CAP, Sea Cadets, Sea Scouts, and Young Marines. It is supposed to be the default standard for every cadet organization in the USA but isn’t because of egos.

% Ceremonial Drill is strictly for service honor guard units and not for the general military nor cadets to perform. It was developed out of necessity for rendering honors and looking your absolute best. There’s more of an explanation but it’s lengthy.

% Exhibition Drill is any marching or rifle/sword manipulation. However, it has come to be understood that exhibition drill is marching and equipment use that is not specifically in a service D&C manual.

World Drill Association

The World Drill Association Ultimate Inspection

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When I was a cadet at New Mexico Military Institute, we had a yearly inspection competition between each company. It was called the Sally Port Inspection. A sally port is a controlled entryway to a fort or even a prison. In the image below is the entry point or Sally Port for Hagerman Barracks. What cadets call the “Box” at NMMI.

The cadet regimental staff’s rooms were above the sally port and the inspection would happen there. Hence, the name.

Hagerman Barracks at NMMI

Each company selected a cadet who would study the cadet manual, our Blue Book, general orders, the chain of command from squad leader to the President for at least two weeks before the inspection.

The uniform inspection was extremely unique, and the preparations were unique as well. The whole company would get together and work as a team on the uniform. One cadet would be assigned each shoe that took hours to shine, one worked on the shirt, another one or two went through the uniform, inside and out, cutting and burning each tiny string. Tape was used to get lint off the inside of the trousers and blouse. Cadets were assigned to shine the nametag, the bill of the hat, the chin strap, and the belt buckle while another would work on the collar brass, and still another would shine the oakleaf clusters on each ribbon. The cadets would set up the blouse with a micrometer, ensuring everything aligned down to the tiniest of measurements. Finally, the cadets would steam and iron each crease. It was an all-night affair and teamwork was essential. About an hour before the assigned inspection time, the cadet would be dressed by everyone. He would not sit down or even bend his elbows or knees for fear of creasing the perfectly shined shoes or wrinkling the uniform. Everything was absolutely perfect. Tape was rolled over the uniform one last time on the outside just before heading to the inspection room. Once in the room, it began. No one yelled, it was calm but very intense.

The one to be inspected would march in, render a hand salute, and report in. He was then immediately surrounded by 5 inspectors asking rapid-fire questions for the whole inspection and scouring the uniform. While answering questions, every millimeter of the outside of the uniform was inspected, inspectors would then request removal of one shoe, the cover, and eventually the blouse. The inside of the uniform was now gone over with a fine-tooth comb. Any string, mark, wrinkle, or piece of lint anywhere on the inside or outside of the uniform, anything even slightly out of alignment was a gig or demerit. Cadets might finish their inspection with dozens of gigs on their scoresheet but still be in line to win. When each cadet was finished being inspected, he would leave holding everything he was asked to remove, marching as best he could while holding that one shoe.

The World Drill Association Ultimate Inspection is one of the best ways for teams to show teamwork while supporting each other to support one representative to go through what will probably be the most intense inspection of their life.

Here is the link to the scoresheet.

Jacksonville State University Football Stadium view from the press box

2023 Alabama State JROTC Drill Meet Performance Audio Critiques

DrillMaster DrillMaster Performance Critiques, Judging Leave a Comment

It was a beautiful day at Jacksonville State University for the state drill championship. I had the pleasure of overseeing color guard and I again did my DrillMaster Performance Critiques for the Unarmed Color Guard category. Here are the MP3 files for you to download.

Bob Jones







Lee New Century


Pell City



Thank you to the JSU AROTC staff and cadets, the instructors and cadets. I know this kind of feedback is new and possibly a bit strange but it can be very helpful.

Colors Reverse

None of the teams performed a Colors Reverse Properly. According to TC 3-21.5, it’s one face-in-march after another and that move is only performed with a pivot on the right foot platform. For a complete explanation, watch this.

Sling Arms

Not very many teams performed this correctly. Do not put the butt of the rifle on your right thigh and there is no need to bend forward. Stand at Attention, look down at your hands to see what you are doing, and loosen/tighten the sling.

Below is how you should look. First image is the Army cradle technique (AF/SF can use this technique). Second from left is the technique the rest of the services use. The last two images show the ONLY authorized position for Sling Arms. The right forearm MUST be horizontal.