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SSC-Natick Press Release

U.S. Army Soldier Systems Center-Natick
Public Affairs Office
Kansas Street
Natick, MA 01760-5012

Contact: Jerry Whitaker -- Chief, Public Affairs Office
(508) 233-5340

Date: September 27, 2004
No: 04-37

Soldiers add 'color' to events

NATICK, Mass. -- A mostly quiet presence on a small research and development installation, Soldiers at the U.S. Army Soldier Systems Center here have taken on a higher profile in recent months serving as color guards at local public events.

One request sent a five-Soldier detail to escort Old Glory at the National Football League's season opener Sept. 9 pairing the New England Patriots against the Indianapolis Colts at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro. They capped the pre-game extravaganza, setting up the singing of the national anthem and start of the game.

"It was an awesome experience," said Pfc. Bobbie Smith, a human research volunteer with Headquarters and Headquarters Detachment. "I didn't expect so many people to be there. They treated us with respect, and we were able to stay on the (sidelines) for the whole game."

On May 22, a color guard marched onto the field at Fenway Park before the Blue Jays vs. Red Sox game. Other professional teams have been served by a Soldier Systems Center color guard in past years, said Staff Sgt. Ramona Long, detachment sergeant, but their reach spreads into a variety of community gatherings.

"It's a good way to get our name out there and gives the Soldiers a chance to participate in community activities," Long said. "We're fostering a community working relationship and spirit."

The scope of color guard assignments ranges from parades and meetings to opening or dedication ceremonies. Events have included the perennial Fourth of July and Veterans Day parades in Natick, Natick Little League season opening, Memorial Day assembly for the Bellingham school system, Wellesley town hall meeting and Institute for Soldier Nanotechnologies opening in Cambridge.

"Having a color guard present is a chance for people to see the colors and pay their respects. It's a good way to show honor and respect for the freedoms we have," Long said.

The fluctuating and tiny pool of Soldiers stationed here in any month means that different troops are selected for the detail. Long said a unique aspect of the Natick color guard is the mixing of permanent-duty and temporary-duty human research volunteers, who rotate through assignments to gain experience.

Especially for the plum assignments, she selects available Soldiers who are in good standing as a reward, but attempts to get everyone involved. For uniform appearance, she is careful to choose Soldiers who have a similar height.

Regulated by Army Field Manual 22-5, "Drill and Ceremony," a color guard consists of a noncommissioned officer giving commands and two rifle-bearers flanking either two or more flag-bearers. Besides the American and Army flags, other flags that could be included are state, or another flag appropriate to the event, such as the Canadian flag before a game with a team from Canada.

When National Guard Soldiers augmented the security force, actual M-16s with the firing pins removed were used, according to Long. Dummy M-16s were acquired by the detachment and are now used as ceremonial rifles.

Long said she tries to balance color guard requests with regular duties, and in the past year has involved available Soldiers at the Army Research Institute of Environmental Medicine on post to assist.

Practices are scheduled for two to five hours for two or three days before the event and on the day of the event to ensure all the motions are synchronized and properly executed. Long said sometimes they have to modify their movements depending on the site, but they attempt to not drift too far from the regulation.

"We've yet had a color guard where we've been embarrassed," Long said. "No matter what kind of day they've had, when it comes to the event, they are 100 percent dedicated, professional and looking good. They always give a good name to Soldiers."

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This page last updated on 23 January 2004.