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Dipping the American Flag

I read this short article that was sent to me by a retired Marine friend of mine:

The 1908 Summer Olympics were held in London, England were extremely controversial. Many of the medals were won by Irish and Irish-American athletes who were not only members of the Irish American Athletic Club of Celtic Park in Sunnyside, Queens, but also members of the New York City Police Department. Ian McGowan, Archivist for CUNY’s Institute for Irish-American Studies is currently creating an exhibit of the Club’s trophies, photographs,and other ephemera, including vintage trading cards celebrating the feats of athletes such as John Flanagan, Johnny Hayes, Pat McDonald, Martin Sheridan and Matt McGrath, collectively known as “The Irish Whales.”

During the “Parade of Nations,” it was a customary for teams to dip their nation’s flags as a show of respect for the ruling monarch of t he host country. Martin J. Sheridan, a Discus thrower, born in 1881 in County Mayo, Ireland was part of the American Olympic team. Sheridan immigrated to New York in 1901 and joined the NYPD in 1906. Patrolman Sheridan held a grudge against the English because he believed that they helped make the Irish potato famine so bad. Members of the Olympic committee knowing his dislike for the English replaced Sheridan – who was scheduled to carry the American flag – with Ralph Rose as bearer of the flag.

Irish-Americans had a strong sense of patriotic pride to their new found country. NYPD Patrolman Mathew McGrath at 6’2″, 245 pounds was a hammer thrower and native of County Tipperary, born in 1878. As the Americans approached the Royal Box, McGrath broke ranks and stepped up to the American flag bearer – Rose – and said, “Dip our flag and you will be in a hospital tonight.”

The flag was not dipped which caused an international incident. During a news conference, Sheridan spoke for the entire Olympic team; he pointed to the American flag and said, “This flag dips to no earthly king.” That precedent was set which is still followed today during the Olympic Games. The American Flag has never been dipped to anyone since that day in 1908. In fact, the United States Flag Code was officially changed to read, “No disrespect should be shown to the flag of the United States of America; the flag should not be dipped to any person or thing.” (See Title 4, United States Code, Chapter 1 § 8) In 1924 Olympics McGrath earned the silver medal…at the age of 45. During his police career McGrath attained the rank of Inspector, and was awarded the NYPD’s Medal of Valor twice. Inspector McGrath died in January of 1941.

Martin Sheridan attained first place on the eligibility list for the NYPD and was appointed to the ‘finest’ in 1906. He helped organize the Police Carnival and Games for the benefit of the welfare fund of the Department which, for many years, was an outstanding athletic event in New York.

To perpetuate his name for the future generations the Martin J. Sheridan Award for Valor was established and given each year to a member of the Police Department for bravery above and beyond the call of duty. Sheridan, a First Grade Detective died of pneumonia in 1918 while while working a double shift for a sick NYPD colleague on March 25 at the age of thirty-seven and is buried in Calvary Cemetery, Woodside, Queens.

And now the 2012 Olympics and this issue.

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Eyes Right for a Color Team

Click here for info on “Color Guard” vs. “Color Team.”

The Question:
Hello, I’m in an Army JROTC and I have a Federal Inspection coming up. I’m doing the color guard for the AFI and I wondering on what to do during eyes, right. Do I salute the rifle like this picture? Or do I just look to the right and keep marching and it’s just only the flag saluting? If you could reply back to me, I’d appreciate it.
Thank you very much

The Answer:
What a great picture you’ve found! Judging by the uniform, you’ve found a WWI-era Manual of Arms pic, possibly a Boy Scout maybe a Soldier. I really enjoy the history of how certain movements came about that we use today.

This picture, at right, is actually how one salutes, individually- not in a formation, when at Right Shoulder. And, as we all know, the right forearm should be horizontal and not at an angle like in this picture.

So, on with the answer: The Command, Eyes, RIGHT is called at Right Shoulder as two consecutive right steps are taken. When the next left foot strikes the ground, the following happens all at the same time:
1. The Left Rifle Guard, all non-national Color Bearers and National Color Bearer all turn their heads 45-degrees to the right; the Right Rifle Guard looks straight ahead and acts as the guide for the team.
2. The non-national Color Bearer brings his/her color to a 45-degree angle be fully extending the right arm in the three steps after the command (this is what we do on the honor guard), whipping the flag forward in one count does not look appropriate (you are not supposed to whip a color forward when standing still, so don’t do it when marching).

On the command, Ready, FRONT, the team snaps its heads back to looking straight forward and the non-national color bearer(s) bring their colors back to vertical in three steps.

Note: for honor guard, all team members do not swing their arms and shoulders are touching when marching. When halted the team should maintain a 4-inch distance between shoulders to facilitate equipment movement (going to Order, Right Shoulder or Present, etc.). Keep your free arm hanging at your side: you should feel your thigh move back and forth- do not move your hand with the seam of the trousers forward and backward when marching nor up and down when Marking Time. Keep that arm just like at Attention, not locked, but slightly stiffened.

Let me know if you need more info!

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The DrillMaster Product Review: The CTA M14

The above rifle is called a “Rubber Duck”, it is one solid piece of urethane and metal, the perfect choice for Drillers, but the cost is just to high to begin making it for the drill world. I tried. Check out this video here at the DrillMaster Training YouTube Channel:

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Had to Share this Quote!

What I strive for:

“My mother drew a distinction between achievement and success. She said that achievement is the knowledge that you have studied and worked hard and done the best that is in you. Success is being praised by others. That is nice but not as important or satisfying. Always aim for achievement and forget about success.”
Helen Hayes

Photo courtesy,

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Your Command Voice

Have you considered your command voice? Have you looked at your service’s manual and actually read about what it says on the proper way to call commands? No, it doesn’t say monotone is OK, it doesn’t say the gravel-in-your-throat style is a good style, it says use inflection, be clear and more! Read! Don’t rely on a senior cadet to tell you what you need to do (as with EVERYTHING else!)- read it for yourself!

“Well, I call commands like this.” “At my school we, [fill in the blank here].” Ever hear of standardization? That is what the military is about, standardizing. Your personal style, what you may think is really cool, does not matter. Stop it.

Click here to listen to some examples of commands in MP3 format and how to call them.

Also read this article, “Root Step” and Command Pronunciation.

When calling commands your voice should have inflection and NOT be monotone (some Navy cadets do this and I cannot figure out why). You should also enunciate each syllable and not leave off the first or last letter or substitute letters:

  • There is no such thing is “Righ, HACE“.
  • The USAF does allow, Forward, HARCH, (it’s in a picture, not text) the other services use MARCH.
  • There is no such thing as “A-Ten-Hut”, or any other number to bring a formation to Attention.
  • There is no need to growl your commands- that means you are calling from your throat. Stop, or you will have problems later in life.
  • There is no such thing is “Orward, ARCH“.

Here is a snippet from my book, The Honor Guard Manual.

•The ability of your voice to reach whatever distance necessary without undue strain.
•Voice is focused on the person farthest away.
•Assume the position of Attention, breathe properly, relax throat, open mouth and push the air out of your lungs from the diaphragm (place your hand on the top of your stomach, just under your ribcage and try to make those muscles tighten when giving commands).

Distinctness (Clarity)
•Distinct commands are effective; indistinct commands cause confusion.
•Clearly enunciate; use tongue, lips, and teeth to form words and word parts.
•Develop the ability to give clear, distinct commands. Practice giving commands slowly and carefully, prolonging the syllables. Gradually increase the rate of delivery to develop proper cadence, still enunciating each syllable distinctly.

Note: Honor Guard cadence is slow; approximately 90 beats per minute

•The rise and fall in pitch and the tone changes of the voice.
•Starting at a normal speaking voice, pronounce the preparatory command with rising inflection.
•A properly delivered Command of execution should have no inflection.
•Command of execution should have a higher pitch than the preparatory command.

•Expresses confidence and decisiveness
•Expresses knowledge of commands and proper execution
•Commands are called at the proper time and in the proper manner

So, now that you have the info, straight from the manual, you will be able to properly call commands!

Happy drilling!

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Regarding Competition

Some, over the years, have said competition is a bad thing because little Johnny or Suzy get their feelings hurt. The instance given is the game Musical Chairs; all of the kids are running around then one doesn’t make it to a chair and “loses,” there is only one “winner.” What a sad way to look at such a fun game and what sheer contempt for something that is naturally created inside us.

Let’s go back to the game of Musical Chairs. Suzy just lost. What has she been taught at home? That “winning is everything!” or to join with the other kids and have FUN? Or have her parents left it up for her to learn that other kids can be real creeps and she just has to get over it? Actually, the last one, hopefully paired with the first one would be a good way to teach lessons about her upcoming life and how she may have to deal with adults who never learned how to be good people.

All of this comes down to:Competition is GOOD! But winning is not about getting first place! First place is great, but that’s all there is once you’ve achieved it and you have to do it all over again. Winning is about doing your personal best with what you have to work with (time, resources and education) and the feeling of pride that comes from doing your best. Once you place your emphasis on only winning, you’ve already lost.

Merry Christmas 2011.