This following is from an email which has been passed around for several years.

On Jeopardy, a final question was "How many steps does the guard take during his walk across the tomb of the Unknowns"
 ------ All three  missed it ------

This is really an awesome sight to watch if you've never had the chance. Very fascinating.

Tomb of the Unknown  Soldier



1. How many steps does the guard take during his walk across the tomb of the Unknowns and why? 



21 steps. It alludes to the twenty-one gun salute, which is the highest honor given any military or foreign dignitary.


2.  How long does he hesitate after his about face to begin his return walk and why? 



The sentinel marches 21 steps across the black mat, past the final resting places of the Unknown Soldiers of World War I, World War II, Korea, and the crypt of the Unknown Soldier of the Vietnam War.

With a crisp turn, the sentinel turns 90 degrees to face east for 21 seconds.

The sentinel then turns a sharp 90 degrees again to face north for 21 seconds. A crisp "shoulder-arms" movement places the rifle on the shoulder nearest the visitors to signify that the sentinel stands between the tomb and any threat.

After the moment, the sentinel paces 21 steps north, turns and repeats the process.


3. Why are his gloves wet?



His gloves are moistened to prevent his losing his grip on the rifle.

4. Does he carry his rifle on the same shoulder all the time and if not, why not?



He carries the rifle on the shoulder away from the tomb.
After his march across the path, he executes an about face and moves the rifle to the outside shoulder.


5. How often are the guards changed?



From 1926 through 1937, the Tomb was guarded only during daylight hours. Ever since 1937, the Tomb has been continuously guarded 24 hours a day, every day of the year. Tomb guards are changed every thirty minutes between 8 AM and 7 PM during the period from early Spring to early Autumn April 1 through September 30, and every hour between 8 AM to 5 PM the rest of the year. At all other times (i.e., while the cemetery is closed), the guard is changed every two hours. 

6. What are the physical traits of the guard limited to?




For a person to apply for guard duty at the tomb, he must be between 5' 10" and 6' 2" tall and his waist size cannot exceed 30". Other requirements of the Guard: Sentinels at the Tomb do not have to commit to serving there for any fixed period of time, and the average tour of duty is only about half of a two year period. Like most servicemen, Tomb guards may live either on-base (at nearby Fort Myer) or off-base in housing of their choosing. There are no restrictions on guards' off-duty drinking.





The shoes are standard issue military dress shoes. They are built up so the sole and heel are equal in height. This allows the Sentinel to stand so that his back is straight and perpendicular to the ground. A side effect of this is that the Sentinel can "roll" on the outside of the build up as he walks down the mat. This allows him to move in a fluid fashion. If he does this correctly, his hat and bayonet will appear to not "bob" up and down with each step. It gives him a more formal and smooth look to his walk, rather than a "marching" appearance.

The soles have a steel tip on the toe and a "horseshoe" steel plate on the heel. This prevents wear on the sole and allows the Sentinel to move smoothly during his movements when he turns to face the Tomb and then back down the mat.

 There are no wrinkles, folds or lint on the uniform. Guards dress for duty in front of a full-length mirror. A Tomb guard's behavior is not so stringently regulated that he is prohibited from speaking to anyone for a full six months and guards may do whatever they want (including watching TV) during their off-duty hours. But since any soldier wishing to become a sentinel must undergo rigorous training, including several hours a day of marching, rifle drill and uniform preparation, and every tomb sentinel is expected to be completely versed in the history of both the tomb and of Arlington National Cemetery (including knowing how to find the graves of all the prominent person buried in the cemetery), they don't necessarily have a lot of free time to devote to recreational activities.

Among the notables are: President Taft, Joe Lewis (the boxer) and Medal of Honor recipient Audie Murphy, (the most decorated soldier of WWII) of Hollywood fame. Every guard spends five hours a day getting his uniforms ready for guard duty.



ETERNAL REST GRANT THEM O LORD, AND LET PERPETUAL LIGHT SHINE UPON  THEM.


In 2003 as Hurricane Isabelle was approaching Washington, DC, our US Senate/House took 2 days off with anticipation of the storm. On the ABC evening news, it was reported that because of the dangers from the hurricane, the military members assigned the duty of guarding the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier were given permission to suspend the assignment. They respectfully declined the offer, "No way,  Sir!" Soaked to the skin, marching in the pelting rain of a tropical  storm, they said that guarding the Tomb was not just an assignment, it was the highest honor that can be afforded to a service person.




On or about 16 Feb 2010; not all of DC was shut down this week because of the heavy snow storm...
The 3rd Infantry's Old Guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier is ALWAYS there 24/7 365 days a year.






The Old Guard keeping watch regardless of the conditions!


God Bless and keep them.

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This page last updated 03/28/2010