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How do They Decide Who Gets to Guard the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier?

How do They Decide Who Gets to Guard the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier?


Since 1937, the Tomb of
the Unknowns has famously never once been left unattended with there always being at
least one guard present to keep vigil. The highly coveted position of Tomb Sentinel
is only meted out to truly exceptional soldiers, all of whom must prove their dedication and
mettle through a series of grueling and somewhat unusual tests. For starters, to even be considered for the
position of Sentinel, a given soldier must be a member of the 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment,
who are colloquially and rather aptly known as the “Old Guard” due to being the oldest
currently serving unit in the US military, with the unit’s history stretching all the
way back to 1784. Because the Old Guard is tasked with the solemn
duty of handling some of the most sensitive and delicate obligations the Army has to attend
to, such as welcoming foreign dignitaries to the country and escorting the coffins of
fallen soldiers during military funerals, it invariably only recruits the best and brightest
soldiers it can find. Along with possessing a flawless record, any
soldier hoping to be recruited by the Old Guard must be in excellent physical condition,
be in the top percentile of military aptitude tests and possess a number of “intangible
traits” the military doesn’t bother to define in any source we could find. On top of this, soldiers must also have “proportionate
weight and build” to their height, limiting the post to only the very finest physical
specimens the Army has to offer. This is because the members of the Old Guard
in many of their ceremonial duties are supposed to represent the entire army to the outside
world. After becoming a member of the Old Guard,
a soldier can, if they so choose, apply to be a Tomb Sentinel via the Sergeant of the
Guard by simply knocking on the door to his or her office and stating interest. While this is rather simple, to be considered
and score an interview, a soldier has to have distinguished themselves from the rest of
the Old Guard with their dedication and conduct, as well as possess the aforementioned unmistakably
“soldierly appearance”, the exact meaning of which isn’t abundantly clear. After this the soldier will then be given
a two week trial period where they will be given basic instruction on the history of
the Tomb and Arlington National Cemetery (both of which are extremely interesting, see: Who
is Buried in the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier? and The Fascinating Origin of Arlington National
Cemetery). They are also tutored in the expectations
placed upon Sentinels and their general duties and given a crash course in how to maintain
their uniform (which is much harder than you might think as we’ll get to in a moment). At the end of the trial, the soldier will
be given a test on each one of these points which they’re expected to pass with only
a 5% margin of error. If they fail any test, they will no longer
be considered for guard duty. Any soldier able to pass this trial period
will then be handed over to a seasoned Tomb Sentinel for a year of additional training. Under the tutelage of the experienced Sentinel
the soldier is expected to, among other things, learn 17 pages of additional detailed history
about the Tomb and cemetery which they are expected to recite back on command perfectly
and put in written form including all relevant punctuation, with only a few mistakes allowed. Furthermore, trainee Tomb Guards aren’t
allowed to laugh or even smile while they’re on duty (even in the guard house) and are
expected to hold themselves in the most respectful manner possible at all times due to the close
proximity of said Tomb Guards’ quarters to the Tomb itself. According to an interview Sentinel Andrew
Selga gave to the Washington Post, during their training period, trainees are also told
that they’re not allowed to acknowledge the existence of furniture while on duty,
even if that means walking straight through a chair. This is of course used as a way to get trainees
used to ignoring pain of fatigue, as well as outside influences, while remaining stoic
in most every situation. Then you have uniforms. The basic uniform of a Tomb Sentinel consists
of a heavy wool uniform that weighs in excess of 10 pounds on its own, an M14 rifle outfitted
with a custom stock, heavy boots with metal inserts to assist in making that signature
“click” sound everyone loves so much and a host of smaller adornments like belts, holsters
and a pair of sunglasses to help shield a guard’s eyes from glare. It’s noted that trainee guards will sometimes
spend in excess of 10-12 hours per day just cleaning and preparing their uniform to get
it to the exacting standards of their superiors who themselves will spend about 6-8 hours
cleaning and pressing their own uniforms, despite their extensive experience in the
task. As part of this preparation, the badges, buttons
and medals on the uniform must also be accurately placed to within “1/64th of an inch”. The uniform standards for the Tomb Guard are
so legendarily strict that to pass the test to become a fully fledged member of the unit,
trainees will be asked to present themselves in uniform whereupon they are marked on 100
individual points by a superior. Prospective guards are allowed only two minor
infractions during this test (so must achieve 98% or greater). In keeping with the ideal that the Tomb Guards
must always strive to be better, nobody has ever been given a perfect score. For the most part, the uniform of Tomb guards
remains pretty much unchanged throughout the year, with the only real changes occurring
in winter, when the guards are permitted to wear seasonal appropriate hats and gloves
if they so choose. For anyone curious about what would happen
in the very likely event a guard turned up for his or her shift and felt that it was
too cold or hot for the uniform, according to the aforementioned Sentinel Andrew Selga
they’d simply be told to “suck it up”. Not that many guards would complain; in fact,
most guards with this duty consider it an honor to be tasked with guarding the tomb
during the most extreme bouts of weather, which probably explains why the tomb has remained
under guard during extreme heat, snow, hail, rain and the occasional hurricane. In the most extreme weather, such as during
the relatively recent Hurricane Sandy, they are allowed to stand watch in a small enclosure
known as “the box”, made of cloth with an open front, but for no more than two hour
intervals before resuming their march. In that particular storm, one Sgt. Shane Vincent
volunteered to take an entire 24 hour shift, though occasionally his fellow guards joined
him for support. If and only if a trainee is considered ready,
they will be given the honor of conducting a “walk”, which basically entails what
a fully fledged guard would do, only it is conducted at night, away from the prying eyes
of the public and under strict supervision. In accordance with tradition, a walk consists
of the following: While on duty the sentinel crosses a 63-foot
rubber surfaced walkway in exactly 21 steps. He then faces the Tomb for 21 seconds, turns
again, and pauses an additional 21 seconds before retracing his steps. The cadence of the march and placement of
feet is strictly graded and the number 21 is of paramount important to a successful
walk as it is symbolic of a “21 gun salute”. (See: Why Do They Use 21 Guns in the 21 Gun
Salute?) After a walk duty is completed, the guard
will then be relieved of his or her position with an elaborate changing of the guard ceremony,
which occurs every one hour in the winter and every half hour in the summer and proceeds
as follows: a relief commander salutes the tomb and announces
the change. ‘Ladies and gentlemen, may I have your attention
please. I am (name and rank) of the 3rd Infantry Regiment,
United States Army, commander of the relief, Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. The ceremony you are about to witness, is
the Changing of the Guard. In keeping with the dignity of this ceremony,
it is requested that everyone remain silent, and standing. Thank you.’ He inspects the oncoming Soldier and his weapon
(depending on whether he wears cold-weather gloves, which prohibit a complete weapon inspection),
then he and the new Soldier meet the retiring sentinel in front of the tomb and all three
salute the unknowns. ‘Pass on your orders,’ the relief commander,
who is the only Soldier entitled to wear rank insignia, directs the relieved sentinel, according
to the tomb’s standard operating procedures. The relieved sentinel then tells his replacement:
‘Post and orders remain as directed.’ ‘Orders acknowledged,’ the new sentinel
replies before beginning his patrol. This ceremony is mostly for show, and only
really occurs during the cemetery’s open hours. However, just because there’s nobody around
at night when the cemetery is closed doesn’t mean the theatrics stop. Long after the gates to Arlington close, even
in the wee hours of the morning, guards and sentinels never stop watching over the tomb
and continue their walking along that 63 feet of rubber with incredible precision. In accordance with tradition, nobody who guards
the tomb wears anything that would denote rank, so that nobody outranks the unknowns. However, after a year of constant drills and
training and if they’re able to pass a series of tests that demand nothing short of perfection,
a trainee will be promoted to tomb guard and given a Tomb Guard Identification Badge. After receiving this badge, if they have served
in this capacity for nine months without being removed from the post for some infraction,
they are allowed to wear it for the rest of their military career and officially gain
the title of “Sentinel” rather than just “Guard”; although if they ever stop achieving
the rigorous standards set for one of these guards, they may be removed from this duty. The testing in this way never stops, nor does
their training both for this ceremonial duty and keeping up with actual combat and tactical
training, which generally takes place in their off time; you see, the Old Guard isn’t just
in charge of these ceremonial posts, but also charged with protecting Washington D.C. and
being the official escort to the President. Though Sentinels and guards are almost entirely
silent during walks, they are permitted to momentarily abstain from their duties to confront
members of the public they believe are acting in a disrespectful manner or anyone who attempts
to approach the tomb. However, as one guard noted, people dropping
water bottles or the like that roll towards the tomb (with the person often scrambling
to grab it and return behind the line) is a regular occurrence and if seemingly accidental
the guard is likely to ignore it.


Reader Comments

  1. The Sentinals are chosen on a volunteer basis, you only have volunteer, then they decide if you stay.

  2. I once had to call a dad to tell him his drunken college aged son had approached the tomb in the dark of the night. I told him he was in the brig at Ft Myers. The dad said he would get back to me in a few days. That kid sat there for 5 days until the dad showed up and paid to get him out.

  3. Interesting fact I'm surprised wasn't mentioned in the video: there is currently nobody buried there from the Vietnam War. There used to be, but DNA testing was used to finally identify him; his remains were given to his surviving family to be reburied at their family's cemetery.

  4. The oldest military units in the U.S. military actually belong to the National Guard. Three Regiments in Massachusetts that was formed in 1636. I think it was an infantry, artillery, and support.

  5. These guys are not just the face of the Army, they are the face of the US military as a whole for the most part. So yes they are expected to be the best people and soldiers we have to offer. Embassy guards are also held to very high standards.

  6. Hey Dude comment on the UK, and get out our country, take your Bald head home, and it is not a m-14 it is a m-1

  7. When I was there some stupid parents let their kid wander around. The kid tried to get to the tomb. The guard noticed and yelled something like "Nobody is allowed to approach the tomb!!!!!!!!!!!!" The parents ran up and dragged the kid away. Dumbasses.

  8. Who is going to mess with a tomb? Why does it need to be guarded? I am pretty sure no one is going to mess with it.

  9. Is there any significance behind the rifle they use I know that's an outdated rifle it will use in the early days of Vietnam

  10. Silly question probably… he says its guarded at all times. I've seen the guard do their thing etc, but do they do the same guard change and "patrol" or "walk" 24 hours a day even when the place is closed to the public?

  11. I mean yeah, they're good, but our Queen's Guard are much cooler…

    Well, unless it's summer, then they tend to sweat their tits off.

  12. I specifically asked an Army soldier about these types of duties and told him it must be a huge honor. I can't remember his "exact" wording but he said these types of ceremonial duties weren't desired due to them just being for show and the exhausting details of their uniform. He did explain it about as well as in this video. I've never served so I have no personal opinion of it and it's entirely possible that he was jealous or just trying to sound tough. I do know I wouldn't want to do that but am glad everyone is different.

  13. I'm from a guards unit myself and while I love serving my country, the uniform stuff is something I never enjoyed. I'd much rather be in the field. That said, being on parade is a special feeling.

  14. The garde in Austria is perhaps the least desirable job in the military. The days are about 6 hours longer compared to regular infantry because we needed to learn how to look pretty.
    Learning how to standstill in -22Β°C, which is -7.6Β°F for an hour repeated 5 times is HARD.
    So, since we're drafted no one wants the job. We got people who were 5 foot 2 with massive guts.

    Come to think of it since the garde represents our military it was very honest in its representation. Barely trained and basically unfit for a war.

    Luckily I was trained as a medic after basic. I prefer 24 hour shifts as a medic rather than my 16 hour shifts I had as a garde.

  15. Their "Old Guard" pales in comparison to the Marine Corps. They've existed since before America was even a country, and originally were used to guard Naval cargo-ships and Ships-of-the-Line from piracy and any other potential enemies they may stumble upon.

  16. The completionist in me is squirming because I will never come close to qualifying. It truly is an elite position and incredible honor that only a fraction of a fraction of a fraction of people will ever achieve.

  17. Ive been there once. Felt such a honor to be there. Even the Unknown are respected and have there own soldier. Im honor to be there and see it. Never stop it no matter what.

  18. I have heard that the uniform requirements are so strict that some of the soldiers even have their underwear tailored so that it fits better under the uniform.

  19. I served in Delta (Dawg) Company for 7 yrs 1994-2001, first duty station. Retired 2013. Great Videos πŸ‘πŸ½

  20. Some of the dumbest, fattest, and out of shape people I’ve ever met were soldiers in the Old guard.

  21. For the one in Ottawa basically you just put your name in and you might get it, doesn't matter what trade or branch you belong to but you have to do a fuck ton of drill leading up to it

  22. πŸ‘ŽπŸ‘ŽπŸ‘ŽπŸ‘ŽπŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚πŸ‘ŽπŸ‘ŽπŸ‘ŽπŸ‘ŽπŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚

  23. If your going to take your political correctness to the most hallowed
    Monument of the Republic , you have dishonored the men who died for it cause.
    It says, Here lays an american solder known only to GOD. Why do you think i would accept your political correctness defiling something i held as sacred.
    You have lower it to just a political bauble a thing to exert your political will upon. Another not over looked thing to social engineer to your policys.
    Go ahead shout me down, call me all your pet names.
    He went to the school of life, there they bented his back but not his will.i donot accsept a woman guarding the most sacred secular Monument that i can think of.

  24. I wonder how often they have to fix the rubber. When I was there a few years ago there was a divot in it from use.

  25. The Old Guard is taken from infantry divisions. You can apply if you are an infantry soldier only. The biggest thing is appearance. Most are tall with very small waistlines. Like a 28 waist or smaller. I believe you had to be 6 foot or close also. The M-14 was replaced by the famous M-16, however, the M-14 is a prettier looking rifle and is used for honor guard duty in all branches. Being dismissed for being unprepared is considered incredibly dishonorable. I was a former infantry soldier and had several NCOs who were ex honor guards.

  26. I think it is 3rd Infantry Division, not 3rd Infantry Regiment. Too lazy to google. And they think Millenials are lazy. Lol

  27. I knew one… he said they were trashed and drunk 90% of the time and got laid after guard duty a few times per night.

  28. im a retired British soldier, but this is a whole new level.
    The professionalism and dedication , not to mention the sheer attention to minute detail , is off the scale !!!
    I don't have the words to express my admiration to these soldiers !
    Because there are no words to describe their effort in maintaining their country's commemoration of soldiers who gave their all.
    My salute to all you sentinels… a brigade of your dedication would conquer the world.!
    Even at my age I wish i could join you

  29. I was on a base honor guard (air force), and every funeral we did was always humbling and honorable. We never grew complacent at it (i was on it for 2 years), so i can only imagine the honor it is to guard the unknowns

  30. Thanks for the video. I have to say I love all the videos on all the different channels you have now.

  31. Amazing that the army can train soldiers to this degree of precision for a ceremonial show, and couldn't train GIs to stop raping and murdering women and kids in Nam. As a side note, I wish they had bothered to train the kids they sent to do the flag ceremony at my grandpa's funeral last year. He would have rolled in his grave if he could have seem that sloppy mess. He served his country in Korea and all he got was too bumpkins barely remembering how to salute and fold a flag.

  32. If I am not mistaken, the Tomb Guard badge is the 2nd rarest badge, device, ribbon or medal issued in all branches of the military. The Astronaut wings being the rarest. The Tomb Guard badge is the only award that can be taken away once issued.

  33. I got to see this and watched the changing of the guard twice on a school trip because the first changing was ruined for us cause this ass hole was talking loudly about how this whole thing is pointless and no one is probably even buried there. He got lots of well deserved angry looks and I imagine a beating after he left.

  34. Im insulted as an American that this channel mocks, Yes "Mocks" our most honorable and sacred tradition. Never will i visit this channel again.

  35. Bunch of nerds,how bout instead of worrying about how shiny your buttons are,come and fight with the rest of us.

  36. I remember watching the changing of the guard with my dad when we were in D.C. it was amazing. I saw it when I was a kid but watching it as a high school graduate really meant more to me.

  37. My tour guide of the cemetery said that he reason why they ask for nothing but Perfection is because it’s what those unknown soldiers deserve

  38. This channel should be boycotted by all AMERICANS. I will post a video soon about this British stooge. In many of his videos he mocks AMERICANS. Britain and the Crown are not our friends or allies. So much so President Truman and Eisenhower did not want Britain obtaining the Atomic Bomb. Before WWI Britain had plans to invade the US through Canada, so much so the US Army streangthened Ft. Ticonderoga and placed 5,000 troops on the border. Wake up people.

  39. The tomb guard badge can be taken away if the owner even so much as says a cupboard… For life. The example these soldiers set for others is extraordinary, and expected to continue long after they have returned to civilian life. As a Desert Storm/Shield veteran, I have earned the right to salute. And I salute all who have, do, or will guard the Tomb of The Unknown Soldiers. <o

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