Story and Photo by
Sgt. Gaelen Lowers
8th Theater Sustainment Command Public Affairs
SCHOFIELD BARRACKS — If you have been in the U.S. Army for longer than a few months, then you have undoubtedly seen or participated in an Army ceremony.
Ceremonies preserve history and tradition, two things the Army holds very dear.
Sergeants major and first sergeants are in charge of the particulars of each and every ceremony a unit or command conducts. But who taught these individuals exactly where the national colors stand in a formation? And do the colors sit on a 10-foot flagstaff or a 9-foot, 6-inch flagstaff? And who sits where in the VIP seating area?
Command Sgt. Maj. Nathan Hunt, senior enlisted leader, 8th Theater Sustainment Command, set out to provide answers to those questions during his noncommissioned officer professional development program, or NCOPD, here, March 26, which reinforced the importance of “getting back to the basics.”
In a recent session with the command’s senior enlisted Soldiers, Hunt got back to basics by discussing the elements of protocol and tradition, which apply when conducting Army ceremonies such as changes of command and responsibility.
Although Army regulations and field manuals are great guides for properly conducting ceremonies, Hunt emphasized they are just a start. He acknowledged that, surprisingly, ceremonies are a subject in which there is little formal military training.
“The only place you learn about ceremonies is out there on the parade field,” Hunt said. “It puts you in a tight spot (if you are not prepared), and you have to learn it on the fly.
“Command sergeants major are the keepers of the colors,” Hunt said, “and ceremonies are their babies. It is their responsibility to make sure that ceremonies run smoothly and are done according to regulations.”
Leighton Siu, chief, Protocol, 8th TSC, and members of his staff, provided an expert’s perspective, covering topics such as the display of general officer flags, format of event invitations, use of color guards and other key features of an Army ceremony.
Siu warned of some common pitfalls to avoid.
“It doesn’t matter how many ceremonies you do; everybody is always trying to outdo the next person,” said Siu, a retired Army sergeant major who served 29 years.
Hunt agreed and added, “What happens to us, sometimes, is that we want to get creative, but after adding one thing and another, it turns from a ceremony into something else. Keep it simple, and make sure it makes sense.”
Siu suggested that units should always check with their higher command when planning ceremonies to keep from making mistakes.
“Doing things the wrong way is embarrassing to the unit and its commander,” Siu said. “This is why Command Sgt. Maj. Hunt wanted to have this NCOPD – to show the right way of doing things.”
To assist 8th TSC leaders and establish “what right looks like” throughout the command, Hunt also used the NCOPD as an opportunity to introduce and distribute a new guide detailing the standard operating procedures for conducting ceremonies.
The “8th TSC Ceremonies Standard Operating Procedure” is based upon the recently updated Army Drill and Ceremony FM 3-21.5.
“I think that everyone here took away something of value,” said Spc. Andrew Armstrong, protocol specialist, 8th TSC, and one of the day’s presenters. “The information that was presented here, today, isn’t readily taught in many commands. They will be able to take this information back to their units, and it will improve their ceremonies from here on.”