opening flag ceremony


Mike Lampkin asked me via Facebook (you can ask me questions there too… see the link below in my signature!)
“I am looking for the definitive, best-practices answer to conducting a proper opening flag ceremony for Scouts. I figured you would have both a Scouting and military perspective on the topic.

Most of the articles out on the web have small differences such as how the commands are called (like, is the audience or color guard addressed first or do we use the word “retreat” or not, etc) and whether or not the flags are posted before beginning the Pledge of Allegiance or after the pledge, etc. All sorts of details like that. It’s the proper details that I’d like to document and teach to my Scouts.

Side note; I have a troop of about 120 Scouts and we are called on about once or twice a month to perform opening flag ceremonies for various community events. Each flag team of Scouts that muster for an event is a bit different and thus their presentation is different each time. I’d love to standardize our presentations, but I’m not sure of the proper procedures myself.

Is there a single source for a “proper” basic flag ceremony or is it an interpreted topic? 

My troop article from a while ago:…
I don’t even know if my process is correct.”

Hey Mike!

Here’s a short primer on the conduct of an opening ceremony using flags.  By no means is this the “definitive” flag ceremony, but this is a ceremony which can be used by any combination of Cub Scouts, Boy/Varsity Scouts, Venturers, and/or Scouters.

The ceremony requires five individuals:  a “leader” to give the commands; two individuals to carry the flags (we are using the U.S. and state flags in this case; add additional individual for each additional flag involved) and two individuals to serve as “protectors” or “guards” (again, add additional individual for each additional flag involved).  As a reminder, Scouts, Venturers and Scouters do NOT carry weapons of any kind — even fake ones — when performing ceremonies or when marching with flags. 

The ceremony starts with the arrival of the “leader”, either being introduced by the master of ceremonies or by someone else.  The “leader” stands in the center of one side of the room facing where the flags would be placed and requests that “everyone please rise, if they are capable of doing so for the introduction of our nation’s flag and the flag of the (state or terriority).” 

Then the leader commands “Color Guard, ADVANCE!”

The color guard moves forward (marching is fine, walking with the flags is also fine) in a straight line toward the flag stands.  The carriers of the flags stand in front of the flag stand; the guards stand in front of the flags. 

When everyone is in place, the leader commands “POST!”

This is the command in which signals the state flag carrier to place their flag into the stand. The guard smooths and insures that the flag is “centered”.  As soon as the state flag carrier places their flag into the stand, the U.S. flag carrier then places that flag into the stand, and the guard smooths and insures that the U.S. flag is “centered” so that as one looks at it, there are a field of blue with red and white stripes at the bottom.  Once that is done, the individuals face the flag, standing with their hands to their sides and wait. 

The leader then commands “READY, ONE!”

This is the command which moves the individuals from in front of the flag to beside the carrier to the left or right of the carrier, so that they are between the flags but beside their carrier.  If you have more flags, you will have to make a decision about where they are to be placed. 

The leader then waits for the start of the National Anthem, in which immediately all individuals execute the Scout salute; or the leader then states “Scouting in part is about practicing responsible citizenship.  Please join with me, if you are able and willing, in repeating the Pledge of Alliegence”. Then the leader salutes the flag which signals the others to do the same and repeats the Pledge of Alliegence.  Some have asked me if the members of the color guard repeats the Pledge…yes, they should.  Should they sing the National Anthem?  No, they should not.

At the end, the leader commands “READY, TWO!” 

This is the command which lowers the hands of the individuals.  Hopefully, this will also direct the public to also lower their hands *smiling*

Then the individuals stand there and waits for the next command, which is “COLOR GUARD, RETIRE!” 

At this command, the members of the color guard then move away from the flags and their stands, and march or walks toward the rear of the room (or the back of the stage), with the leader following behind as the last person.

The keys to this are the following:

– NO weapons. While it looks cool, Scouting is non-militaristic.  Therefore, there is NO NEED for weapons (real or otherwise) to be displayed by Scouts, Venturers, or Scouters.  This also cuts down the various number of commands which have to be given (“right shoulder arms”, “parade rest”, etc.)
– one leader (doesn’t have to be a patrol leader or Scoutmaster but the “leader of the color guard”) executes all commands and interacts with the public.
– for each flag, two individuals (one to hold the flag and the other to “protect” or “guard” the flag)
– commands are simple and unconfusing for all, and in most cases the public will also understand the commands and execute them with you.

Hope this helps out, Mike.  I’m posting this to my blog because this is a question frequently asked of me and which I’m happy to respond to.  Again, this is NOT the “definitive” version, or “the official BSA version” and it may not square with the military members of my Facebook community (either they march or not; and it takes time and finese to march in all kinds of situations.  Let them walk the flags honorably to the stands….which also makes it easier for ALL of the members — even “twinkle toes” over there — to participate.) Thank you for asking me!!  


Settummanque is writer, retired military officer, dad, friend,
traveler, public speaker, webmaster, Eagle Scout, and/or “sweetie”
(LTC) Mike Walton. South Lake Minnetonka area, Minnesota.


About Mike Walton

Take your standard Oliver North. Add strong parts of Bill Cosby and Sir Robert Baden-Powell (the founder of Scouting). Throw in Johny Bravo without the "hurhhs!" and his pecks. Add a strong dose of parenting, the sexuality of a latin lover, and Mona Lisa's smile. And a 40 year old's body frame. That's me basically *grinning*
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