JOINT BASE LEWIS-McCHORD, Wash. (4/4/2012) – Two rifle cases
containing ceremonial M1 Garands lay on a table in the teacher's
lounge at East Olympia Elementary School. On a pegboard nearby,
hooks hold the garment bags carrying Army service uniforms owned by
the I Corps Honor Guard.
The I Corps Honor Guard presents flags at a school event March
23, 2012. The Music in Schools event was Sgt. Zachary Singer's,
(second from left), first event as the newest member of the honor
guard. Photo by Army Sgt. Christopher Gaylord
Today, the four soldiers selected for the honor guard
detail accompany the 56th Army Band, currently touring
schools near JBLM in support of the “Music in Our Schools
Month” program. While the band readies for their
performance, the honor guard uses the teacher's lounge as a
“What's our cue?” asks Spc. James
Littlefield, as he inspects the white gloves he'll be
“They open with ‘The Muppets' theme song,
and then we present the colors,” says Sgt. Eli Dove, their
Spc. Noah Prive, 24, a cannon crewmember
previously assigned to 2nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd
Infantry Division, is amused by this.
Really? How does that one go again? I haven't heard it in a
long time,” Prive says as he unrolls a flag-bearer's
One of them uses his phone to look it up,
and soon the upbeat melody is playing. A few expressions of
recognition, and then they're humming along as they help one
another with the final articles of their uniforms.
Their headwear is last. The soldiers of the honor guard don
their service caps with their white gloves on to keep
fingerprints from smudging the patent leather brims.
Minutes later they are in position in the school assembly
room as the drum roll begins. One rifle-bearing guard to the
front, one at the rear, as the soldiers bearing the U.S. and
the Washington State flags march out to the center of the
room. Today's detail calls for a presentation of the colors.
The movements are crisp and deliberate, and the stoic
faces on this team display an unyielding military bearing.
Their Army service uniforms are meticulously put together,
not a scuff mark or fingerprint to be found on any of the
The U.S. flag comes forward, and
the honor guard presents arms as the National Anthem plays.
Another drum roll sounds, and the flags march out of the
room. The soldiers return to the dressing room.
“Nobody messed up today; that's always good,” says Prive
once the team is gathered in the lounge, ready to depart.
Since the I Corps Honor Guard's soldiers serve in a
ceremonial unit, they're chosen through meeting criteria
such as demonstrated physical skills and the manual
dexterity needed to handle flags and ceremonial rifles. They
must be in compliance with height and weight standards.
Those soldiers chosen for assignment to the honor guard are
tested for competence in performing ceremonial duty.
The I Corps Honor Guard prefers to take soldiers that are 5'
10” or taller, and have an Army Physical Fitness Test score
of 260 or better. The honor guard seeks soldiers who are
highly motivated and have high standards of appearance and
“Maybe there's a perception that soldiers
get sent to us and they're in - just like that - with no
problems. There is a period of integration where we have
eyes on you to see if you'd be a good fit for the group,”
said Sgt. 1st Class Devon Grier, non-commissioned officer in
charge of the honor guard.
The screening process
begins at brigade levels, as the soldiers selected to go to
the honor guard are usually hand-picked by that unit's
command sergeant major.
“There's a written knowledge
test, specific to the honor guard. ‘What do certain parts of
the flags represent?' That kind of thing. But this is not
just for them to know it, but for the vets who like to come
up to us during ceremonies and talk for a while. It's good
to know the equipment we use. A lot of them have fond
memories of the M1 Garand, having used them in the Korean
War,” said Staff Sgt. Daniel Sims, one of the honor guard
Their newest addition, Sgt. Zachary
Singer, is an infantryman who was chosen for the honor guard
from 2nd Stryker Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division, four weeks
after his arrival to Joint Base Lewis-McChord. Singer
replaced a soldier who returned to the 2/2 SBCT for its
“I have some dwell time, so this
was a good [opportunity]. They ask that soldiers designated
to the honor guard be able to commit for a one year
assignment,” said Singer, who deployed twice with 2nd Bde.,
25th Infantry Division.
After in-processing, he'll
get an orientation to cover all aspects of what the honor
guard does. Singer will join one of the two six-soldier
teams; with Grier serving as their NCOIC, there are 13
soldiers currently serving in the I Corps Honor Guard.
“Everything has to be dress right dress; everyone knows
one another's position,” Sims said. “[Singer] has to be able
to get to know us. He has to be able to meet the standard,
to be able to do these tasks with all the repetition
required of them,” Sims added.
Military honor guards
may serve as ambassadors to the public. They present a
positive image of their service, and assist with the Army's
recruiting effort. The I Corps Honor Guard is called on to
participate in the occasional parade, and serves in an area
that spans Idaho, Oregon and California.
Rodriguez, a technical engineer from Bayamon, Puerto Rico,
has been with the honor guard for six months and came from
555th Engineer Brigade.
“When we come to the honor
guard, that first day we're given materials to study for the
written test,” Rodriguez said.
Then comes what each
of the members refers to as the stand test.
can't pass it, you don't get in. You have to be able to hold
the Army's flag for an hour, three minutes of it at present
arms. It's not light, it's around 40 pounds,” Rodriguez
The provisional member of the honor guard then
gets a 10 minute break.
“After that, you stand
holding an M1 Garand rifle that weighs 9.3 pounds for an
hour, with five minutes of that at present arms. It's
ultimately a test of military bearing, to see if you can
handle both the physical and mental demands of the job,”
Once Singer got past all of those initial
welcoming tasks, he stepped right into full rehearsals.
The first thing new members learn is the PPR – the post,
present and retiring for the colors.
impressions when I came into the honor guard, it was a
unique experience. I wasn't quite expecting to be involved
with such high-ranking people. I mean, in a line unit you
generally don't interact with someone higher ranking than a
company commander – here you're constantly around colonels,
general officers. And the level of professionalism is
certainly different, you always keep that military bearing
in check,” Rodriguez said.
“Sure, there's times when
we're more relaxed and joking around, but you have to have
that sense of time and place. Certain types of soldiers do
well here, definitely the more respectful and squared-away
(you are) the better,” Rodriguez added.
One of the
most significant roles for the honor guard is to provide
funeral honors for soldiers, to include performing a 21-gun
salute. An honor guard may also serve as the "guardians of
the colors" by displaying and escorting the national flag on
ceremonial occasions at official state functions.
Finally, honor guards usually provide detachments for review
by visiting heads of state.
“We maintain flags for
the general, including the ones on their houses. When there
are special events we prepare and set up flags. When there's
VIPs, we'll often become the custodians, the flag-wranglers
and caretakers for those high ranking visitors' colors,”
On April 12, World War II
Japanese-American veterans from the Nisei Veterans Committee
will present nine of the honor guard soldiers with the
Congressional Gold Medal.
But for the I Corps Honor
Guard, it's business as usual this week. Singer carried the
National flag for a “Music in Our Schools Program,” his
first as a team leader. For the rest of the honor guard,
they have an upcoming NCO induction ceremony and more
By Army Sgt. Mark Miranda
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