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About the US Coast Guard Honor Guard

The Coast Guard Ceremonial Honor Guard serves the Military District of Washington, Commandant of the Coast Guard, and all fallen Coast Guard men and women. The unit is on call year round to perform funerals and ceremonies at both Arlington National Cemetery and abroad. Comprised of roughly 80 members, the Honor Guard performs an average of 20 separate ceremonies a week. While the Honor Guard maintains a high operational tempo, its standard for excellence is uncompromising. Such a standard can only be attained through the unit’s implementation of a demanding training regimen.

When a new member reports to the unit, they are placed into a rigorous eight week process that will teach them how to become a qualified Honor Guardsman. Trainees will learn uniform preparation, ceremonial marching, and rifle manual of arms. When ready to graduate from the training program and earn their Honor Guardsman qualification, members participate in a time honored “Going Up” ceremony that both requires of them the highest standard for ceremonial excellence and tests all the skills and movements they have been taught by their trainers. If both training and leadership staff decide that a member has passed their Going Up, that individual will graduate from the training program and begin the process of earning two of the following specialty qualifications: Casket Team, Color Guard, Firing Party, or Drill Team.

History of the US Coast Guard Honor Guard

Prior to the inception of the Coast Guard Ceremonial Honor Guard, the Coast Guard’s Recruit Training Center in Cape May, New Jersey was responsible for supplying recruit platoons to represent the Coast Guard in National Ceremonies. In addition, funeral honors were rendered at the unit level. Such a lack of ceremonial organization proved to be both expensive and inefficient for the Coast Guard, and recruits representing the service on a national level lacked the training and specialization required for such high visibility performances. It was clear that the Coast Guard needed a centralized unit dedicated to acquiring ceremonial mastery.

The Coast Guard Ceremonial Honor Guard was established on March 5, 1962 by 11th Commandant of the Coast Guard Admiral Alfred C. Richmond, and by order of President John F. Kennedy. The unit was originally located at Coast Guard Yard in Baltimore, Maryland. In 1965 however, the Honor Guard moved its base of operations to the Coast Guard’s Washington Radio Station in Alexandria, VA in order to reduce the inherent logistical problems involved in fulfilling ceremonial tasking in Washington DC from Baltimore. After multiple iterations of name changes, that facility is now known as the Coast Guard Telecommunication and Information Systems Command (TISCOM), and it is still home to the Honor Guard today.