Honor Guard 101: Presenting the Colors
The Fairfax County Police Department Honor Guard presents colors at the US Chamber of Commerce during Police Week 2008. (Photo: Lt. Ken Baine)
Lt. Ken Baine / Fairfax County Police Department
The Presentation of the Colors is perhaps the most common assignment most honor guards perform each year. It is also one of the best opportunities you have to project a professional, polished image of your department to a large and varied segment of your community.
You and your team inspire feelings of patriotism and pride in observers every time you present the colors, so team members should always look sharp in uniform. To the public, each member of your team is the face of your entire department. Your team should be viewed as the number one public relations tool your agency has.
Your team should arrive early to every event. It is always best if the senior team member and the lead guard walk the path the team will take going into and out of the event. Pay particular attention to wires on the floor, chairs or tables that may be in the way and the ceiling height to make sure your flags will not be too big for the room. Mark a spot on the floor for the lead guard to stop so your color team is centered to your audience. Make sure you have a plan for going in and exiting to include having someone hold the doors open so your team can march in and out.
Try to secure a room at the venue so members of your team can get out of public view before the event. It is helpful to have a place to change and leave your gear while you are presenting the colors.
Make contact with the master of ceremonies as soon as you arrive at each venue. Preferences vary on what is to be included in the opening ceremony. Sometimes they may want both the National Anthem sung and Pledge of Allegiance recited. The National Anthem always precedes the pledge.
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I recommend you take the time to go over the proper way to announce your honor guard for the opening ceremonies. You may want to make copies of the proper introduction of the colors and give one to the master of ceremonies at each event, in case the host is inexperienced or subject to nervousness in front of crowds.
The Fairfax County Police Department Honor Guard uses the following as our standard greeting: “Will everyone please rise for the presentation of colors by the Fairfax County Police Department Honor Guard. The singing of the National Anthem will be performed by Officer Jane Doe.”
If the event you’re presenting colors to is using their vocalist they may have never been involved with a color team and may not know when to start singing the National Anthem. If you’re working with a vocalist who is unfamiliar to you, go over with them that when the command, “Present arms,” is given, they should start singing.
Remember to thank the master of ceremonies for having your Honor Guard present the colors and provide your business card or name and contact information for future requests for your team.