This following is
from an email
which has been passed around for several years.
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
How many steps does the guard take during his walk across the tomb of
the Unknowns and why?
steps. It alludes to the twenty-one gun salute, which is the highest
honor given any military or foreign dignitary.
long does he hesitate after his about face to begin his return walk
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
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
Why are his gloves wet?
gloves are moistened to prevent his losing his grip on the rifle.
Does he carry his rifle on the same shoulder all the time and if not,
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.
How often are the guards changed?
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?
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.
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
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
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.
GRANT THEM O LORD, AND LET PERPETUAL LIGHT SHINE UPON THEM.
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...
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!