Honor Guard and Drill Team Shoes

DrillMaster Color Guard/Color Team, Drill Team Training, Drill Teams, Honor Guard, Honor Guard Training, Instructional, Uniform Tips 4 Comments

Originally published May 18, 2012 with the title, Shoes for the Driller and How to Shine Them, this is a major update to help answer questions (fill in those blanks) that people send me.

Materials

Plastics: The term, poromeric, refers to a class of breathable synthetic leather. Corfam (not “Corfram,” “Clorfam” or Clorfram”) is made by the DuPont Chemical Company. Clarino, manufactured by the Kuraray Company, is another synthetic high-shine leather found mostly in flagstaff harnesses. Patent Leather, first created in England in the late 1700s, gained popularity after inventor Seth Boyden of Newark, New Jersey created his own version with linseed oil. These are all synthetic resins. Note: to clean poromeric shoes and equipment that have scuffs or run marks, use Brasso.

Pros: Never shine shoes again! Just keep the heel, sole, and welts black with high-gloss edge dressing. You do not shine poromeric shoes, you clean them.
Cons: They can get HOT! If you are facing the sun for a long time, you may need to treat the tops of your feet for burns. Really. Wear two layers of thin dress socks or a thicker dress sock to protect your feet.

Natural leather shoes.

Pros: Break-in period can be shorter than synthetic shoes/boots and they can last for years.
Cons: Shinning them over and over and over and over.

If wearing leather boots/shoes and you want the mirror shine without the constant maintenance, use Leather Luster. Here are the directions to use it. And here is a great video from the people at Lather Luster!

How to Blouse Your Boots.

Shining Standard Leather Shoes/Boots
They can be tough to shine but, polish, a little water, cotton balls or an old cotton t-shirt are perfect for making leather shoes like mirrors.

Brand new leather shoes are perfect for shining. Sometimes there is an oil coating on the shoes that will hinder a shine. If so, it is best to remove it with some rubbing alcohol and a rag. Now you are ready to begin.

I first learned how to shine shoes from my dad using polish, a cloth, then use a brush, and finally suing a shine cloth. However, to shine them to a mirror finish, Old Cadets taught me when I attended New Mexico Military Institute. We used Kiwi there and it always worked really well for us.

How to shine: Using shoe trees helps (see Shoe Care below). Lightly wet a cotton ball, dab it in the polish and work the polish into the shoe making little circles. When the cotton ball starts to make scratches, get a new one. It takes many hours to build up a base coat of polish and then have it shine like a mirror, but once you have the base coat, you can easily touch up your shoes. If you are going to make all of the shoe mirror-like, be aware that as soon as you take your first step, where the shoe naturally bends with your foot, the polish will crack and flake off. So, you may want to limit the mirror parts to the heels, the sides and as much of the toe as possible, highly shine the rest- including the tongue!

It is all about building up a base and when you first being it will seem like it takes forever, but as you progress, it will take less and less time to shine your shoes. If your shoes have leather soles, you will be able to sand the outside of the sole and shine it with shoe polish as well. If your soles are rubber or some sort of synthetic material you will have to use edge dressing.

Edge Dressing: Kiwi stopped making their Honor Guard Edge Dressing years ago as soon as the military transitioned to suede boots. Honor guard units now use Angelus Brand Roll Call Military Grade Edge Dressing which is available at Glendale Paradestore and elsewhere.

How to Remove Edge Dressing: After a few coats with edge dressing, you will need to strip the welt* (the top of the edge, where the sewing is) and also the sides of the sole so as not to have that buildup that eventually looks terrible. For the outside of the sole, use steel wool to scrape away excess, a putty knife works well also. For the welt, you can use the putty knife corner, but be careful. Sometimes the edge dressing will flake off or come off in small chunks. If not, you may have to use Leather Luster Remover. Sand (very fine sandpaper is best) the sole and the side heel tap (if attached) so that it is even and then reapply the Angelus Edge Dressing. *Some shoes have an extremely small welt. I prefer the wider welt.

The Sole
The man-made, synthetic lighter soles are not the most desirable for the military Driller but are the most prevalent. Leather soles are great because you can pivot easily. Make sure to blacken the sole if it is a lighter color. Do you have a squeaky sole? Read this!

Lacing

Especially with a competitive team (i.e. JROTC drill team), the team needs to lace their shoes exactly the same. Using wax-coated laces helps them stay tied.

Shoe Complete pic

Shoe Care

Shoe care. Pictured at left are my shoes. You can see in this photo that I  use shoe trees. Shoe trees come in wood and plastic and help to keep the shape of the shoes by keeping them stretched in the width and length. You can also see that I use shoe bags. Shoe bags are cloth bags that fit over your shoes to keep them protected and also protect your clothing when you travel.

Taps

Heel Taps Cheaters
“Cheaters” or “Clickers”

Heel Steel: Side heel taps (“Cheaters” or “Clickers”) are great whether you execute closed-toe movements or use the traditional 45-degree angle. You can get different colors: silver, gold or black. Silver and brass are great if you want shiny but you will have to constantly shine them. Black cheaters don’t need maintenance. Note: if you have black and put edge dressing on them, it will chip off and you will need to strip the metal and reapply so it doesn’t ‘cake’ up.

If you have cheaters that are shiny brass or steel, keep them shined and attach them with the same color sheet rock screws (top-right in the picture). Never use the screws that come with the cheaters (middle screw) because they can eventually split the heel (see below). Note: these screws have now been replaced and come with a much better option to use right out of the package.

Shoe split heel
The two cheater taps
Old Guard Cheater
Civilian Cheater

In the picture at the right, at the top is the Old Guard-style Cheater (highly recommended) and at the bottom is the Civilian-styled Cheater (they work and sometimes people with smaller feet must use these). When attaching cheaters, you can put spacers (washers) behind them or screw them solidly into the side of the sole. Since these taps are curved, you can either match your heel curvature or put a space between the tap and the heel to see if there is better sound quality.

Horseshoe taps can be dangerous and mark up floors, but sound awesome- especially in a large formation. Ask any farrier, horseshoes need to fit a horse’s hoof exactly all the way around the hoof. Ask any cobbler, horseshoe taps don’t. As a matter of fact a cobbler usually offsets the tap into the center of the heel by 1/16 of an inch from the back and keeps a gap of 1/8 of an inch on the sides. Horseshoe tap sizes are for smaller and larger feet (heels) and nothing else. Their sizes fit shoe sizes: 9-10, 10-11, 12-13.

Toe taps come in plastic (not recommended for marching, they will disappear in weeks) and metal. The nails have a ridge on them or you can use small, thin screws with a flat head.

Toe and heel taps are excellent for creating sound but require a tremendous amount of practice. If you do not have the time to put in, don’t wear them.

Putting taps on modern cushioned soles can be difficult as the nails can come out easily. Leather soles are best but you must special order those shoes.

Foot Pain?

I suffered plantar fasciitis for years. Exercise for my feet helped tremendously as well as stretching both muscles in each calf. You must wear shoes and boots with a wide toe box. Even if you have never worn “wide” shoes, do your research and keep your feet as healthy as possible.

Heel striking while running is apparently bad for you. Not having the heel hit the running surface is very helpful: whole foot strike or toe strike only.

Sometimes, you need temporary relief for different reasons. Lacing your shoe/boot differently can be of great help. Look up the different lacing methods that can relive pressure in different places, which is too much to go into here.

Manual of the Ceremonial Fire Axe

DrillMaster Honor Guard, Instructional 3 Comments

There is the manual of arms for the rifle, saber/sword and even a handgun. What about the Firefighter’s Ceremonial Fire Axe? I have the solution! For my fifth book for the military drill world, The Honor Guard Manual, I developed a manual for manipulating the firefighter’s ceremonial fire axe that mimics the manual of arms for the honor guard.

What I have done is to try to match, as closely as possible, the honor guard manual of arms for the rifle and present a standard that everyone can use regardless of where they are or the size of their team.

Click the image to go to Plano America, the BEST in ceremonial fire axes!

Here is a sample of going from Attention to Port Arms and then Port Arms back to Order Arms/Attention:

From Attention to Port Arms

From Port Arms to Order Arms/Attention

In The Honor Guard Manual you can learn about the three ceremonial elements and how to perform all positions of each element and more!

“Detail” and its Connotation

DrillMaster Color Guard/Color Team, Drill Teams, Honor Guard, Instructional Leave a Comment

What is the first thing you think of when you hear the word, “detail”? I think of being “voluntold” to mop floors, lawn police, etc. Some law enforcement personnel think of overtime details downtown working a sporting event security or something similar. You possibly thought of something different while reading this. Regardless, we need to stop calling every formation a “detail” as in “Detail, Tench, Hut!”

Army Pall Bearers

Yours is a professional ceremonial team and you need to project that at all times not only in what you do, but in what you say. Calling out “Detail” as the preparatory command, which is quite common, is not a word that is usually associated with a professional honor guard unit and I suggest not using it at all especially in public. After all, in the military, members get picked for unpleasant details, jobs that they would rather not do and that word is associated with the members of a detail not wanting to be there. This is not something that we want to project to VIPs or even the next-of-kin.

Better preparatory commands, as you will read throughout The Honor Guard Manual, are specific:

  • “Bearers” for the pall bearers
  • “Colors” for the color team
  • “Firing Party” for those on the team firing the 3-volley salute
  • “Cordon” for those on a cordon
  • “Guard” for the honor guard
  • “Drill Team” or “Team” for a Drill Team

For downloadable audio examples of how to give commands, click here and scroll down to Honor Guard Commands.

Drill Team Recruiting

DrillMaster Drill Team Training, Drill Teams, Instructional 2 Comments

Canadian Air Cadet DT

Numbers and attendance. It’s nothing new to JROTC or some other high school activities. However, when it happens during your four years of school, it seems like a brand new problem has popped up. Over the years, I have received pleas from cadets who so badly want to march on their school’s drill team, but cannot seem to generate enough interest in the program among other cadets.

I received two messages within two days last week, one through Instagram and one through Kik, about drill team practice attendance numbers dropping.

I posted a question on Instagram and Facebook and received some interesting replies like these:

  • More community service hours opportunities are given in reward.
  • I started with a squad and did an exhibition routine with them and presented it to my Battalion. After they saw the things that we could do, it encouraged them to join.
  • I think drill teams should do more small performances in middle schools ms elementary schools. They should do basic stuff within the routine but still look super sharp and cool. They should also wear a nice beat uniform. Appearance attracts also

There are lean years where the extra-curricular activities in JROTC are scraping to get by and then there will be several years of more than enough cadets to fill all of the positions. Many schools experience this phenomenon almost cyclically.

I began to see a pattern, though, with the complaints of instructors not being fully involved tying in with poor attendance at drill team or color guard practice. For those who said their numbers were dropping, I asked if the instructors were involved and received these comments:

  • Not really. [Drill team is] mostly cadet run. It just seems commitment with the new cadets and seniors is just non existent.
  • Our instructors are not really there when we are training. They’re never there during drill. They do however get involved in certain functions, but I don’t really see them as being heavily involved, which is what we really need.

Lack of instructor involvement is an issue that needs to be addressed. But, here is what I see as a possible culprit to this issue: lack of drill and ceremonies awareness. When it comes to senior NCOs and CPOs, they are more management than anything else. While some do have experience with being a Drill Instructor, many do not and, even so, competitive military drill is very different when it comes to advanced training requirements. JROTC instructors who do not have drill experience are more likely to want to stay away from the drill pad when it comes to a drill team because of a lack of knowledge in this area. Something that I truly hope to change through my books and educational clinics.

Click here for all of the articles with the tag, Drill Team Training.

Relevant articles to this issue:

Team Training Difficulties
How to Restart a JROTC Drill Team
Drill Team Drama
My Drill Team Needs to Get Better!

I’ve written articles with suggestions on how to try to conquer this problem (listed above), but here I offer another, very different, suggestion: a community drill team and/or color team (see why I put “team” there instead of “guard,” here). Even partnering with a local Civil Air Patrol, Sea Cadet or Young Marine organization is an option.

The Community Drill Team
Here is a possible situation: You have a certain number of high schools in your area with maybe 5 or 6 cadets who are really interested in forming a team, not enough members for a team from that school, but pool those members into one team and you have a district or community team ready to march in competitions and parades.

There are several issues that come to mind from the beginning:

  • Where to hold practice?

Rotate between schools or hold practice in a central location.

  • How to get to practice?

Car pool to the central location

  • If different services, what manual to follow?

The senior service takes precedent in this order: Army, Marine Corps, Navy, Air Force & Coast Guard

  • What uniform?

Having a squad of each service would work well. It’s different, but then so is this whole situation.

  • Who is in charge, instructor-wise?

This could rotate on a weekly basis.

  • Who is in charge, cadet-wise?

As with the service honor guards, rank will always be respected, but the most competent of the members, regardless of rank, should be in charge. Is there more than one cadet who could lead well? Then have different formation commanders for phase of the competition: exhibition, regulation and inspection.

There are probably more questions to answer based on your unique situation, but I think you get the idea.

Could this work? I believe so, with patience and a willingness to work together, all hurdles can be surmounted.

Drill Team

The Benefits of Military Drill

DrillMaster Ask DrillMaster, Color Guard/Color Team, Drill Teams, Honor Guard Leave a Comment

Terminology

First, for our purposes, what do we mean by “drill”? It’s Close Order Drill or Foot Drill, whether stationary or while marching in a formation: squad (element), platoon (flight), color guard, etc. The word also includes manipulation of a rifle, Rifle Drill.

Unarmed Drill is any movement performed without a piece of equipment: rifle, sword, saber, or flagstaff (guidon and colors staff). Armed Drill is obviously performed with equipment.

There are three types of military drill: Ceremonial, Regulation, and Exhibition. For a complete breakdown, read the article, What is a Military Drill Team?

For an historic perspective, you can read A Brief History of American Drill and Ceremonies. This graph may also help you in your understanding of drill classifications.

Purpose and Results

The purpose of military drill is to move a group of individuals from point A to point B in an efficient manner. In Basic Training or Boot Camp drill instills military bearing, discipline, and a sense of accomplishment. It teaches adherence to standards, response to commands, individual coordination, teamwork, esprit de corps (the spirit of the formation/body from an historic perspective), alertness, urgency, confidence, followership, attention to detail, and leadership. It gives a group the ability to render respect, show honor, and uphold tradition. It’s also a form of exercise.

Competitive drill and ceremonies, mainly seen in high school JROTC but also in college SROTC and some who drill independently of the scholastic system, brings in more benefits: exhibition drill brings out creativity in designing the marching, body movement, and rifle manipulation.

One of the biggest advantages can be seen in competitive regulation and exhibition drill for squads, platoons, and color guards. This comes in the form of a wide range of leadership skills:

The ability to teach the team the processes of the performance. Delegation of responsibilities while maintaining ultimate responsibility for the performance outcome. Memorization of the routine: commands, marching, and (rifle, flagstaff, and/or body) movement. The ability to think quickly to ensure the team stays within the time limit and physical boundaries and recover from possible mistakes.

Military drill has multiple benefits, some intangible and some to be realized possibly years later. All of these benefits come to fruition in battle, that’s why we march in the military, but they also are realized in all kinds of aspects of life in general.

The Medal of Honor Flag

DrillMaster Color Guard/Color Team, Instructional 2 Comments

The Medal

Image is courtesy of devildoggraphisc.com

March 25th is Medal of Honor Day. The Medal of Honor (MoH) is awarded to members of the military who perform extraordinary acts in the face of extraordinary danger. Recipients are never referred to as “winners” as in Sergeant Jones won the Medal of Honor. Actually, we in the military do not win any of our awards. They are presented to us for certain accomplishments. The MoH is the only award that comes with a flag.

The Flag

On October 23, 2002, Congress enacted Public Law 107–248, which modified 36 U.S.C. § 903, authorizing a Medal of Honor flag to be presented to each Medal of Honor recipient. When awarded posthumously, the flag is presented to whomever received the Medal of Honor, usually the next of kin (NOK). The Old Guard developed a specific fold for the flag and each living recipient and NOK of deceased recipients received a specially folded MoH flag after its creation. Each recipients is authorized to display it in their home.

Below is the video of two Airmen from the USAF Honor Guard folding the MoH flag with it’s unique fold that was developed by the US Army Old Guard. The video was directed by a USAF Ceremonial Guardsman friend of mine.

Members of the USAF Honor Guard perform the MoH flag fold

The flag is based on a concept by retired Army Special Forces First Sergeant Bill Kendall (deceased, 2013) of Jefferson, Iowa, who in 2001, designed a flag to honor Medal of Honor recipient Captain Darrell Lindsey, a B-26 pilot also from Jefferson who was killed in action during World War II. Kendall’s design of a light blue field emblazoned with 13 white stars was nearly identical to that of Sarah LeClerc’s of the Army’s Institute of Heraldry, which was ultimately accepted as the official flag. Kendall’s version included the words “Medal of Honor”. The pattern was authorized by President Eisenhower. The color of the field and the 13 white stars, arranged in three chevrons, consisting of two chevrons of five stars and one chevron of three stars, comes from the neck ribbon of the Medal of Honor.

The folding of the MoH flag is special and only accomplished once before it is presented to the recipient. The flag is never flown on a halyard and never carried/paraded (except at the funeral of the recipient). This flag is protected under the Stolen Valor Act. It is for the explicit use of MoH recipients and their families. While the flag was originally designed to be a perfectly square 3’x3′, it is 3’x4′, no other size is authorized.

AR 840-10, Section VI (June 2017)

3–54. Authorization
This flag is presented to each person to whom a Medal of Honor is awarded at the same time as the presentation of the medal, or as expeditiously as possible to each living recipient who has not already received a flag. In the case of a posthumous presentation of the medal, the flag is presented to the person to whom the medal is presented. (10 USC 3755) The flag will also be awarded upon written request to the Military Awards Branch at the U.S. Army Human Resources Command (AR 600–8–22) to the primary next of kin of deceased Medal of Honor recipients (Public Law 109–364, Section 555).

3–55. Display
a. The Medal of Honor flag is a ceremonial flag for indoor use and is considered a personal flag that recipients may display in their home or office.
b. The Medal of Honor flag may be displayed publicly when the individual is being honored at an official military ceremony or the individual is in attendance on the reviewing stand in an official ceremony. When displayed, the flagstaff will be 8 feet tall but shall not be higher than the U.S. flag when displayed at the same time.
c. When the flag is displayed with the flag of the United States, the U.S. flag will hold the position of superior prominence and the position of honor on the right. The Medal of Honor flag will be placed to the left of the U.S. flag. When viewed from an audience the U.S. flag will be on the left and the Medal of Honor flag will be on the right.
d. The flag should always be displayed in an attractive, dignified, and secure manner.

Personal and Positional Colors

Senior Enlisted Adviser to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, SEAC, positional color

A personal/positional color represents the office that an individual holds while in the military (general/admiral, Chief of Staff, CMSgt of the USAF, etc.) or serving in a senior executive service position for the military (Secretary of the Navy, etc.). Only Generals and Admirals are presented their flag upon retirement for display in their homes. A personal (not positional) color can also represent being a prisoner of war (POW/MIA) and being a recipient of the MoH.

Multiple PCs representing the deceased can be carried at a military funeral. As an example, a general’s flag, the MoH flag, and then the POW/MIA flag could all be carried, in that order, as personal colors for the deceased.

The USAF Honor Guard at Arlington National Cemetery

The following text is an excerpt from my original post on Instagram that also shared to the DrillMaster Facebook page.

“In the photo the two PCs are out of order. The POW and MoH flags are NEVER paraded. They are only carried as personal colors for a funeral. Why are these flags out of order? The POW/MIA flag must go to the left of the MoH unless the day of burial was one of the six days where the POW takes precedence. It wasn’t. *Veterans groups, please don’t get any ideas about carrying the MoH flag to celebrate this special day.” (emphasis added)

What do you think happened within hours of my posting about the MoH flag? This is from DeVaughn Simper, Vexillologist:

“Surprisingly, I received many messages asking, 1. Where can they get the MoH flag and, 2. When can they fly it or carry it in a parade.”

Dear Veterans,

What part of personal color do not understand? General and Admiral flags are never carried in a color guard and the POW/MIA flag has had it’s specialness stripped from it by flying it ubiquitously by mandate and the MoH flag, by law, is NOT for sale or use by anyone who is not an MoH recipient or one of their NOK. Please read this carefully: It is illegal to own an MoH flag if you did not receive the MoH or are a deceased recipient’s NOK.

A military color guard is already special. Please stop trying to add more flags or step styles, or anything else to make it “specialer”. For regulation drill applications, please read and follow:

  • Army Training Circular 3-12.5, Drill and Ceremonies, and Army Regulation 840-10, Flags, Guidons, etc. (available here)

Or

  • Marine Corps Order 5060.20, Drill and Ceremonies, and Marine Corps Order 10520.3, Flag Manual (available here)

Or, for ceremonial drill applications:

I’m not recommending the USAF manuals because AFMAN 36-2203 relies on the MCO for color guard rifle work. Might as well go directly to the source.

I very much appreciated working with Vexillologist DeVaughn Simper of Colonial Flag on this article.

The Flagstaff Ban

DrillMaster DrillCenter News Leave a Comment

I’m from Arizona and I’m not talking about the wonderful college town in the northern part of my home state. I’m talking about the color guard flagstaff.

Tyranny, again

I do not want this article to get political but this has to do with politics; the convoluted, oppressive world of politics. As you read on, please use the picture above for reference.

An organization that represents descendants of the Revolutionary War went to an annual planned ceremony on February 7, 2020, in the Old Assembly Chamber at the Virginia Capital and were denied permission to present the colors in the same fashion as has been accomplished every year at this ceremony and for decades at tens of thousands of other presentations across the United States of America.

In recent years many of my fellow Americans have become increasingly afraid of rifles and “guns” in general for no other reason than a lack of education about them. With that being said, I can then understand the overreaction regarding the muskets carried by the two guards of the team not being allowed into the chamber. However, it didn’t end there.

That overreaction extended to the flagstaffs. The men pictures above not only were were barred from carrying their two muskets but had to remove the flags from the staffs! If you would, please pause for a moment and think of the utter foolishness and even childishness that makes up this decision. The equipment a color guard uses, flagstaffs and rifles, are seen as potential weapons because they ARE weapons.

Weapons of War…

The flagstaff comes from a spear that started as early as Genghis Khan to have a colored ribbon attached to the spear tip. Different units had a different colored ribbon attached to one spear tip and everyone was then organized under their color. The ribbons gave way to small pennants and eventually to vertical banners and horizontal flags. This isn’t a complete history lesson, just a very brief overview.

Similar to the flagstaff is the firefighter’s long (8′) ceremonial pike pole that is used as a flagstaff by some departments. The fire fighting tool known as the pike pole, used to rip apart a roof and other parts of a structure for ventilation, were used decades ago to unhorse mounted soldiers.

It is quite obvious as to what the rifle represents. There are the more ceremonial rifles, M1 Garand, M14, and M1903, and the tactical rifle of today, the M16/AR14. Law enforcement agencies also use shotguns as their weapon of choice. There are replica rifles made of every sort that are unable to fire let alone accept a single round. If live rifles are ever used, they are never loaded. That is not only for safety but also because a color guard member does not engage in battle, traditionally (there are historic exceptions of necessity).

Circling back to firefighters, they use shorter pike poles as the weapon/tool for the guards and the most prominent and recognizable tool, and the one I recommend because of those characteristics is the ceremonial fire axe.

Made into Plowshares

These weapons are tools of our respective trades: military, law enforcement, and firefighters. We use them because we are familiar with them and it is a show of force, if I may use the expression. However, in many cases, including this one in Virginia, it is about honoring the flag and tradition at the same time.

There is no legitimate reason to forbid a color guard from presenting the colors in our traditional or currently written standards.

When we do not teach history, history repeats itself and honor falls by the wayside.