I was a member of the US Army Honor Guard, AMA!
I saw that people wanted an AMA after seeing the picture of the changing of the guard on the front page. I was never a tomb sentinel, but I did do many ceremonies in Arlington National Centenary (ANC). I was stationed at Ft. Myer in the 3rd US Infantry Regiment from APR 2009 until NOV 2011
Proof This is the plaque that my platoon gave me when I left.
Edit 1: Taking a quick break, but these are some awesome questions!
First they do a verbal warning. Where they more or less talk loud at them. If they still continue the sentential will eventually rack their weapon so it makes a loud noise (they don't have any ammo) and will eventually walk over to the person. There are also cameras that look down there, so if something serious were to happen more people could get out there if needed.
Is there a ceremonial reason for not having live ammo, or is it just because it shouldn't be necessary or because it would be dangerous?
I'd not necessary. We are more or less just glorified lawn gnomes.
In Canada, at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Ottawa, we don't put ammo in our magazines because our drill movements could inadvertently cock the weapon and chamber a round. We just use an empty mag with some electrical tape around it so it doesn't fall out.
That's awesome man. I've met a few people from other countries Honor Guards but never from Canada.
But I'm pretty sure Canada's capital is Toronto.
Probably because it's unnecessary and potentially dangerous. Killing someone for going near a tomb would somewhat defeat the point, wouldn't it?
Haha, This is the best comment yet
The YouTube videos being posted around this and the other thread show the guards carry a handgun on their hip, which I imagine is loaded. Doesn't mean they can just cap a tourist, though.
Yeah the guy who changes the guard carries a 9 mm
What is a typical duration that guards have to stand outside the tomb?
If you've talked to any of the sentinels, how do they mentally deal with this task? Do they completely zone out, or do they use tricks? Are they basically sleeping, or are they cognizant of what's going on around them?
During the Summer months APR - SEP they change every 30 minutes. And in the winter they stand for an hour.
The biggest problem that guys have down at the tomb has to do with physical pain. Just like most people in the Infantry we have bad backs and knees. Walking on the marble doesn't make things any better, but the only thing you can really do is push threw the pain and keep doing what your doing. They have to know whats going on around them to make sure that no one goes over the railing and steps on the tomb.
1) For Us non USA redditors could you perhaps explain the signifigance of the ANC
2) What, if any, moment or event particularly stands out in your memory from your time of service.
1) ANC is the official United States centenary for veterans. Most any service member that has served in the US Army is able to be buried there.
2) I've done so many funerals that I've kinda become numb to them. We joke with each other before they start and once they are done (not about the funeral, just about stuff). Its kinda our way with dealing with it. But I was doing one funeral and the Firing Party is about 75m away from the family, so you almost never hear anything they say, and you don't really hear crying. But I was standing there waiting to do my part, and I could hear the widow crying loudly.
Also, watching someone fall over in a mission is always funny.
I did 1142 funerals in ANC. I can confirm that you do get numb to the idea of death and mourning after a while and that is the way to cope with it. I can also confirm that the hardest thing I've ever encountered on a ceremony is keeping from laughing when Aunt Suzie is taking pictures and walks backwards before going head over heels over a tombstone.
or how about a bugler falling out while playing taps... twice.
Isn't it really just army? I could have sworn any member of the military is entitled to burial there.
Yeah sorry, any one who has served in the military.
1) ANC is the official United States centenary for veterans. Most any service member that has served in the US Army is able to be buried there.
I thought this wasn't true anymore because of the limited space, last I read you have to be either killed in action, retired with pay or have received a certain medal or higher.
Nope, but since there isn't a whole lot of space left, the gov't is planning on opening up another one in TX.
TL;DR arctic_giraffe is pretty much correct.
I am not an American (I am British), but I have always had a deep admiration for the manner in which you treat your war dead. If we ask people to die for our countries, then we must accord them the utmost respect, irrespective of which side of a conflict they are on.
You have my thanks and respect sir, for your service to those men,
Thanks a lot!
First off, could you explain each piece on the plaque you received? It looks very interesting and I believe there must be a story for each piece :)
Starting on the left is my Blue Cord. The Blue Cord is something that is only worn on the Army Service Uniform (the dress uniform), and it means that the person that is wearing it is in the Infantry. Infantry is the only Job or MOS in the army that gets to wear a cord. The thing right next to it that is a rectangle with a rifle is called an EIB or Expert Infantryman's Badge. There is a bunch of testing that you have to go threw to get it, and usually less than 10% of the people that go out for it actually get it. Next is 3rd INF REG or Old guard's Unit Patch. Then my Old Guard coin. (The Old Guard is the nick name for my old unit). Then a picture of me at the Pentagon with the old Secretary of Defense and some other nation's defense minister. Next is my old unit's emblem. The thing that looks like a horse shoe are the steels that we wear on the bottom of our shoes so that they make a clicking sound when ever we walk. The three rounds are 3 rounds I shot at a funeral. My platoon was the Presidential Firing Part Platoon, so during funerals in ANC we would be the ones that did the three vollys. And last the strip of leather is called a buff strap. The history of that goes all the way back to the Indian Wars when my unit would weave a piece of buff in the bags.
Amazing :) Thank you for that.
Honor Guard Company. Nice. Our paths crossed, but I'm still here. PM me, I might know you.
You're not Old Guard unless your Honor Guard!!
Someone said in a comment on that photo, "My brother was a tomb guard at Arlington Cemetery. Pretty amazing stuff required of them other than standing outside in the rain.", can you explain what else was required?
DC gets really really hot in the summers, and can also have some pretty nasty winters. They also have to spend a lot of time making sure that their uniforms are perfect. Everything on the uniform is measured to make sure that is in the right place, we're talking about perfect to with in a half a millimeter people!
I'm going to have to go with a tomb guard. But I may be a bit bias!
edit: the bias part.
When I was 13 years old I went to Edinburgh and DC. Being a punk kid, I decided I'd try to make the guards laugh. The Queen's guard grimaced and squinted, but didn't laugh. The Tomb Guard turned and yelled so loud that I turned pale and shut the fuck up.
At the time, I concluded the American guard lost my little contest. Today, I realize I was the loser.
Haha great story!
Have any of the tomb sentinels ever had to actually stop someone from doing anything? I've been a few times and of course everyone is very somber and respectful, but I am wondering if someone crazy person has tried something foolish. What would it take for a tomb sentinel to intervene?
I've never herd of anything out of the ordinary. A lot of the time its just a kid that tries to go under the railing and he gets yelled at by the guard, and then the dad quickly grabs this kid and pulls him back, all the while the dads face is getting beat red.
Is there some way that you can show your respect to an Honor Guard without disrupting their routine or getting in the way? Something that you can do to show that you respect their position and what they're doing?
I got a card one time from a kid when I was doing a mission afterwords.
did he just hand it to you or how did you receive it?
He actually came up to me afterwords and handed it to me. It was pretty awesome.
- Do you carry live rounds in your weapons?
- What are the duties of the Old Guard?
We do not carry live rounds in our weapons.
We are the official escort to the president. So when ever the President does something that needs a ceremony we are the ones that have to do it. We also do funerals in ANC and also retirements for people who were in the Army.
How accurate is 'Gardens of Stone?'
It's actually pretty accurate. Not many people know that john earl jones has been banned from ANC for life because he took a piss on the grass.
Psst OP I think you mean James Earl Jones
What is the longest you've had to hold a pee in for?
I did one stand for 2 hours, but the thing is, there is a lot of time before you start standing that you can't go pee because you are getting stuff ready. Having to go the bathroom while you are standing there really sucks.
Did you have the opportunity to become a tomb sentinel and turned it down (if so, why?) or did you not receive the opportunity?
Do those guys really abide by the guidelines (no alcohol, profanity, etc.) for life?
I had plenty of opportunity to go down there, but I never wanted to. I really liked my job and my free time. While you are going threw your training, that usually takes up to 9 months, you don't have a whole lot of free time.
They are aloud to drink and swear and smoke. The thing is, is once you get your tomb badge, it can be taken away from you at any point of your life. A lot of guys that get DUIs years down the road will get their tomb badge taken from them.
First of all, thank you for doing this AMA!
What were some of your responsibilities and duties as a member of the Honor Guard?
My platoon did a lot of the smaller missions around DC. We would do cordorns at the Pentagon to welcome national defense ministers. I did many ceremonies at the White house including many State Dinners. I traveled to Pittsburgh for the G-20 summit in 2009. We did retirement ceremonies, but what everyone like doing the most were funerals. Because it was the one time that you got to do something that made a difference to someone's loved ones who had a loved one die.
One of the rarest tabs in the Army. Kudos friend. -2LT bp
How would you respond to this guys comment?
It makes me a bit mad, and it also feels like he has never really stood (no pun intended) for anything. He is also ignorant. When he says: If you die for guarding that inanimate object, that is totally false. There is actually the body of the WWI unknown under the tomb. There are also Unknowns form Korea and WWII there as well.
Those men paid the ultimate price for their country, and no one will ever know who they are. The guard is our way of thanking them and honoring them.
I wonder if advancements in DNA technologies could identify some of them now
That is actually how they identified the Vietnam unknown.
How did someone in general get into the 3rd US Infantry Regiment? Did it require prior military experience, or was that a path that was an option straight from basic?
I got picked straight out of basic because of my height, weight, PT score (how many pushups, situps, and how fast i can run).
I turned down Old Guard like an idiot. Me and another guy were the only ones who had the height, weight, and PT down in basic. We both said no.
I ended up in fucking Alaska.
ouch that sucks, I'm in Korea now if that helps you at all
what is your height, weight, and pt score?
Are you a guy or a girl I think is the real question ;)
Well, as a girl, I'm certainly interested, if that changes anything. ;)
In that case I'm 6'3" 180, and I like long walks on the beach, and staring up at the sky and getting lost looking at the stars.
Almost an hour later and I'm still no further than "heheheheh DATE ME"
Lets do this!
alright! i don't think the east coast beaches are really in the best condition for long walks at the moment, I think we have to think of something else. How do you feel about drive-in movies and making out on backseats?
Only if its a theme movie, like the perfect storm or twister. For some reason I really want to watch a movie with rain in it, not sure whyyy.....
Haha No worries, If you can't take a joke you probably shouldn't be in the infantry anyways!
Thank you for doing this AMA. How are the men that guard the tomb of the unknown soldier picked?
You are supposed to be between 5'10" and 6'3". As long as you are in the Old Guard, you can volunteer for it. There has even been 3 women that have gotten their tomb badges.
Does every funeral at Arlington rate an honor guard, or do you have to be someone special. i.e a certain rank, or have done something above and beyond?
Any service member can be buried there, but to get a military escort you had to have been a cretin rank, been KIA, or been given cretin awards.
I'm cretin you meant to write 'certain'.
Yeah... spelling is not one of my strong suits
What stands out in your memory as the most touching things you've seen during your time at the Tomb?
Well first, I was never a tomb sentential but I have done a lot of wreath layings there for foreign diplomats, and I remember doing one on the anniversary of the end of WWII when the Dutch diplomat thanked the United States for what they did in the war. I thought that was pretty cool.
What is it about their shoes that makes that clacking sound as they walk and change positions at the tomb of the unknown solider?
We wear steels on the bottom. Look at my picture and you can see them
What was your social and outside of work time mostly spent on?
I did tons of stuff down in DC. I played Ultimate Frisbee and hiked a LOT! But when we had a big ceremony coming up, I could spend hours on my uniform. One time my Platoon was getting graded, and I spent a total of 8 hours getting my uniform ready.
What exactly do you mean by getting your uniform ready? Just making sure everything is in the right place?
I just can't imagine how it could take that much time.
You had to press it out with a mechanical stem press, then you had to use a steamer to get all of the marks out. Then you had to put everything on it. This is the worst part because everything needs to be correct down to a millimeter.
The first time you go threw grading you're still pretty new to the unit so you don't know all the tricks. But there are about 15 presses you need to do. And that alone can take 3 hours the first time you do it.
We also cut everything out that is on the inside of the jacket so that it hold presses that you put in it better.
Then you need to shine everything up. The more stuff you need to put on your uniform the longer it took.
Sounds like the military prepared you for a great future in drycleaning.
I can make clothes look better than any woman!
Did you feel that the experience made you close with the fellas that you shared schedules with?
When you're in the military, you are going to be close with the guys you work with no matter what. That is one of the things that brought me to the Army.
What is the proper protocol for calling a out a spectator for being noisy, disrespectful or otherwise?
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