of this entry touched on the selection and inclusion of the photos from the cover through JUN 2010. PART TWO gets a bit more into history and background rather than the selection of photos as I go through JUL to DEC of 2010.
The Old Guard on Mission - 2010 JUL
The US Colors that was draped over the veteran on their way to their final resting place in Arlington National Cemetery is solemnly removed and with much respect and exactness, the Old Guard Soldiers who carried the veteran there, begin going through a careful 13 steps of folding of the flag; The ceremony is executed in such a way that what begins as a rectangular “Stars and Stripes” is reduced to the traditional 3-point triangular pillow with nary a show of red – all blue field with stars. Watching this happen is a true tribute to the hours of practice that result in it being “just perfect”.
The Soldiers of the 3d Infantry dedicate hours in drill to ensure that what is presented to the next-of-kin is the best that they can do. Since 2000 when I first began photographing final honors at Arlington National Cemetery, there has only been one time when I witnessed a ‘re-fold’ and the family asked what happened. The answer? I highlighted it in a previous blog entry entitled “Making it Perfect”
I have also turned this photograph collage into a notecard.which is available directly from me or will be soon at Arlington National Cemetery’s giftshop.
The Old Guard on Mission - 2010 AUG
The Old Guard was re-activated in 1948 and became the US Army’s elite ceremonial unit. Up until then the Military District of Washington had a Ceremonial Detachment that was included into the Regiment. That activation ceremony took place on the steps of the US Capitol during which President Harry S. Truman presented a replica of the Chapultepec Baton to the Regimental Commander. Before that time, the 3d Infantry Regiment has participated in many military conflicts since the end of the Revolutionary War (the 3d, first known as the 1st was constituted from units in Connecticut, Pennsylvania, New Jersey and New York) which accounts for the 50 plus battle streamers on their regimental colors.
The ongoing needs of the Army has required the 3d Infantry to deploy in SEP 2009 the third deployment since 2003. Prior to that the Regiment was deployed in Vietnam. Now Charlie Company is months into its deployment and should be returning sometime in 2010.
The Old Guard on Mission - 2010 SEP
The precision and perfection that people see in Arlington National Cemetery doesn’t come easy. Requirements to join the Old Guard are rather specific, an MOS of 11B (11C for the Guns Platoon) with minimum height requirements with 5’10″ for the men and 5’8″ for the women. The Soldiers go through a 3 week entry session that is known as Regimental Orientation Program (ROP) where they learn many of the skills that TOG is noted. From there they are assigned to specific duties within the regiment and may apply for some of the specialty platoons such as Caisson, Drill Team.
Old Guard Soldiers are best at what they do because of their skills, talents and training. They are representing the US Army to a vast array of people from those who come to Arlington National Cemetery to lay their loved ones to rest, to the tourists who also explore ANC to the visiting dignitaries or just visitors to the Pentagon.
The Old Guard on Mission - 2010 OCT
Tomb Guards – the elite of the Old Guard.- Once a Soldier has become attached to and inducted into the 3d Infantry Regiment, the next level up is one of the highest honors in the military – the guarding of the Tomb of Unknown at Arlington National Cemetery. This duty has been carried out 7 days a week, 24 hours a day by Old Guard Soldiers since 1948 when the regiment was reconstituted.
Soldiers who volunteer for this duty go through extensive training, education and more to ensure that they are the best of the best. Less than 600 Tomb Guard badges have been awarded since 1948. A Tomb Guard may have spent hours preparing his uniform and all that adorns it before going out to “walk the mat” the precise 21 paces back and forth. A final inspection is conducted before the guards are changed – inspecting the weapon and the guard to assure that everything is just perfect.
The Old Guard on Mission - 2010 NOV
On post – Fort Myer is the home of the Old Guard since 1948 when the ceremonial detachment that was tasked with all the missions became Alpha Company. (although at this time Alpha Company is located at Fort McNair in Washington DC.) This is one of the most historic US Army posts dating back to the US Civil War (War between the States for some) when it was first named Fort Whipple when the Custis-Lee estate was commandeered – a portion becoming Arlington National Cemetery the rest Fort Whipple named after Brevet Major General Amiel Weeks Whipple. . In 1881 the post became Fort Myer in honor of BG Albert J. Myer the first signal officer of the US Army and the parade field overlooking Washington DC was named for MG Whipple.
The main parade field became Summerall Field and there is the main flagpole of the post. It seems that long ago, a magazine crew came on post and photographed a “retreat ceremony” where the Soldiers were taking down and folding the garrison flag. I was fortunate to capture that event and re-create the folding of the colors which weighs in at nearly 70lbs. requiring Soldiers to carry it.
The Old Guard on Mission - 2010 DEC
In their dress blue uniforms, the Soldiers of the Old Guard are a tribute to the US Army and the United States of America. For they also provide support to the annual show “Spirit of America” and the “Twilight Tatoo” in the Washington DC area.
Another distinction reserved for The Old Guard is that they are authorized to march with bayonet fixed. They begin many of the missions that they conduct with a brief interlude where they in unison, step by step to the beat of the drum usually from the Fife and Drum Corps affix their bayonets to their Springfield Rifles. It truly is an impressive action to watch.
The Old Guard on Mission - 2010 : Front & Back
Putting this all together was both and honor and another milestone in this Regiment’s two hundred & twenty-five years of history. I hope you enjoyed reading about it as much as I had telling you about and providing a small glimpse into the work these Soldiers are called upon to do on a regular basis. If you have any questions or need further information, click on the “contact link” in the LEFT column.
Next time you see an Old Guard Soldier,
Thank them for their service…
Just as last year, the sale of the calendar will be limited and as of 31 MAR 2010 will be removed
from the online store. Individual prints and enlargements of the photographs are available via the GALLERY
section of the website.
For every calendar sold by 31 MAR, a donation is made to the Old Guard Ladies Association which supports the Soldiers.
GHTime Code(s): 609d9 5451e 46672 600a6
Tags: 3d Infantry Regiment, Arlington National Cemetery, Caisson Platoon, Escort to the President, Fife and Drum Corps, Fort McNair, Fort Myer, Military District of Washington, military honors, Old Guard Ladies Association, The Old Guard, The Old Guard Fife and Drum Corps, Tomb Guard, Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, Tomb of the Unknowns, US Army, Washington DC
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