MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. -- At most Marine Corps ceremonies a person is most likely to see four individuals standing proudly in a line, marching in unison or paying honors to the American flag.
These four people are the Marine Corps Installations East color guard. The color guard has a long history of service.
Before the 20th century, military colors were carried covered except for ceremonies or when in sight of the enemy. A unit’s colors provided battlefield recognition for both friend and foe. The flag symbolized the reputation of the unit. To ensure the troops knew the flag of their own regiment the two flags were paraded before them during reviews and other ceremonies. This is how the color guard came to be, and after time, the color guards were selected from among the strongest and bravest troops.
“The purpose of the color guard is to represent the Marine Corps and its pride and tradition,” said Sgt. Shenay Hawkins, the color sergeant for MCI-East. “We are the first ones they see, and we are always out there making sure the Marine Corps flag always stands.”
The color guard is made up of volunteers from different units, and a sergeant is selected to be in charge of them. Traditionally, the sergeant will carry the national colors, a corporal or another sergeant carries the Marine Corps colors and two lance corporals or privates first class stand along side them with M-16A2 service rifles.
The color guard performs in parades, ceremonies and other official functions. To maintain skill with drill the color guard practices twice a week. Along with serving on the color guard Marines must also continue to work in their respective occupations.
“The most challenging thing is keeping everyone organized and being accountable for everyone,” Hawkins said. “You can never be off your game.”
A Marine on the color guard also has certain perks for serving on the guard. A color guard member does not serve duty, because he needs be on call whenever he might be needed. A set of dress blues is also issued to the Marine. This does not come without a price, because many times, a Marine may have to do ceremonies during liberty hours.
“The color guard instills pride and confidence in a Marine,” said Cpl. Michael Williams, a member of the color guard, “because we are out there as a representative of our unit and Corps.”