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Guard Duty

Should you do something to get yourself put on guard duty at an event, here's what you need to know. There are two types of orders, general orders (11 of them) and specific orders (varies according to the situation). The 11 General Orders are followed all the time and have only a few items that can be disregarded by order of the commanding officer. The Commanding Officer, would be the unit CO. For reenacting purposes the command structure is severely abridged from then on, possibly only a Corporal of the Guard and Privates of the Guard.

"Government Property" for us would be all possessions of the unit and unit members. A sentinel would be responsible for the protection of this property while on duty. While on duty one should follow the 11 General Orders and any specific orders, meaning:

Walk your post in a military manner (sling or port arms), keeping always alert and observing everything within sight or hearing. Report all violations of orders your are instructed to enforce. Repeat all calls more distant form the guardhouse than your own. Quit your post only when relieved. Receive, obey, and pass on to the sentinel who relieves you all orders from superiors. Talk to no one except in the line of duty (unless it's a very small event, don't talk to the public unless they ask you a simple question, redirect to somebody else who is free to talk, you're doing 'crowd control' and 'theft prevention'). Salute all passing officers, colors, and standards not cased. And of course, be watchful at night, during the challenging time, and challenge all persons on or near your post (limit this to reenactors).


Below are selections from: FM 26-5 "Interior Guard Duty"

Commanding Officer:
The commanding officer will detail a guard sufficient to provide for the adequate safety and security of public property and buildings within his jurisdiction. He will exact a vigilant performance of guard duty in all of its details, giving his orders to the officer of the day or causing them to be communicated to him. He will prescribe the necessary regulations for the guard.

Officer of the Day:
The officer of the day is responsible for the proper performance of duty by the main guard and other guards when specifically directed. He is charged with the execution of all orders of the commanding officer relating to interior guard duty.

In performance of his duties, he takes orders only from the commanding officer, except that in case of an alarm of any kind and at a time of great danger, the senior line officer present is competent to give necessary orders to the officer of the day for the employment of the guard. The officer of the day keeps the guard informed as to where he may be found at any time.

Commander of the Guard:
The commander of the guard is responsible for the inspection, discipline, and performance of duty of hte guard. He receives and obeys orders of the commanding officer and officer of the day, and reports to the last named all orders to the guard not received from him. He will see that all members of the guard are correctly instructed in their orders and duties that they understand and properly perform them. He will see that the special orders for each post and member of the guard are posted in the guardhouse.

The commander of the guard will inspect the guard at such times as may be necessary to assure himself that the men are in proper condition to perform their duties and that their arms and equipment are in proper condition. He will see that all sentinels are relieved at the proper time. He will prepare a guard report and present it daily to the officer of the day.

Sergeant of the Guard:
The senior NCO of the guard, whatever his grade, will officially be known as the sergeant of the guard. If there is no officer of the guard, he will perform the duties prescribed for the commander of the guard.

He will see that all reliefs are turned out at the proper time and that the corporals thoroughly understand and are prompt and efficient in the discharge of their duties. Should the corporal whose relief is on post be called away from the guardhouse, the sergeant of the guard will temporarily take his place or designate another NCO to do so.

Corporal of the Guard:
A corporal of the guard receives and obeys orders only from the commanding officer, officer of the day, officers of the guard, and NCOs of the guard senior to himself.

The corporals will assign the members of their respective reliefs to posts by number. Such assignment will not be changed except by direction of the commander of the guard or higher authority. Each corporal will make a list daily of members of his relief, including himself. 

Privates of the Guard:
Sentinels at different numbered posts....


The 11 General Orders:
  1. To take charge of this post and all Government property in view.
  2. To walk my post in a military manner, keeping always on the alert and observing everything that takes place within sight or hearing.
  3. To report all violations of orders I am instructed to enforce
  4. To repeat all calls from posts more distant from the guardhouse than my own.
  5. To quit my post only when properly relieved.
  6. To receive, obey, and pass on to the sentinel who relieves me all orders from the commanding officer, officer of the day, and officers and noncommissioned officers of the guard only.
  7. To talk to no one except in line of duty.
  8. To give the alarm in case of fire or disorder.
  9. To call the corporal of the guard in any case no covered by instructions.
  10. To salute all officers and all colors and standards not cased.
  11. To be especially watchful at night and, during the time for challenging, to challenge all persons on or near my post and to allow no one to pass without proper authority.

Regulations Relating to General Orders:

No. 1 - To take charge of this post and all Government property in view

All person of whatever rank in the service are required to respect members of the guard in the performance of their duties. A sentinel will report immediately to the corporal of the guard by telephone or other means every unusual suspicious occurrence noted. He will arrest all suspicious-looking persons and all parties involved in a disorder occurring on or near his post. He will turn over to the corporal of the guard all persons arrested. The number, limits, and extent of his post will constitute part of the special orders of a sentinel. the limits of his post will be so defined as to include every place to which he is required to go in the performance of his duties.


No. 2 - To walk my post in a military manner, keeping always on the alert and observing everything that takes place within sight or hearing -

A sentinel is not required to patrol his post in any prescribed manner, but he must be constantly alert observing everything that takes place within his sight or hearing.


No. 3 - To report all violations of orders I am instructed to enforce

A sentinel will report a violation of orders at the first opportunity. He will arrest the offender if necessary.


No. 4 - To repeat all calls from posts more distant from the guardhouse than my own

To call the corporal of the guard for any purpose other than fire or disorder a sentinel will call, "Corporal of the guard No. ___."


No. 5 - To quit my post only when properly relieved

If relief becomes necessary by reason of sickness or other cause, a sentinel will call, "Corporal of the guard, No. ___ relief", or communicate by telephone or other means with the corporal of his relief. If there is but one relief, he will leave his post at the proper time, return to the guardhouse, and report to the corporal of his relief.

Sentinels will leave their posts for meals as specifically directed by the commanding officer. If a sentinel is not relieved by the new sentinel at the expiration of his tour, the old sentinel will not abandon his post but will communicate with the corporal of his relief by telephone or other means and comply with the instructions received.


No. 6 - To receive, obey, and pass on to the sentinel who relieves me all orders from the commanding officer, officer of the day, and officers and noncommissioned officers of the guard only

During his tour of duty, a sentinel is subject to the orders of the commanding officer, officer of the day, and officers and noncommissioned officers of the guard only; but any officer is authorized to investigate apparent violations of regulations by members of the guard.

A sentinel will quit his piece only on an explicit order from a person whom he lawfully receives orders while on post. Unless necessity therefor exists, no person will require a sentinel to quit his piece or even require it to be inspected.


No. 7 - To talk to no one except in line of duty

When persons make proper inquiries of a sentinel, courteous answers should be given. When challenging or holding conversation with any person, a dismounted sentinel armed with a rifle will take the position of PORT ARMS. At night a dismounted sentinel armed with a pistol takes the position of RAISE PISTOL in challenging or holding conversation. A mounted sentinel does not ordinarily draw his weapon in the daytime when challenging or holding conversation. At night in challenging or holding conversation he takes the position of RAISE PISTOL. 


No. 8 - To give the alarm in case of fire or disorder

In case of a fire, the sentinel will immediately call, "Fire, No. ___," and give an alarm or make certain that an alarm has been given. He will then take the necessary action to direct the responding fire apparatus to the fire. If possible, the sentinel will extinguish the fire. As soon as practicable, the sentinel will notify the guardhouse of his action by telephone or other means. Sentinels shall immediately transmit to the guardhouse by telephone or other means information of any disorder and will take proper police action with regard thereto. If necessary the sentinel will call, "The guard, No. ___." In either case if the danger is great, he will discharge his piece three times in rapid succession before calling. In time of war, sentinels will give warning of air and gas attacks as directed by the commanding officer.


No. 10 - To salute all officers and all colors and standards not cased

Sentinels and other members of the guard render salutes as prescribed in AR 600-25, with the following exceptions: 
  • No salute is rendered to persons by a member of the guard who is engaged in the performance of a specific duty, the proper execution of which would prevent saluting. 
  • A mounted or dismounted sentinel armed with a pistol does not salute after challenging. He stands at RAISE PISTOL until the challenged party has passed. 
  • During the hours when challenging is prescribed the first salute is given as soon as the officer has been duly recognized and advanced. 
  • A sentinel in conversation with an officer will not interrupt the conversation to salute, but in case the officer salutes a senior the sentinel will also salute.

No. 11 - To be especially watchful at night and, during the time for challenging, to challenge all persons on or near my post and to allow no 
one to pass without proper authority

During challenging hours, if a sentinel sees any person or party on or near his post, he will advance quickly along his post toward such person or party, and when within about 30 paces will challenge sharply, "HALT! WHO IS THERE?" The sentinel ordinarly continues to advance while challenging but he may halt of circumstances require. After challenging, he places himself in the most advantageous position from which to pass or arrest the person or party. In selecting this position the sentinel may require the challenged person or one of a party to advance toward him, or to remain halted, or to advance to a particular place, or to face toward the light, or to take whatever position necessary in order that he may be most surely and promptly determine whether the person or party should be passed or turned over to the guard.

If the person or party challenged is mounted or in a vehcilce, the sentinel will proced as when hte person or party challenged is on foot. If necessary to the proper performance of his duty, he may cause one or all of a party to dismount.

The sentinel will permit only one of a party to approach him for the purpose of being duly recognized.

The sentinel must satisfy himself beyond a reasonable doubt that those challenged are what they represent themselves to be and have a right to pass. If he is not satisfied, he calls the corporal of the guard by nearest telephone or other means.

When a party approaches, the sentinel, on receiving an answer that indicates that the party is authorized to pass, will say, "Advance one to be recognized," and when that one has been recognized will then say, "Advance (so-and-so)," repeating the answer to his challenge. Thus, if the answer is "Patrol (friends, etc.)," the sentinel will say, "Advance one to be recognized," and when recognized he will say, "Advance patrol (friends, etc.)."

If two or more persons or parties approach the sentinel's post from different directions at the same time, they will be challenged in turn and required to halt and remain halted until advanced.

The senior is first advanced in accordance with the foregoing rules.


Other Rules:

A sentinel must never allow himself to be surprised nor permit two parties to advance upon him at the same time.

Answers to a sentinel's challenge intended to confuse or mislead him are prohibited, but use of such an answer as "Friend" is not to be understood as misleading, but the usual answer made by officers or patrols when the purpose of their visit makes it desirable that their official capacity should not be announced.

The commanding officer may limit challenging to suspicious looking persons. 
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