What is Articulation?

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Articulation is to speak so that one is understood. It is not only about speaking clearly (enunciating words), but also about speaking clearly (using words that are easily understood for your audience). Got that? (photo courtesy of stripes.com)

But what does this have to do with drill? Plenty.

A Driller can step onto the performance floor and not be clear; not articulate well. How is this accomplished if the Driller is not speaking? Through movement. A Driller communicates through movement. The Driller’s language is movement and an audience can ‘read’ that language.

Take a look at the primary image for this article, the unarmed female drill team. The image shows some clarity- see the variation of the position each cadet holds? This kind of variation is not what you want.

Considering the Language of Movement
A written/spoken language is made up of words which create sentences which, hopefully, communicate coherent/articulated ideas or thought. The same goes for a non-verbal language like drill: individual movements (words), body and equipment, create phrases (sentences) which communicate which again, hopefully, communicate coherent/articulated ideas or thought.

Consider each move a Driller makes as a word: facing movements, the positions of the manual of arms and then more advanced “words” would be exhibition-type movement. Movements make up a Driller’s vocabulary.

Youwouldneverwritelikethis,becauseit’sverydifficulttounderstand and not writin al of th letter of all o th wor wil driv yo mad! Not using punctuation (run-on sentences) creates frustration- you never know where the sentence ends and where to take a visual breath or break. Without punctuation, the ‘voice’ of what you are reading is lost: where are the highs and lows? Are these several words a phrase or are there two phrases? Plus there are other problems.

Just like the sentence above where the words are not completed, the most common way to not articulate well is to not complete movements. This is extremely common among Drillers. The Driller is thinking of the next move before the last one is finished and tends to not complete the last move. This has a great deal to do with the performance maturity of the Driller.

The sentence above without spaces between words mirrors the routine that is one long super-move or a routine of several super-moves (this is not a good thing). The audience needs to be able to see a separation between moves- not all moves, you need to find that balance.

Having a Wide Vocabulary
I talk about vocabulary here. And here.

Once you begin to increase your vocabulary, you will find it easier to create new moves. Vocabulary isn’t just about the rifle, sword or arm movements that you know. It’s also very much about marching/step style, head and body movement.

While you need to vary your sentence and paragraph length and not repeat the same words over again, the same goes for a visual performance like military drill. Repetition is an effect killer and so is making your phrasing the same length or same style- like always ending a phrase with a big move (exclamation point).

Variation also applies to the same move executed a little differently.

Clarity and Logic
So, articulation is about clear communication. It’s also about making logical sense: placing moves where they follow others in a logical order and, if you are a soloist are part of a tandem, allowing the rifle to take you around the drill pad and not pushing the rifle around.

What do I mean by allowing the rifle to lead? A good example of “pushing the rifle around” is during your solo routine, executing a facing movement and then drilling of in that direction, facing another direction and doing the same thing. This kind of routine communicates a lack of understanding of routine design.

Marine Corps Color Guard

Color Guard and Team Member Height

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Notice the harness cups, both cups should be at the same height.

For the picture above, the Mirror Present technique is not authorized for Marines in the Fleet not MCJROTC cadets. It is ONLY authorized for the members of Marine Barracks Washington.

Some people try to force the members of a color team into tallest-to-shortest (viewer’s left-to-right) no matter the skill level. That can be a recipe for embarrassment. Especially when the tallest member has the least amount of knowledge.

For all color guards, the height of the team members is a secondary issue. The primary issue is knowledge and experience. Along with knowledge being the primary issue, flag height is right there with it.

Color Guard Height2

Flag Height
All colors must be at the same height as per our military manuals, but since cadets are growing and sometimes vary greatly in height (this also applies to adults), the colors harness cup/socket heights need to be as close as possible in height so that the flagstaffs are as close as possible. In the case of a great height difference, as long as the American flag is higher, everything is fine.

Experience, not height is the goal.

This picture shows a preferable height distribution that is aesthetically pleasing. Shorter right axe/rifle guard, tallest on the American, and everyone else tapers off from there.

Let’s take a look at some color guards and how they navigate the height differences of the cadets.

Notice the flags are at the same height regardless of the height of the team member.

The American flag bearer always needs to be the most knowledgeable member of the team and is always the commander. The second most knowledgeable is the right rifle guard, then the left rifle guard and finally, the other color bearer. Service honor guards go with the most experienced.

jrotc color guard Catabaschools-net

But what about Rank!?
Yes, our military manuals state that an NCO should hold the American flag, but the manuals were written for the military, not cadets or first responders- that does not mean we do not need to follow the manuals, on the contrary, we need to follow them and adapt where needed. Even so, military teams attempt to have the same height in their team members or they at least balance the height differences.


Replacing the Army Spade Finial

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Finial = the topper/ornament of a flagstaff

Flagstaff = the guidon staff carried by a color guard member

Active Duty and Reserve US Navy and US Coast Guard color guards are required to have the battle-ax, also called a Battalion Lance, as their primary finial, according to NTP 13B, Flags, Pennants and Customs (download from the Resources page). The Army spade/spear is not authorized as a flagstaff finial unless performing joint colors work with another service other than the two mentioned above. In that instance, the color guard must have the spade finial, silver in color. The silver spade is mandatory as the finial on the unit guidon.

For NJROTC units, it is up to the Naval Science Instructor whether to switch from the Army spade finial. It is a local purchase. I’m checking into the requirements for Sea Cadets and will update this article as I find the guidance.

For maritime-based first responder agencies with their own color guard, it might be fitting to use the battle-ax finial as an historical reference for the team. Of course, the spade finial is always appropriate for these agencies.

The battle-ax is solid brass and gold in color. Ultimately, this means you would want the upper ferrule (A), screw joint (C), and lower ferrule (D) the same color.

You may want to read the article, All About the Color Guard.

On the Glendale Parade Store website, this finial is listed as the Battalion Lance (Battle Ax): Perfect-Fit Ornament, the SKU is 13GE. It’s made for the dark brown staffs which are not authorized.

The state of Maryland requires the Botonee Cross (pictured at right) as the finial for the MD flag. The Perfect Fit SKU for the Botonee Cross is 83GE. Use the same procedures as below.

Texas law requires a star or spear.

Side note: Traditional Fit Ornaments do not work for this replacement procedure. And please, when you purchase from paradestore.com, please use code T186816 at checkout, it lets them know I sent you, thank you.

How to Attach the New Finial (in this case, the Battle-ax)

First, remove one of the screws holding the spade on the staff. You then need to push the small threaded barrel out with a screwdriver or something similar.

I use a claw hammer to fully extract the rest of the barrel and the other screw.

You will see that the threads on the battle-ax are quite long and I’m not sure why. It doesn’t really seem necessary. The length of the finial’s thread post means that the finial and upper ferrule will not fit as you can see in the pictures below.

Here, you see that It’s just over a half-inch that I need to remove either from the finial thread post or the tip of the staff. I chose to take 3/4 of an inch off of the top of the staff.

I suggest not using the eye screw to attach the battle-ax, that does not present a professional image. Get a screw to attach it, but there are some modifications you must make. Here are two options for screws. I found that either screw worked, but the screw at the bottom fit perfectly.

In order to have the screw fit well, I used my drill to create a counter-sink, which is a concave bevel that allows the screw head to fit flush with the ferrule side. I put an old cloth in my

Here, I used a fine-tooth saw to remove the inside tip of the staff. The one thing that is a slight concern for me is that there is only one hole (I drilled the smaller, starter hole in the picture below for the battle-ax) in the ferrule side for the battle-ax, and for a spade, there are two holes (the larger hole, below) and two screws.

The new ferrule is loose, so I wrapped blue painter’s tape around the base of the tapered part of the staff, pushed the drill bit through the tape, slid the battle-ax on, which fit snugly with the tape, and inserted the screw. The finished product is the large picture at the top of this article.

I tried shaking the battle-ax loose and could not do it. It’s not going anywhere. The wood screw that I used is relatively long so, drilling through the ferrule to make another hole and insert another screw would work to secure it even more, but that hole would have to be at a different level and, as you can see from this last picture, there is very little room and the integrity of the tip of the staff might be jeopardized inserting another screw there. When traveling, I highly suggest that you unscrew the battle-ax finial and place it in a bag to avoid damaging anything.

Organizing a Massing of the Colors Event

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Massed Colors

Massed colors, but not the type outlined in the Army and Marine drill and ceremonies manuals. These manuals specifically state to not have multiple color guards at a ceremony. One is enough. But, that’s for strictly military formations. Click here for information on a massed colors formation.

Massing of the Colors is an event where multiple color guards from multiple organizations, come together to honor the  flag of the United States of America. Color guards from the US military, first responders, cadet organizations and schools, and scouting programs could represent their unit with a color guard. Click here and read information on the order or precedence for the US military and click here for the order of precedence for first responders.

The Ceremony

Each color guard enters and posts in their designated spot on their own command. These commands are only be loud enough for the team to hear, no one wants a one-man or one-color guard show at a massing of the colors.

The “Color Guard Commander” (CGC), who is not the master of ceremonies, posts at an appropriate place so that all of the color guards hear his commands.

The color guards enter with the CGC and remain at Carry/Right Shoulder. Once everyone is posted, the CGC loudly calls, Present (team commanders echo, Present), ARMS! and all teams render the salute for the Anthem.

CGC gives, Order (team commanders echo, Order), ARMS.

CGC then gives, Parade (team commanders echo either, Parade or Stand at), REST! and all go to Parade Rest or Stand at Ease (whichever the team chooses is fine- stick with your training).

For all commands, the CGC faces the color guards, turns around and salutes, or assumes Parade Rest/Ceremonial at Ease. The CGC could be unarmed, but armed with a sword/saber would be appropriate.

At a certain time during the ceremony, everyone could be called to Attention and Present or just Attention and then back to Order.

At the end of the ceremony, the CGC gives Attention, Carry/Right Shoulder, and each color guard leaves independently.

What is Vocabulary?

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Explaining the vocabulary concept to solo exhibition drillers


When speaking in terms of drill and performance, vocabulary deals with the amount of different movements displayed in a routine. For the body there is vocabulary for your feet, the head, arms and hands, and the torso. When armed, vocabulary adds on the manipulation of the piece of equipment (sword/saber, rifle or guidon).

Vocabulary means each individual movement. A set of movements is called a phrase and a phrase can be long or short. When designing a routine you want a good deal of vocabulary and you want long and short phrases. It’s the same with writing: if you have a small vocabulary and use only short sentences or have no variation, the reader is not going to be entertained or informed as well as he or she could be.

Along with vocabulary and long and short phrases, a Driller must use variation. Performing the same move more than once with slight variations increases the displayed vocabulary and keeps the audience active versus the repetition that can bore the audience.

Don’t Sacrifice Excellence

Vocabulary is the “What” of a performance. Excellence is the “How”. To be as effective as possible, you must have a wide vocabulary and a high level of excellence. That being said, you must build that vocabulary and excellence and that is going to take time. There is no overnight success. Hard work, discipline, and a foundational education are key.

DrillMaster's drill team trainingExamples

Let’s look at the presidential honor guard drill teams. In particular, the Silent Drill Platoon (SDP) relies on the least of vocabulary. Their rifle manual is basic movement with slight variations that are specific to the platoon. The entertainment value in this performance is the high level of excellence and also the tricks performed during the company single file front formation where the team’s non-commissioned officer does and “inspection” of two of the team members. The crowd also loves the tradition of the SDP.

The Army and Air Force drill teams have a relatively high vocabulary and the Navy and Coast Guard drill teams have a moderately low vocabulary. Next time when you watch one of these performances see how many different movements or variations of movements you can find.

Appropriate Flag Retirement

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There is a flag fold technique for the first triangle fold called, Cutting the First Stripe. It’s used for an interment flag that has been used for practice and has been folded and refolded so much that it is a bit stretched out, but still good for practice. This technique “cuts” the stripe in half on that first fold, pictured at left. It has nothing to do with taking a knife or scissors to the flag. For more on inappropriately cutting the American flag, click here.

from southplattesentinel.com

A tattered or faded American Flag is ready for retirement. Retiring an American flag means to burn it. Some people feel that burning a flag, no matter the situation, is still disrespectful. In the flag retirement situation, nothing could be further from the truth.

Burning and Burning

There is a big difference! Americans, who love their country and flag, do not treat that flag with disrespect. We do not just throw it away in the garbage when it is no longer fit for everyday display. There are exceptions to this with historic tattered flags on display across the country. When the flag is no longer suitable for daily display, we take the flag, fold it into a rectangle, and burn it. Some Americans feel the need to burn our country’s flag because they are unable to form a cogent, coherent argument and need to stand on a corner in front of others and push their disrespectful agenda in the face of others by flying a burning American flag.

from conservativepost.com

from conservativepost.com

Side note: I support freedom of speech and some view burning our flag as just that. I will defend the right of people who want to act irresponsibly and burn our flag. I do not like the action and do not support the attempt to get ones point across in this manner, but I do not have to watch and I can treat flags in my charge with respect and care as I hope you will.

The difference? Respect (for the flag and others) has everything to do with it.

Flag Retirement the Wrong Way

from coladaily.com

If you cut the stars from the stripes, it’s no longer the American flag and you can then feel better about burning it. I guess that is the illogical reasoning behind this act of initial disrespect to the flag to avoid disrespect to the flag. It doesn’t make sense to cut up the American flag unless it is too big to burn safely. Then, cut it into four pieces. But the Scouts cutting up smaller flags, shown here, is here are wholly unnecessary.

from gps.edu

Boy and Girl Scouts and many veteran organizations across the country are practicing this disrespect to our flag. I do not know when or where it started, but it needs to stop right now! We need to educate cadets and Scouts as well as our well-meaning veterans. Recently, I read a reply to my comment on a social media account that stated ‘since a flag company says on their website that it is OK, we are going to cut our flags. The flag company does not make the rules. Congress does and that would be the Flag Code.

Flag Retirement, the Correct Way

When to actually cut the flag: The only time to cut the flag and then burn it is when it is to large to safely burn as a whole. Safety is paramount.

At home, make a fire on your grill. Fold your flag into a rectangle (no, it does not represent a casket) and place it on the fire. A flag folded into a triangle is much more difficult to burn due to all of the folded layers.

from democraticunderground.com

In a public ceremony, place the representative flag, folded in a triangle on a very hot fire and follow one of the ceremony guidelines linked below. Burn the rest of the flags eligible for retirement in an incinerator or a roaring fire, preferably not in public.

Click here to read the American Legion’s Unserviceable Flag Retirement Ceremony adopted in 1937.

As you can see, no one has ever advocated cutting the canton (blue field) from the stripes. It is extremely disrespectful to do so and it does not matter what some flag-based website has to say as far as a recommendation. Not even this one. I am providing links to professional guidance set forth by groups with the intention of providing the utmost respect.

Associated article: Disrespect to the American Flag

Training and the Three Styles of Leadership

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Training Levels. Since I spent my last seven years in the Air Force as a Unit Education and Training Manager (AFSC 3S2), I will use the USAF’s levels. They are applicable to everyone, no matter what task, no matter if you are in the military or not. Our emphasis here is military drill and ceremonies. Featured image from taskandpurpose.com

  • A 3-Skill Level: Apprentice. This equates to first-year cadets after they have gone through their initial training in all regulation drill (RD).
  • A 5-Skill Level: Journeyman. A cadet, (first- and possibly second-year) fully trained in RD, who still needs time and experience.
  • A 7-Skill Level: Craftsman. A cadet (third-fourth-year), fully skilled and capable of leading a color guard and a platoon/flight in RD.
  • A 9-Skill Level: Superintendent. A cadet (third-fourth-year) fully skilled in RD and tasked with maintaining standards while supervising others training new cadets.

Eisenhower on Leadership

Leadership Styles: Directive, Participative & Laissez-Faire. These are the three basic types of leadership. When I first learned about them in AFJROTC in high school (79-83), I thought you picked one and stuck with it, making other people deal with your “selected style”, the style you thought fit with your personality. I soon learned that you are not supposed to do that! You use each one of these styles on a moment-by-moment basis, depending on 1) the situation and 2) the person/people.

On paper (or on screen), it can seem straightforward and even easy, but when you begin applying what you have learned on other people, it can be difficult.

Directive. Also called, Authoritarian. You, as the leader, make all of the decisions and tell your team everything they need to do. This is a punitive leadership style and many people immediately think of that as its only aspect, but there are other reasons to adopt this style.

  1. Time-sensitive project and you do not have time to explain all of the details to your team.
  2. Team member(s) is 3- or 5-Level and still learning.
  3. Used in initial training and then you gradually transition to another style, as appropriate.

Participative. You allow your team to have a say in how tasks are accomplished. you check on their progress occasionally. Some 3-Levels and most, if not all 5-Levels and all 7-Levels. This style is used most often and can lead to Laissez-Faire with some team members needing you to revisit the Directive style.

Laissez-Faire. This means you can allow your team to do what they need to do because you are fully confident that the task can be accomplished effectively. Some 5-Levels and most, if not all 7-Levels and all 9-Levels. Some team members will need you to revisit the Participative style at times.


Reciting the Pledge with a Colors Presentation

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At ceremonies across the country, many local municipalities request a color team from military installations or even first responders. Quite often, music is not available so those gathered recite the Pledge of Allegiance.

Color Guards: In all of the research I’ve accomplished, I cannot find any specific guidance for restricting/requiring a color guard to dip it’s colors for the Pledge of Allegiance. That being said, there are guidelines for departmental colors from each service’s drill and ceremonies, flag, or protocol manuals: departmental colors only dip for the National Anthem, service secretary, and CoS/Cmndnt or higher-ranked individual.

This means Active, Guard, and Reserve military teams do not dip, but the rifles go to Present. The Pledge isn’t a military salute to the flag, per se, but an announcement of one’s faithfulness to the flag and the nation, and since it is about the flag, she deserves Present Arms from the rifle guards because when outdoors and the Pledge is recited, all military render the hand salute. Please read All About the Color Guard.

First Responders

Does this apply to first responders (who usually carry their state flag as second) and cadets (who carry their program flag as second)? Flags should dip when the crowd recites the Pledge. You are not in the military – but for cadet organizations that represent a military service, this does raise a good question. For now, I suggest dipping.

The Flag Code

4 U.S. Code § 4 – Pledge of allegiance to the flag; manner of delivery
The Pledge of Allegiance to the Flag:“I pledge allegiance to the Flag of the United States of America, and to the Republic for which it stands, one Nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”, should be rendered by standing at attention facing the flag with the right hand over the heart. When not in uniform men should remove any non-religious headdress with their right hand and hold it at the left shoulder, the hand being over the heart. Persons in uniform should remain silent, face the flag, and render the military salute. Members of the Armed Forces not in uniform and veterans may render the military salute in the manner provided for persons in uniform.

(Added Pub. L. 105–225, § 2(a), Aug. 12, 1998, 112 Stat. 1494; amended Pub. L. 107–293, § 2(a), Nov. 13, 2002, 116 Stat. 2060; Pub. L. 113–66, div. A, title V, § 586, Dec. 26, 2013, 127 Stat. 777.)

For Individuals: indoors, all military in uniform stand at Attention and face the flag (reciting the Pledge is optional when with a large civilian group*). Outdoors, render the hand salute. When out of uniform, members of the military and veterans stand at Attention or may now salute the flag. Cadets will always recite the Pledge.

*Reason being is that we in the US military took an Oath of Enlistment or Oath of a Commissioned Officer. This oath never expires. We not only pledge our allegiance, but our lives. When in a large group of civilians, it would probably be better to recite the Pledge rather than explain ten times to different people why you stood in silence at Attention.

State Flags

For teams that also carry a state or other flag, other than a military departmental (US Army, USAF, etc.), dip that flag. This includes JROTC and unit flags.

Here is how to do it:

  1. The announcer says something like, “Ladies and gentlemen, please rise for the presentation [or posting*] of the colors.”
  2. Color team enters as usual and stops centered in front of the audience.
  3. The commander of the color team gives the loud command, “Present, ARMS!”
    1. If the team is military, do not dip your service color for the Pledge, it is only dipped for the National Anthem.
    2. State and other colors dip.
    3. Guards execute Present.
  4. The announcer or a designated person steps up to the microphone and says something like, “Ladies and gentlemen, please join me in reciting the Pledge of Allegiance. I pledge…”
  5. The commander of the color team gives the command, “Port, ARMS!” and the color team [posts the colors and then] departs.

*Only post the colors for more ceremonial occasions.

That is it. Color team commanders, please do not order the audience to begin, it is not your place.

The Honor and Sword/Saber Cordons

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The Cordon

  • Comprised of two squads facing each other.
  • Spacing between members of each squad is usually an arm’s distance.
  • Spacing between each squad of the cordon is a safe enough distance for the VIP to pass in between the squads*.
  • The number of members in each squad depends on the type of cordon.
  • The commander positions centered, behind one squad of the cordon or at the end where the VIP will enter.

*You must ensure that if the VIP(s) will walk through in twos, side-by-side, there is enough space to safely do so.

Members of a cordon are sometimes unarmed, armed with rifles, or armed with a sword or saber. When armed with a sword or saber, there are specific commands and techniques that are used for each service. The cordon members form what is commonly called the “Arch of Steel” for VIPs and the bride and groom to walk through.

Note: in a joint service situation, where cordon members are from different military branches, the senior service technique is followed, no exceptions. Click here to read about Joint Service Order. Here is an example of cordon precedence for military and first responders.

Arrival Honor Cordon

Dress rehearsal for an arrival ceremony honor cordon on Kadena Air Base flight line

The Honor Cordon

Performed with unarmed (in a church, for example), with rifles, but never with swords or sabers (a properly executed sword salute presents a tripping hazard for the VIPs.

This cordon recognizes VIPs for an arrival or departure ceremony. An official cordon performed by members of the US military must follow the the size requirements outlined by the DoD:

  • POTUS/Former POTUS, 21 members
  • VP, SecDef, Service Secretaries, Chair of JCoS, Chiefs of Staff and Cmndnts of MC & CG, 19 members
  • 4-Star General/Admiral, 17 members
  • 3-Star General/Admiral, 15 members
  • 2-Star General/Admiral, 13 members
  • 1-Star General/Admiral, 11 members

The odd number is in line with the gun salute for the dignitary and represents an even number of cordon members with a commander.

Similarly for first responders and others at the state, county, and city level, honor cordons could be created with a team compliment of nine. The following paragraph is a quote from the November 2016 memorandum on Revised DoD Order of Precedence:

“When dealing with the United States precedence, there are several general rules which always hold true and which may differ from what one would assume the order of precedence to be. First, no one outranks a governor in his own state except the President or Vice President of the United States. Secondly, no one outranks a mayor in his own city or town or the Chairman of the Board of Supervisors in his own county except the Governor of the state or the President or Vice President of the United States.”

In the image above, you have an example of an arrival at a building. Note that there is not only a cordon, but four door openers. The door openers at the building are in line with the cordon- this may mean that they have to take a large step forward in order to grasp the handle, come to Attention in line with the armed cordon members, and render the hand salute. Note: the door opener with only his left hand free, does not salute. Click here to read about saluting and the left-hand salute.


The Navy’s Side Boys

The custom of using Side Boys, the shipboard honor cordon, to welcome a visiting dignitary or officer aboard a military vessel had a real purpose at one time. Side Boys are two, four, six, or eight Marines and/or Sailors lining both sides of the gangplank or on the quarterdeck in a ceremony now known as Tending the Side. The number of in the cordon is based on the rank of the officer visiting the vessel: two members for ensigns and LTs, up to eight members for admirals.

This system originally served a utilitarian purpose in the British Navy as early as the 17th century. Back then, men did not have the luxury of walking onto their ships: most had to transfer from a small boat to the larger ship by ladder, or by a device called a Boatswain’s Chair, which was essentially a seat attached to a yardarm by a block and tackle.

Here is where the relevance of increasing numbers in the cordon comes in: the younger and less rank you had, most likely, the lighter you were. Thus, a light midshipman or LT needed only two men on the haul rope, while an often very stout Admiral, with a forty-year career, tended to need eight men to pull them up.

Additional jobs, such as steadying the officer after getting them to the deck, and helping with the officer’s luggage, also necessitated a required number of hands.


This is an excellent opportunity to use the 5-foot ceremonial pike pole!



The Sequence of Events

Dress Center- looking for the marks to obtain visual alignment

The cordon forms up (tallest toward the VIP’s entrance) well before ceremony and performs at least one dry run, is then dismissed to change into the ceremonial uniform. At least ten minutes before the ceremony:

  1. Cordon forms up and marches at Port to its marks.
  2. Once at the site, the cordon members pick up an automatic Mark Time.
  3. The commander gives Cordon, HALT; Center FACE; Dress Center, DRESS; Ready, TWO; Ready, FRONT:* and Stand at, EASE (or Parade, REST).
  4. The commander should remain at Attention and, when the VIP arrives, give, Cordon, ATTENTION; Present, ARMS.
  5. After the VIP passes through completely, the commander gives, Order, ARMS; Ready, FACE (face toward departure direction), Port, ARMS; Forward, MARCH. The team then marches off to their transportation.

*Guidance for the dressing sequence (accomplished visually):

  1. Dress Center, DRESS– All heads drop so that all members reposition to their marks. If no literal marks, squad members will align their feet directly across from each other using the squad on the marching right (before the Center, FACE) as the guide.
  2. Ready, TWO– All member’s heads snap to the direction from which the VIPs enter the cordon or, if there is a structure that can be sued for alignment (e.g. a door frame) you can also dress to that. Here, all members ensure that their shoulders are aligned be only moving front/backward.
  3. Ready, FRONT– All heads snap back to Attention.

The Sword/Saber Cordon (Swords/Sabers)

The standard compliment for this cordon in nine members; eight with swords/sabers and one to command. Location logistics and manning may play a part in how many are actually in the cordon. The minimum would be four.

The sword/saber is an extension of the right arm and should not take another angle from the arm’s 45-degree angle from the ground. When using a saber (sabers are curved, swords are straight), the curve and sharper side of the blade face up. Swords/sabers do not necessarily have to cross each other to form an “X”. Remember, the squads should be far enough away from each other to allow the VIPs to pass through comfortably, which means the sword tips might look as though they meet when viewed from the front or rear of the formation.

Welcoming the bride. There are two different traditions for the Arch of Steel:

  1. If the cordon is in the chapel, as soon as the bride and groom turn around the first two swords are lowered and the couple kisses, and the swords are raised allowing the couple to proceed through the cordon. This is repeated for each set of swords and can take a considerable amount of time.
  2. Only the last two swords are lowered and the couple is in the middle of both swords, they kiss, the bride receives the “Welcome”, and the swords are then raised. Can save quite a bit of time

The “Welcome” comes when the couple has passed through the cordon as described above. The bride and groom stop just past the last two cordon members and the member closest to the bride taps her on her backside and says, “Welcome to the [insert service]!”, and assumes Attention.

Army/Air Force Technique

Only NCOs and officers may perform this ceremony, junior enlisted are not authorized. The sword/saber is not worn, no belts, only carried.

  1. Cordon forms up and marches to its marks.
  2. Once at the site, the cordon members pick up an automatic Mark Time.
  3. The commander gives Cordon, HALT; Center FACE; Dress Center, DRESS; Ready, TWO; Ready, FRONT:* and Stand at, EASE (or Parade, REST).
  4. The commander should remain at Attention and, when the VIPs/bride and groom arrive, give, Cordon, ATTENTION; Form, ARCH.
  5. After the VIPs/bride and groom pass through completely, the commander gives, Order, ARCH; Ready, FACE (face toward departure direction), Port, ARMS; Forward, MARCH, Halt; Dismissed.

Attention (Order, ARCH) and two views of Form, ARCH

Please note: no other position is authorized except what is pictured here, above. The sword/saber cordon does not use the standard manual of arms.

Marine Corps/Navy/Coast Guard Technique

Only NCOs and officers may perform this ceremony, junior enlisted are not authorized.

Navy/Coast Guard:

Can use the Army/AF sequence above, or the Marine sequence below.

Marines: Are required to be rigged per MCO 5060.2.

  1. Enter at Order (sword in the scabbard).
  2. March into place and align.
  3. At moment required to form the Arch, give Attention; Draw, SWORD (at this point, DO NOT return the sword to Carry at the side, leave it pointed up at a 45-degree angle with the arm fully extended).
  4. When the VIP is through the cordon or after welcoming the bride and all have cleared the cordon, the commander gives, Return, SWORD; Ready, FACE, Forward, MARCH; exit at Order (sword in the scabbard)
  5. Halt; Dismissed.

What is “Color Guard Exhibition Drill”?

DrillMaster Ask DrillMaster, Color Guard/Color Team, Commentary, Honor Guard, Instructional Leave a Comment

So what exactly is is “Color Guard Exhibition Drill (XD)”?

In a nutshell, it is disrespect to the American Flag. There is absolutely no way that a color team should ever execute any kind of movement other than what is described in their service manual. Period. Rifle spins, fancy steps, even creating some sort of “beat” when performing Sling Arms/Tighten Slings (I saw it while I attended a competition in Germany) should never be accomplished. Again, period. I even find the half-step-stomp and yelling out cadence for color teams unprofessional.

I am all for thinking “outside the box” when it comes to XD for soloists and drill teams and I even created the World Drill Association’s Open Color Team and Open Regulation Drill where teams create their own sequences to use the drill pad and time most effectively- this brings Composition Analysis into Regulation Drill. However, these Open phases for the WDA are only for rearranging regulation drill commands and moves. In no way should it be interpreted that this means there is a free-for-all on the regulation drill pad.

Some drill teams have a difficult time switching from RD to XD when it comes to style- mainly feet and arms in most cases. But there is zero room for any kind of XD move when it comes to colors. When on a color team, the team should act with the utmost professionalism at all times.

Image courtesy www.cityofperris.org/