Correct position to hold flag in flag lines?

Discussion in 'Other US Flag Etiquette' started by weslambert, Apr 2, 2009.

  1. weslambert

    weslambert New Member

    We of the Patriot Guard in the course of our Missions to honor fallen Soldiers or Vets who have passed on commonly establish "Flag Lines" at which our members stand side by side, each holding a 3' x 5' US Flag on a staff or pole.

    On most of these occasions there is an Honor or Color Guard present who are acting on the commands; Attention, Order Arms, Present Arms and At Ease. There is some confusion and minor dispute among our members as to the correct position one should assume in order to comply with these commands.

    Patriot Guard Riders make every effort possible to show proper respect for the Colors and those who we act in support of. Any assistance with this question would be greatly appreciated.

    Wes Lambert
    Assistant State Captain
    Patriot Guard Riders of Montana

  2. Peter Ansoff

    Peter Ansoff USA Flag Site Admin

    Hello Wes -- welcome aboard!

    The civilian flag code does not deal with details like this, so the best reference is probably military regulations. I'll use the Army as a suitable example. The relevant reference is Field Manual FM 3-21.5, Honors and Ceremonies. The Air Force equivalent (AFMAN 36-2203) is similiar.

    The FM is quite detailed, but I'll try to summarize the main ideas. There are two basic positions for the US flag, "carry" and "order." The FM defines them as follows:

    "At the Carry, rest the ferrule of the staff in the socket of the sling. The socket is below the waist and adjusted to ensure that the finials of all Colors are of equal height . . . Grasp the staff with the right hand (even with the mouth) and incline it slightly to the front with the left hand securing the ferrule in the socket. The left hand may be positioned immediately below the right hand to more firmly secure the Colors on windy days."

    "At the Order, rest the ferrule of the staff on the marching surface touching the outside of the right footgear opposite the ball of the right foot. Hold the staff in the right hand with the back of the hand facing outward and the fingers wrapped around the staff. Rest the staff against the hollow of the shoulder."

    Your question, I think, deals with the correct position of the national flag in a stationary formation (as opposed to marching). As I interpret the FM, the colors should be in the order position except when the formation is saluting by "present arms." The FM says: "When the Colors salute with troops who execute Present Arms from the Order, the Color bearers assume the position of Carry at the command ARMS and then execute the Color Salute." If one of the service flags, or a unit color, is carried along with the national color, the bearer of the unit color executes the salute as follows: "This position is assumed from the carry by slipping the right hand upward about 4 inches and then thrusting the arm forward shoulder high and horizontal to the marching surface forming an approximate 45-degree angle." Note that this applies only to organizational colors; the national flag is never dipped in salute (on land, anyway).

    I hope this addresses your question -- if not, let us know!

    Best regards,

    Peter Ansoff
  3. weslambert

    weslambert New Member

    Hello Peter
    I am extremely grateful for your reply to my question and the obvious time and effort you put into the answer. I am sure this will provide a solution to our ongoing debate and will enable us to perform our missions in a more responsible manner. I feel fortunate to have found this great website. I am sure it will be very rewarding in the future.

    Thanks Again

    Wes Lambert
  4. fast1

    fast1 New Member

    sorry if i am asking a basic question but what is the ferrule of the staff?[​IMG]
  5. Hey fast

    The ferrule of the staff - = the bottom end of the staff

    Heres a picture I drew (Yes I was bored lol) of what I understood of the description posted by Peter, in the Field Manual

  6. Robin Hickman

    Robin Hickman Well-Known Member

    Hello, Wes !

    I don't know if the "Patriot Guard" uses belts, slings, and sockets, or not. I'm thinking (guessing) that IF you're not using them, then probably the best "group think" of your organization would be to treat the staffs (flagpoles) in much the same way as the military has its members use their rifles in similar situations.

    IF that is the case, then I'm sure that you ALL will be able successfully come up with a dignified and practical way to use the Flag Line(s) to pay your respects to the fallen without "disrespecting" the Flags and what they stand for.

    And IF that is the case, then I think the two main "commands" that might be the most "problematic" would be "Parade Rest" and "At Ease", and possibly any form of a "Port Arms" command. I say that due to the "dipping" effect those commands would have when the Flags & flagpoles are held at an angle.

    Good Luck & Godspeed !

    Robin "Keep 'em Flying" Hickman
  7. Marebear_56

    Marebear_56 New Member

    Wow. Love this site! Whole bunches of great information. I know this thread is old, but here's my two cents:

    The Patriot Guard Riders is a volunteer organization and being that, we here in Central Texas do not call commands or specify exactly how to hold the flag, other than to ensure the flag is always held upright (no dipping) when stationary or during movement. We have many veterans in our area and most of them would find being called commands or directed what to do to be offensive - to say the least. It works well for us.

  8. DAKSY

    DAKSY New Member

    Little late joining into this discussion, but I just found the forum. I, too, am PGR - NY5 & a Viet Nam Era US Army Vet. I stand a flag line a couple of times a month sometimes a couple of times a week, from what I've seen, & from what I've read in the previous posts, most of us are displaying the Stars & Stripes incorrectly, though not disrespectfully. Most of us use the collapsible poles which only extend to 6 feet high. If the ferrule is situated by our right foot the flags cannot fly or wave high enough. None of us have a ferrule sling, so we tend the place the ferrule in our left vest pocket & hold it upright with our left hand & with right arms/hands at our sides. When "Present Arms" is commanded, some of us shift our right hands to the pole at about mouth level with our right thumbs downward. Some of us render a military salute. I sure would like to get the procedures correct so I can pass the info on to my fellow PGR.
    Thanx in Advance

    Bob "Daksy" Smith
  9. flagnazi

    flagnazi New Member

    If Daksy thinks he was late, wow, I'm really late. What I love is that this site exists and that there are so many great questions being asked and everyone do their darndest to give an appropriate response. I do see that Peter trys hard to give civilian and military references. I tend to use military and must confess at times it annoys me when I see someone, especially an organization whose members are prior military, doing something "different". It is then that I have to remind myself that 1) the Flag Code is not LAW, just guidelines and 2) that those performing or displaying are doing the best they can and showing the respect that they feel is appropriate. No one wants to do it wrong who cares.
    The way I was taught in the Honor Guard, and if I understand "flag line" correctly, and if flag slings are not available, I would stand with the flag at my right side, 2 inches off my 5th toe, so that the pole is straight, my index finger would be along the front of the pole with my thumb and 3rd finger touching behind the pole, my left hand would be at my side with my thumb or 3rd finger along the seam of my pants, and I would be at attention. Now if I had a sling, and everyone was in position before the procession passed and weren't going to come to "right shoulder arms" on the passing of the procession, then I would have the base of the flag pole in the cup, flag straight up, my knuckles of the right hand facing forward and the flag pole about 4 inches from my nose (with knuckles facing forward, extend your index finger to touch your nose), left hand again at the seam of my pants with the thumb or 3rd finger along the seam. This position would constitute "present arms" for the passing of the procession. What you might want to consider, and of course this would be determined by the number of flags in line, have a command of "Order Arms" and then you would raise the flag out of the cup with the right hand, left hand at the base and bring it to in front of your right shoulder and then lower to the ground without noise, all in unison. Would look very sharp. Onlookers are very aware of when something is very sharp, even if they don't know if it was done right, and when done smartly and sharply, it can bring a tear to one's eye which reflect pride in their country and those doing the ceremony. What I think is important about anyone doing a flag ceremony and especially organizations such as AL, VFW,etc is that people know we are previous military and believe that what we do is correct and they will repeat it so we must be careful and sure to be as correct as we can and be able to explain why we are doing what we are doing and, further, to be open to suggestions that we might not be correct and do the best we can to correct the situation.
  10. DAKSY

    DAKSY New Member

    Once again, I'm chiming in late as usual, maybe even LATER than usual.
    PGRNY stood a flagline line of over 100 strong for the dedication of the new
    Sampson Veterans' Memorial Cemetery on 30 Jul 2011 at the site of the former Naval Station/Air Force Base near Seneca Lake.
    I was dismayed to see the motley, ragtag display of the flag line.
    I understand COMPLETELY the the PGR is a voluntary group of citizens - MOST of whom are non-vets - who are proud to honor ANY & ALL of our Active Military, Retired Military, Veterans, LEO's, Firefighters & First-Responders, but flags were held on the left, on the right & at the belt buckle. Flags were straight up & flags were dipped. Most of the "standees" had no clue what to do when "Present Arms" & "Order Arms" were called.
    I guess my point is this: where can we go for instruction for proper protocol at these functions? Has anyone published a definitive instruction manual or brochure stating the guidelines for such protocol?
    Thanx for letting me rant...
  11. Robin Hickman

    Robin Hickman Well-Known Member

    Maybe what is needed is a WHOLE lot more TRAINING ???

    Just a thought . . . . . :cool:

    Robin Hickman
    Eugene, Oregon, USA
  12. BigBlu

    BigBlu New Member

    Sounds like PGR needs an instructional video posted on the National web site with links to all state PGR websites.

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