“Are you stupid?”

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When I was teaching at a local high school here in Florida a few years ago I asked a cadet a question in front of the rest of the team at drill practice. The question was, “Are you stupid?” Another, reactionary, cadet lit into me because she thought I was insulting him. After telling her and a couple of others to calm down, I asked him again, “Well, are you stupid?” With a sheepish look on his face, he replied, “No.” I think he knew where I was going with the question. I said, “Of course not! You are a bright young man, you do really well in school (his grades in math were outstanding) and on this team. So then, why do you screw around when it’s time to work?”

Everyone then understood my point. Discipline yourself so others don’t have to.

Praise in Public

I know, someone reading this is probably infuriated that I would “punish in public”. It’s discipline, not punishment. Since the 1990s we have been getting punishment and discipline confused.


  • Control gained by enforcing obedience or order
  • Orderly or prescribed conduct or pattern of behavior
  • Punishment*

Of course disciplining someone can be a form of punishment, we need to understand that, but that’s not part of my job. Instilling discipline in others is part of my job. It’s a fine line.

Punish in Private

The last part of the phrase in the previous subtitle.


  • Suffering, pain, or loss that serves as retribution

What I have described here does not come close to punishment.

But, why in public?

Regarding the original story, because the action was in public and others need to see that it is unacceptable. Is it embarrassing for the individual? Of course, that’s part of the process. However, I leave it behind, it’s over with. I forget about it as it has already been dealt with and I involve the individual in the training again. My dwelling on it or my allowing anyone else to dwell on it will degrade the session and result in fruitless and wasted time.

Public discipline is a great way to teach many at once using a negative situation. When we just ignore bad behavior or treat it privately and only publicly reward good behavior, we are missing a valuable opportunity.


We all do stupid things, especially when a teenager. Teenagers are awful and wonderful all at the same time. I’ve been teaching them since 1986 and it’s been a maddening, frustrating, stressful, challenging, exciting, educational, fun, creative, thrilling experience!

A note on the featured image at the top of the page: The two female cadets and I staged the photo. I was trying to look as if I was being stern, but they kept laughing.

The Presidential Return Salute

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General of the Army
Dwight D. Eisenhower

Civilians do not return a salute, they aren’t military. Even a President who served in any branch of the US military, serves as the civilian head of the Armed Forces as Commander-in-Chief. As an example, President Eisenhower never returned a salute while he was in office even though he was a General of the Army (5-star).

While the President is the only civilian who receives a direct salute (one-on-one), all civilians may receive an indirect salute (like in a cordon).

The Beginning

President Reagan is the man who began the Presidential Return Salute.

5-19-1987 President Reagan returns direct salutes descending the steps of Air Force One at Andrews Air Force Base

President Reagan, wanted to show his respect to those on Marine One, Air Force One, and at the White House. It wasn’t enough for him to just receive, he wanted to do something in return.

Each President since has continued the tradition to varying degrees (this is not the place to get into the terrible salute techniques of each subsequent US head of state). I understand why President Reagan did it and that if any President after him would have discontinued the tradition, he would have been vilified most likely. After all, the position of Commander-in-Chief of the US Armed Forces returning a salute does make a bit of sense.

President Trump has extended the use of the salute to beyond just returning a direct salute from members of the military. He will render a hand salute for ceremonies at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, for example.

Now Everyone’s Doing It

Unfortunately, while Mr. Pence was in office, he decided to begin the tradition for the VP position. This doesn’t make sense and cheapens the Presidential Return Salute. Also unfortunate is Ms. Harris continuing the tradition for the VP position.

The Wrong Flag at the Wrong Time in the Wrong Place

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The main picture of this article, above, is of Hamilton County (OH) Sheriff’s Office (HCSO) personnel raising a Thin Blue Line flag (a novelty flag, more here) after rioters took down the American flag.

I understand that these are trying times for us all and that law enforcement officers (LEOs) are under even greater pressure than usual. Adding to that pressure is not what any of us should do, even unwittingly.

This article is for educational purposes and is meant to communicate respectfully to our nation’s law enforcement community and anyone else it can help. I have respect for all first responders and have been training LEO, Fire, and EMS honor guards since 2013. I’m aware of the selfless sacrifice of first responders to their communities. I’m also aware of the hatred for LEOs and the single act an officer can do to tarnish the whole Blue Family. For those reading this who do not understand why respect is always given, please read this.

The Wrong Flag

Gadsden Flag

Replacing an American flag due to damage (fading, tears, or theft, etc.) is accomplished with another American flag or, at the very least, a state flag, temporarily.

Raising one of our historic flags, the Gadsden Flag, for example, would have been perfect. The deputies in this photo could have even strung up a rioter’s underwear- better yet, a rioter in his underwear.

These thin line flags do not represent the country, we already have a flag for that. They are only for specific communities: the military and first responders. Although I do understand the reasoning behind them, I’m not a huge fan of the Thin Line flags, but the black and white thin line flag with a colored stripe is not against the Flag Code. I just don’t appreciate a flag that looks like a corrupted American flag/National Ensign.

What? “A takeover”?

That’s crazy talk! There is no way that was intended! I’ve already received the private messages through my social media accounts assuring me that this instance was benign. I honestly think raising that flag was the result of good intentions. It was just a really bad choice.

The Wrong Time

In the middle of protests and riots, we do not need to communicate an inflammatory message. Most likely, the HCSO deputies in the picture had every intention of honoring and did not realize the implications of tyranny. There is not “good” time

The Wrong Place

Raising the Thin Blue Line flag here is absolutely 100% inappropriate. The flag was raised in front of the Hamilton County Justice Center, a government building. If it was a private home and flagpole, no problem. raising a non-governmental flag in place of the American is tantamount to signaling a takeover. The action in the photo unofficially communicated that the US government in the area had been toppled and that the police had taken over. I truly hope that is not what is intended here.

May our Lord and Savior bring peace to our land.

Do we Salute Foreign National Flags and Anthems?

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Yes. Foreign nations of a friendly status.

Saluting Foreign Flags


2-5. b. Foreign national flags. (Normally, these are displayed in alphabetical order using the English alphabet).

Chapter 4 (7) Dipping the flag. The U.S. Army Ceremonial flag is an organizational color and is therefore dipped while the U.S. National Anthem, “To the Color,“ or a foreign national anthem is played.

AR 840-10 (15 June 2017)

15-3. Salutes

a. The organizational Color salutes (dips) in all military ceremonies while the National Anthem, “To the Color,” or a foreign national anthem is being played, and when rendering honors to the organizational commander or an individual of higher grade including foreign dignitaries of higher grade, but in no other case.

TC 3-21.5 (20 January 2012)

Marine Corps, Navy, and Coast Guard

The MCO is not slear as to salutes to foreign national flags and anthems, I can assure you that the all three of these services do render honors to foreign national flags and anthems. I researching more.

Chapter 4, 1. Miscellaneous Flags, 4. …the flag of the foreign nation will be carried by a separate color guard (normally three Marines). This color guard will be preceded by a Marine Corps color guard during the ceremony.

MCO 10520.3 (15 May 2019)

Air Force and Space Force

7.35. Salutes by Flags.
7.35.1. The Air Force departmental flag is an organizational flag and is dipped while the National Anthem, “To the Color,” musical honors for CSAF or higher or a foreign national anthem is played.

AFMAN 36-2203 (19 June 2018)

2.11. Order or Precedence of Flags
2.11.2. Foreign national flags. Normally, these are displayed in alphabetical order using the English alphabet. When in NATO countries, NATO member country flags are displayed in French alphabetical order.

2.12. At no time will a foreign national flag be dipped.

2.22.8. The Air Force departmental flag is an organizational flag and is dipped while the national anthem, “To The Color,” musical honors for CSAF or higher, or a foreign national anthem is played.

AFI 24-1201 (9 June 2017)

Which Anthem is Played First?

Chapter 2 Flag Background
2.4.4. The performance of the national anthem of any foreign country will be followed, without pause, by playing the national anthem of the United States. When two or more foreign national anthems are played, the United States national anthem is performed last.

[DrillMaster edit] This information is for all locations and all services. When overseas and on base/American soil (Military Cemetery) the US anthem is last. When on foreign soil, the local national anthem is last unless predetermined otherwise.

AFPAM 34-1202 (10 January 2013)

Half Staff

I thought I would throw this in the mix as well. This information is also available here. This is for all bases overseas, no matter what service.

2.13.4. All flags displayed with the United States Flag should be flown at half-staff when the United States Flag is flown at half-staff with the exception of foreign national flags.

[DrillMaster edit] It depends on the Status of Forces Agreement with the country. Usually, the foreign national flag is never lowered to half staff/mast if the President has directed the American flag to half or its a standard American observance.

AFI 34-1201 (9 June 2017)

“Happy” Memorial Day

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I understand why you might think of or even say that phrase. But please, allow me to tell you why we who have served our country in the uniform of one or more of her armed forces, do not wish to ever hear that. It’s not necessarily a “happy” time.

And please, oh please, do not thank any of us for our service during this time.

The Sorrow

Many of America’s men and women deployed to different conflicts in foreign lands. Some came home in a flag-draped transfer case laden with their remains and dozens of pounds of ice. The memory of these men and women are what Memorial Day is all about.

June 18, 2016: The Memorial Wall of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington DC at dawn.

Dear Madam,

I have been shown in the files of the War Department, a statement by the adjutant General of Massachusetts, that you are the mother of 5 sons who have died gloriously on the field of battle.

I feel how weak and fruitless must be any words of mine that would attempt to beguile you of the grief of a loss so overwhelming. But I cannot refrain from rendering to you the consolation that may be found, in the thanks of the Republic they died to save.

I pray that our Heavenly Father may assuage the anguish of your bereavement, and leave you the cherished memory of the loved and lost, and the solemn pride that must be yours to have ever laid so costly a sacrifice upon the alter of freedom.

Yours very sincerely and respectfully,

Abraham Lincoln

The Joy

Maybe some still cannot fathom how anyone could have joy at a time that recalls so much sacrifice. But, there is a certain joy. A joy of thankfulness that someone would stand up to tyranny. Someone who runs toward the danger. Someone who sticks their neck out for others and risks everything.

Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.

John 5:13

The Negative

I am aware of the arguments that condemn the actions of combat. That condemnation belongs to those “elite” who make and profit from war, not the average Soldier, Marine, Sailor, Airman, or Coast Guardsman. Their heart is in the right place when that individual raises their right hand and takes the Oath of Enlistment or the Oath of (Office) Commissioning. I am also aware that Pres. Lincoln was a fascist and not everything we learn in history is, shall we say, accurate.

However, now is not the time to protest wars or stand on the flag. You have the right to free speech and to be ungrateful, disrespectful, and communicate in a most idiotic fashion, but maybe just not this weekend. Families are in mourning.

The Positive

Many honor guard members render honors every day. It’s what we do and, for many, what we love. It’s not as though anyone is filled with glee at the announcement of a funeral. We seek and relish the opportunities to render honors to our brothers and sisters who have gone before us. It is a truly fulfilling experience every single time.

I retired from the US Air Force in 2005 after serving for 20 years. During my time, my specialties did not necessarily deploy except on very rare occasions. That has changed since my time in the service. I served overseas and stateside, but I never went into a battle zone, by the grace of our Lord and Savior. I was given the opportunity to render honors to my fallen brothers and sisters as an Air Force Ceremonial Guardsman at several locations around the world.

I have given folded flags to the next of kin, and stood for hours on end as a member of a color guard for wreath laying ceremonies and commemoration ceremonies at many American Cemeteries where tens of thousands of our men and women are buried: St. Mihiel Cemetery, France; Luxemburg Cemetery, Luxemburg; Ardennes, France; Flanders Field Cemetery, Belgium, Henri-Chapelle Cemetery, Belgium; Netherlands (Margraten) Cemetery, Netherlands; Brittany Cemetery, France; Normandy Cemetery, France; Somme Cemetery, France; and Oise-Aisne Cemetery, France; and countless ceremonies at various sites throughout Belgium, Netherlands, Luxemburg, France, and even Germany.

To stand and stare at a sea of white crosses and stars was and still is humbling and the very least I could do to honor their memory.

All I’ve wanted to do is stand tall for them.

While the clip from the movie, Saving Private Ryan, is supposed to be emotional, the character saying to his wife, “Tell me I’ve led a good life, tell me I’ve been a good man” echoes a great deal of truth.

Have a wonderful weekend, enjoy the time with family and friends, and, if you would, even for just a moment, thank the fallen for their ultimate sacrifice. They believed they were protecting their friends and families and the future of our great nation and the free world.

The main picture is courtesy of my friend, former US Navy Ceremonial Guardsman Alec White who was a Casket Bearer with the Navy Ceremonial Guard in Washington, DC.

To the Rear March Official and Unofficial Techniques

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I’ve had a few questions about this over the years and I even put together a presentation on it that will be part of the online training offered here eventually.

The focus of this article is to explain exactly how the Marine Corps, Navy, and Coast Guard are supposed to execute this from the commander’s point of view.

Test from MCO 5060.20: p 1-11,

  1. When giving commands, commanders face their troops.
    a. For company formations or larger, when commanding marching troops from the head of a column or massed formations, commanders march backward while giving commands.

That’s it. There is no other information for the commander when executing To the Rear March or other commands. However, some Marine Drill Instructors teach the following method:

The Unofficial Technique

This section title could also be: The Unauthorized Technique. Many Marines will tell you they’ve never heard of this and others will tell you that this is the only way to do it. Keep reading, please.

We will start with the formation commander (officer/NCO) facing the platoon in Line Formation.

The platoon is formed in Line Formation and the commander gives, “Right, FACE!”

Sea Cadets, Sea Scouts, MCJROTC, NJROTC, CGJROTC, and Young Marines team commanders take a position of and maintain a three-step distance at all times.

The commander then gives, “Forward MARCH!” while facing the formation and steps off with a Left Face-in-March
The team is marching in Column Formation with Squad Leaders leading
Marching in Column Formation, the commander gives, “To the Rear, MARCH!” and everyone executes the move in the manner described in the MCO
The commander gives, “To the Rear, MARCH!” and as the team begins the movement, the commander executes the first of two facing movements to the left

The technique for the commander here will be “MARCH!” on the right foot, bring the next left foot to the right to halt, Left Face, Left Face, step off.

As the team continues to execute the pivot, the commander executes his second Left Face and everyone steps off

The Official Technique

The MCO for drill and ceremonies does not have the two facing movements to the left. Replace them with a standard 180-degree pivot to the rear and everything else is the same.

So why is the above taught and not in the current MCO? Apparently, it was an oversight.

What to do in Competition?

The facing movement technique is not in the MCO, that technique should not be used. Will you be crucified by Marine, Navy, or Coast Guard judges because you did not execute them? Maybe, but not everyone knows of the two left facing movement technique. However, you have the MCO on your side and can challenge the judge’s decision.

Honor Guard and Drill Team Shoes

DrillMaster Color Guard/Color Team, Drill Team Training, Drill Teams, Honor Guard, Honor Guard Training, Instructional, Uniform Tips 6 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.


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!


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.


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!