I had a small inkling of what to expect having spent many days among the Old Guard and US Army Band – “Pershing’s Own” – but after the show began, I thought different. What unfurled was a extravaganza that kept moving right up until intermission… it was fast action, informative, precision, pageantry with a heavy dose of history mixed into the delivery. I was truly impressed and after the two hours of show, my camera had recorded over 800 photos of these Soldiers in action… I’m sure the attendees in Columbus, OH and Providence, RI would have the same impression or better.
(Following below is the story that was submitted to a major newspaper. At the last minute literally, they decided to cancel the running of this offering in my opinion a rather lame excuse.):
Imagine a non-stop display of pageantry, precision marching, tactical skills, outstanding music and song all wrapped up in one package – That’s the US Army’s Spirit of America!
For over thirty years, the US Army’s Military District of Washington (MDW) has called upon the resources of the Soldiers within the Washington DC area to provide a small glimpse of the history of the United States through the many elite units of the 3d Infantry Regiment – “The Old Guard” – TOG (which is the oldest active duty infantry regiment in the Army) and The US Army Band – “Pershing’s Own” – TUSAB.
Each year, several cities are provided a glorious two-hour live show, which displays the skills, the pageantry, the music and more from these talented Soldiers. The first stop in this year’s Spirit of America (SOA) was here in the Washington DC area at George Mason University’s Patriot Center. From there, the show headed “on-the-road” to Columbus, Ohio and then finally to Providence, Rhode Island all to sold-out crowds.
Among the units featured from TOG are:
The Caisson Platoon, the only unit of its kind remaining in the Army. In the earlier days when locations such as Fort Myer, Virginia had over 1,500 horses, the Army moved primarily by horse-power. Today, this platoon of Soldiers, using the limber & caisson wagon drawn by a team of six horses provide the transport of veterans during a full honors funeral at Arlington National Cemetery.
Commander-In-Chief’s Guard– General George Washington had a personal guard drawn from the Continental Army. The unit was comprised of the best men of the Soldiers from each of the colonies. Today’s CinC Guard is patterned upon that traditional unit with its own replica of the flag of Washington’s headquarters. The uniform the Soldiers wear colonial era and are patterned on those prescribed by the General including white wigs. The 12-pound muskets – firelocks – they carry are outfitted with thirteen-inch bayonets. They are from Alpha Company of The Old Guard and their duties also include the defense of the National Capital Region, maintaining proficiency in the weapons and tactics of the 18th Century and final honors support at Arlington National Cemetery.
The Old Guard Fife and Drum Corps– holds the distinction of being the only unit of its kind in the US Armed Forces. The unit complements the CinC Guard with their uniforms with bright red coats also patterned upon General Washington’s orders. The unit was created in 1960 and has marched in every Presidential inauguration since then as part of The Old Guard’s official distinctive title of “Escort to the President”.
US Army Drill Team — Since 1948 when TOG was designated as the ceremonial unit for the Military District of Washington, there were Soldiers selected to concentrate on precise marching and outstanding rifle drill. Equipped with 1903 Springfield rifles that are bayonet-tipped (The Old Guard is the only unit allowed to march with bayonets fixed by an authorization of the War Department), the team displays skillful maneuvers which demonstrate the results of hard training, teamwork and constant practice.
Continental Color Guard — Wearing the colonial uniforms, this unit provides a display of the National Colors, the US Army Colors and the 3d Infantry Colors that include five TOG Soldiers – three of which carry the flags and two more are armed with the 12 pound British Brown Bess muskets, their role is to protect the honor of the National Colors. Over the 234-year history of the US Army, there have been 178 campaigns – those are reflected in the streamers attached to the US Army Colors. TOG’s regimental Color likewise displays the 54 campaign streamers.
“You will organize and equip The Army Band.” With This concise memorandum, in January 1922, General of the Armies, John J. “Black Jack” Pershing, ordered the realization of a dream he had since his World War I tour as Commander in Chief of American Expeditionary Forces in Europe. Since then, The US Army Band – “Pershing’s Own” has developed into a premier musical organization, which includes many different units. Featured at SOA are the following:
US Army Ceremonial Band – In addition to the support of military funerals at Arlington National Cemetery, the band’s responsibilities include a wide array of events including Presidential Inaugurations, wreath-laying ceremonies at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, retirement ceremonies, reviews and official arrival/departure honors of foreign dignitaries at both the Pentagon and White House.
US Army Orchestra – With the distinction of being the only ensemble of it’s kind in the US Army, it combines other elements the US Army Band – The US Army Strings and the US Army Concert Band. The Orchestra has performed at many notable locations including Trinity Church on Wall Street, New York City.
US Army Band Downrange – Popular music is the specialty of this unit, which is comprised of active-duty musicians, and vocalists who can perform music from the 1940’s to present day chart toppers.
At the SOA show in the Patriot Center on 12 SEP, it was a great milestone as 26 new Soldiers took the oath of enlistment presided over by the Commanding General of the Military District of Washington Brigadier General Karl R. Horst. Thanks to the recruiting efforts of the US Army’s Baltimore Recruiting Battalion under the command or LTC James Soos, Battalion Commander.
Tags: 3d Infantry Regiment, Caisson Platoon, Commander-in-Chief's Guard, Continental Color Guard, Escort to the President, Fife and Drum Corps, Military District of Washington, Pershing's Own, The Old Guard, The Old Guard Fife and Drum Corps, US Army, US Army Band, US Army Drill Team