The UnknownSoldier Arlington
Here Rests In Honored Glory
An American Soldier Known But To God
Tomb of the Unknown Soldier actually holds three sets of remains,
one each from World War I, World War II, and the Korean War.
Do you know
how many steps the Sentinels, also known as Guards, take during their
walk across the front of Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, and why?
steps, commemorating the twenty-one gun salute, which is our highest
honor given any military or foreign dignitary.
Do you know
how long they hesitate after each about face to begin their return
walk, and why?
seconds, for the same reason.
And do you
know why the Sentinel's gloves are wet?
gloves are moistened to prevent losing a grip on the rifle.
Guards always carry the rifle on the shoulder away from the Tomb.
After marching across the path, they execute an about face, and move
the rifle to the outside shoulder
are the Sentinels changed?
Guards are changed every thirty minutes, twenty-four hours a day,
365 days a year. Currently, the Tomb Guards work on a three team rotation
- 24 hours on, 24 hours off, 24 hours on, 24 hours off, 24 hours on,
96 hours off.
time off isn't exactly free time. It takes the average Sentinel 8
hours to prep his/her uniform for the next work day. In addition,
they have Physical Training, Tomb Guard training, and haircuts to
complete before the next work day.
the physical requirements to become a Sentinel?
For a person to apply for Guard duty at the Tomb, they must be between
5' 10" and 6' 2" tall and have a waist size not to exceed
Each Sentinel is provided with an Identification Badge that is worn
to signify their service as a Guard of the Tomb. The Identification
Badge is awarded only after the Sentinel passes a series of tests
and is permanently awarded after a Sentinel has served 9 months as
a Guard at the Tomb. Over 500 Badges have been awarded since its creation
in the late 1950's. And while the award can be revoked, the offense
must be such that it discredits the Tomb. Revocation of the award
is at the U.S. Army's, 3rd Infantry Regiment, 'Old Guard,' Regimental
Commander’s discretion. The Badge is a full size award, worn
on the right pocket of the uniform jacket.
Guards' 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 not appear to "bob" up and down with each
step giving 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.
Then there is the "clicker". It is a shank of steel attached
to the inside of the face of the heel build-up on each shoe. It allows
the Sentinel to click his heels during certain movements. If a Guard
change is really hot, it is called a "smoker" because all
the heel clicks fall together and sound like one click. In fact, the
Guard change is occasionally done in the "silent" mode as
a sign of devotion to the Unknowns. No voice commands - everything
is done in relation to the heel clicks and on specific counts.
There are no wrinkles, folds or lint allowed on their uniform. Guards
dress for duty in front of a full-length mirror. Every Guard spends
hours a day getting himself and his gear ready for duty.
For the first six months of duty a Guard's off duty time is spent
studying the 175 notable people laid to rest in Arlington National
Cemetery. A Guard must memorize who they are, and where they are interred.
Among the notables are:
President Taft; Joe Louis, the boxer; and Medal of Honor winner Audie
Murphy, the most decorated soldier of WW II, and of Hollywood fame.
September, 2003 as Hurricane Isabel was approaching Washington, DC,
Congress recessed for two days in anticipation of the storm. Because
of the dangers associated with the hurricane, the Sentinels guarding
the Tomb were given permission to suspend the assignment. They each
to the skin, marching in the pelting rain of a tropical storm, they
declared that guarding the Tomb was not just an assignment, it was
the highest honor that can be afforded to a serviceperson.
have been 3 female Sentinels.
Tomb has been patrolled continuously, 24/7, since 1937.