In drill and ceremonies, the guidon and commander are always in front of the formation. The guidon is a great source of pride for the unit, and several military traditions have developed around it, stemming back from ancient times. Any sort of disgrace toward the guidon is considered a dishonor of the unit as a whole, and punishment is typical. For example, should the guidon bearer drop the guidon, he must fall with it and perform punishment, often in the form of push-ups.
Other units may attempt to steal the guidon to demoralize or antagonize the unit. Veteran soldiers know not to give up the guidon to anyone outside their unit, but new recruits may be tempted into relinquishing it by a superior, especially during a unit run this is known by the phrase “loss of colors”. There is no official definition of the term “loss of colors. ” However, the term, in common usage, refers to the capture of a unit’s colors (flags) by the enemy in battle, or the taking away of a unit’s colors as a punishment or disciplinary measure.
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Unit colors were a great source of pride, and victories or defeats were often expressed in terms of colors being captured from or lost to the enemy. During the Civil War, many awards of the Medal of Honor were made for the capture or defense of colors. Even then however, units which lost their colors remained intact and continued to fight. Modern warfare tactics do not call for rallying points in the open, with large numbers of men performing intricate maneuvers. Therefore, today’s armies use colors in ceremonies but do not carry them into battle.
There have been several rumors concerning various units losing their colors. These are generally false. One of these includes the question of the loss of colors by the 7th Cavalry at Little Big Horn, which has also generated considerable debate. Although the Center for Military History has no conclusive evidence one way or the other, it has been suggested that Custer’s personal flag along with several troop guidons were taken, but that the regimental flag was not captured.
A regimental flag subsequently turned up at the Custer Battlefield National Monument in Crow Agency, Montana, but it has never been verified that this was the flag at Little Big Horn. There is also a rumor that the 7th Cavalry lost its colors in Korea. This can be tracked back to the 7th’s association with the 1st Cavalry Division. The official Naval instruction on the Navy guidon is Naval Telecommunications procedures for flags, pennants, and customs (NTP-13). It depicts that The guidon is a company/naval reserve division identification flag.
It is used for the purpose of identifying naval units parading ashore, at ceremonies and at other times when prescribed by the Commander. a. The guidon is a rectangular flag with aswallow-tail fly. The field is Navy blue with a white diamond centered between the hoist and the indentation of the fly. A Navy blue fouled anchor device is centered upon the white diamond. Above thewhite diamond shall be shown the distinctive name of the organization to which the company/naval reserve division belongs. Below the diamond shall be shown the abbreviated name of the company/naval reserve division itself. b.