The Summerall Guards

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The Summerall Guards performing the Citadel Series

Since their inception in 1932 as the Richardson Rifles, the Summerall Guards have been one of the premier military drill units in the United States. Named after General Charles P. Summerall, former chief of staff of the U.S. Army and president of The Citadel from 1931 until 1953, The Summerall Guards remain The Citadel's elite, silent drill platoon.

Unit history and background[edit]

Summerall Guard tradition states that their exhibition drill, known as "the Citadel Series", has remained virtually unchanged since 1932. The drill has never been written down and is passed from each class to the next. Becoming a member of the Guards is a competitive process. Being selected for the Guards is considered one of the highest achievements a cadet can achieve at The Citadel.[citation needed]

The drill steps are modeled on German close-order drill, including the famous Prussian goose step. The Citadel Series consists of a series of complex close-order drill movements, including the manual of arms, the German Squad Movement, the flank by flank, obliques, successive peeling movements, and varied individual squad maneuvers. The drill is silent and automatic except for an occasional "sound off" in unison by members of the group.

The Summerall Guards drill exclusively with the M1903 Springfield rifle with attached parade chrome plated bayonet. Other than regimental color guards, the Summerall Guards are the only unit at The Citadel to use this particular rifle. In addition to a butt stock identification number, each rifle is given both a first and middle female name. The name is carved, or burned, into the wooden stock of the rifle.

The unit has performed nationally at Disney World, the Cherry Blossom Festival in Washington, D.C., Mardi Gras in New Orleans, numerous National Football League sanctioned games, and St. Patrick's Day parade in Savannah, Georgia.

The Guards have been disbanded several times in its history including the mid 1940s due to World War II and most recently, in 1998, due to administrative changes to the Bond Volunteer Aspirant (BVA) training.[1][2]

In 2017, the Summerall Guards made their fifth appearance at a presidential inaugural parade For the 45th President, President Donald J. Trump. The Guards also participated in the inaugurations of Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1953, Ronald Reagan in 1985, George H.W. Bush in 1989, and George W. Bush in 2005.[citation needed]

The Guards also frequently perform on the campus grounds and can be seen free of charge by the public during major events.


Members who hold leadership positions within the Guards, depending on their position, are determined by both the Summerall Guards themselves and The Citadel's administration - by a meeting mirroring a standard military promotion board. Leadership positions are open to any member of the unit; however, only Guards who both exhibit strong leadership qualities in the larger Corps of Cadets and excel during BVA Training are usually nominated by their peers.

The Commander and First Sergeant are the only two positions nominated by the Guards to attend the boards held by The Citadel's administration. Usually the Guards nominate at least two of their peers to fill each slot. However, the final say lies with the administration. It is important to note that this is a fairly recent change. Prior to 2007, the Guards elected and appointed their own leadership without influence from the school.[citation needed]


  • Holds the overall responsibility for leading the platoon. He plans, along with guidance from the First Sergeant, performance dates, practice dates and times, and BVA Training. He is also the liaison between the platoon and The Citadel's administration. The Commander leads the Cuts Run during each day of BVA Training and is responsible for determining the desired run distance, pace and targeted attrition rate.
  • The Commander fills the role commonly held by a platoon leader in the United States Army or platoon commander in the United States Marine Corps.
  • He wears no cross webbing or cartridge box on his dress uniform. He wears an officer's maroon sash and feather plume in his shako. He is the only Summerall Guard who carries a sword during the performance of The Citadel Series. This is done to distinguish himself as the unit's leader.

First Sergeant[edit]

  • Tasked with enforcing all standards and tasks given out by the Summerall Guard Commander. The First Sergeant ensures that discipline is achieved during practice and all deadlines are met by the unit. He is the Commander's second in command and is prepared to assume command in his absence.
  • Falls into the formation during performances and wears the standard dress uniform.

Supply Sergeant[edit]

  • Handles all logistical matters within the platoon. He is responsible for the issuing of the platoon's M1903 Springfield rifles and chrome plated parade bayonets, as well as any other required equipment to members of the unit. The Supply Sergeant also coordinates with the school administration to secure lodging and travel arrangements when the Guards must travel to conduct performances. He also has the additional duty of ordering uniforms items for the unit.
  • Falls into the formation during performances and wears the standard dress uniform.

Front Guide[edit]

  • The Front Guide is responsible for directing the platoon's forward movement during performances and especially during marching parades. He is responsible for setting the unit's signature slow, high-step pace and is one of the tallest members of the platoon.
  • He wears no cross webbing or cartridge box on his dress uniform. He wears an officer's maroon sash and feather plume in his shako.

Rear Guide[edit]

  • The Rear Guide is the Front Guide's counterpart and mirrors all of his movements during a performance. He is responsible for directing the platoon's movement during certain segments of The Citadel Series and is usually one of the shortest members of the platoon.
  • He wears no cross webbing or cartridge box on his dress uniform. He wears an officer's maroon sash and feather plume in his shako.

Decorations and awards[edit]

Three accoutrements are currently authorized at The Citadel to distinguish current Summerall Guards from other cadets while wearing many of the schools various uniforms:

  • The Summerall Guard Ribbon is a light-colored solid blue ribbon with a lacquered brass crossed rifle device affixed to the center of the ribbon. This award is worn in any uniform that allows the wear of Citadel awarded ribbons.
  • The Circular Summerall Guard Patch or the "Guard Field Jacket Patch" - as it is commonly referred, is a circular, light blue embroidered patch worn on the left breast of The Citadel field jacket.
  • The Summerall Guard Blazer Patch is an embroidered patch worn on the left breast pocket of The Citadel blazer leave uniform. The patch replaces the standard blue/black patch. The original design featured the Confederate Battle Flag (Flags of the Confederate States of America). This design has since been discontinued and is no longer authorized for wear. This is due in large part to the controversy surrounding the Battle Flag of the Confederacy. The Blazer patch was redesigned in the early 2000s to include The Citadel's Big Red flag. This new design was put into production and subsequently authorized for wear by The Citadel; the older patch was phased out by the administration.
  • The Clubb Award is presented, each year at Corps Day, to the member of the Summerall Guards voted by his peers as its most outstanding member. The award is named for Harold K. Clubb, Class of '68, who died in a plane crash in 1971. The award is the current years Summerall Guard field jacket patch centered on a wooden plaque with a brass plate engraved with the awarded Summerall Guard's name. The Clubb Award is usually awarded to the platoon's first sergeant as he devotes the most time ensuring the unit's success at all performances and training events.


Summerall Guard uniforms[edit]

  • Full Dress Salt and Pepper (Under Arms) is the traditional uniform worn for performances, public events, and for dress rehearsals. This uniform consists of the Full Dress wool blouse, white trousers, spit-shined leather shoes, black cotton socks, crossed webbing, cartridge box, webbed belt, shako, and white cotton parade gloves. Slight variations to this uniform are worn by the Commander, First Sergeant, Supply Sergeant, and Front/Rear Guides (see leadership section for further information).
  • The Training Uniform is a less formal uniform worn by the unit during practice, formation runs, and BVA training events. This uniform consists of the black Summerall Guard PT shirt, dark blue Summerall Guard PT hooded sweatshirt (cold weather), OD green military duty pants, white socks, black and white painted Chuck Taylor All-Stars, OD green patrol cap (during BVA training and formation runs only), and webbed belt. White parade gloves are worn during drill practice only. Modifications to this uniform are made by the unit, particularly during cold weather, with additions such as black Under Armour long-sleeve shirts and The Citadel dark blue skullcap. Following a restructure of BVA training at the behest of The Citadel's administration in 2012, BVAs and Summerall Guards were disallowed to paint their "Chucks" following an order by then-Commandant of Cadets COL Leo Mercado.

Modified, black fingerless parade gloves are worn by Summerall Guards who hold the Rifle Devil feat (see the Feats section below) and are authorized for wear during all BVA training related events.

The OD green patrol cap replaced the OD green "Castro" or "Ridgeway" cap in the early 2000s due to a number of manufacturers no longer producing these caps. Several of the Ridgeway caps are still handed down within the unit and are authorized for wear. The signature painted Ridgeway caps are authorized only for formation runs, Cuts Day, and Feats Day.

The OD green military duty pants have also been replaced by dark green Dickies brand work pants. This is also due to the lack of manufacturers who produce the 1960s era OD green work pants.

Bond Volunteer uniforms[edit]

  • Dress Salt and Pepper (Under Arms) is worn by Bond Volunteers only once during the changing of the Guard ceremony every year during Corps Day weekend at The Citadel. This uniform is identical to The Summerall Guard Full Dress Salt and Pepper (Under Arms) uniform, except the Bond Volunteers wear the white garrison cap and the regular dress wool blouse.

Bond Volunteers, who are not selected for the sixty-one man Summerall Guard platoon, are allowed to aide in Bond Volunteer Aspirant training. They wear the Training Uniform; the Bond Volunteer PT shirt and hooded-sweatshirt are worn in place of the likewise Summerall Guard tops.

Bond Volunteer Aspirant uniforms[edit]

  • BVA Training Uniform is worn during the entirety of phase two BVA Training. It is similar the Summerall Guard version; however, the BVA PT shirt, dark blue Citadel hooded-sweatshirt (with sewn name tag on chest), and white gloves are worn at all times.

BVAs were required to have a close, cropped High and tight style haircut during phase two training until 2008. This was an administrative change enforced by the school. Now, BVAs are required to completely shave their heads during both phase one and two of BVA Training.[citation needed]

  • Cuts Day Duty Uniform is a modified version of The Citadel duty uniform. A cover, or side cap, is not worn. Also, slight changes are made based on the particular training squad a BVA belongs to. Usually these changes lie in the collar insignia and military creases (or lack thereof) depending on the squad. This uniform is immaculately cleaned and steam pressed by each BVA. It is not uncommon for an aspirant to spend several hours preparing this one uniform for Cuts Day; as an inspection is conducted at the first Cuts Day station and cuts are assigned for deficiencies in cleanliness and overall uniformity among the eight squad members.

The Citadel field jacket can be added by Guard leadership in extreme cold weather conditions.

Bond Volunteer Aspirant (BVA) training[edit]

Each year, aspiring 2nd class cadets (Junior class) volunteer for a rigorous training and evaluation process that starts Parents' Weekend in October and goes until Corps Day in March known as Bond Volunteer Aspirant (BVA) training. This annual training is considered the highlight of each Summerall Guard's tenure in the unit. It is their chance to choose the cadets that will replace their positions within the platoon and subsequently carry on the tradition to the next year. BVA training takes part in three distinct phases:

First phase[edit]

The first phase of training begins immediately following the Summerall Guard performance each Parents' Weekend in the Fall, usually early October. It is then that the pursuing Junior class cadets don the title of BVA. This phase is often compared to going through the Knob year, 4th class cadet, experience all over again. Aspirants must maintain a higher standard of personal appearance, most notably a high and tight style haircut. Formations are held without notice, weekly, and sometimes bi-weekly, to ensure the aspirants are maintaining the prescribed standards. These formations are used as a tool, by the current Summerall Guards, to gauge the commitment of their aspiring replacements. Aspirants are also required to memorize all the current Summerall Guards and their achieved feats during training. First phase includes a minimum of four PT days that introduce the BVA's bodies to the level of physical fitness and mental toughness required to pass the upcoming second portion of training.

Second phase[edit]

The second phase of training begins on the first day of classes each Spring semester. It involves hours of rigorous stationary exercises and running with an M14 rifle. Each training day starts promptly at 1500 (3:00 PM) and continues after dusk. Each day of stationary PT ends with a formation "Cuts Run". The BVA's secure their rifles and fall into a large formation by height, tallest to shortest. Each run is led by the Summerall Guard Commander; he has the responsibility of setting both the pace and distance of the run, which varies daily. The shortest runs last only a few miles; while some may last over ten miles and take hours to complete. BVA's are not allowed to know any details about the Cuts Run each day, all they know is that it will take place. The unit's First Sergeant maintains the run's cadence rhythm by blowing a whistle on the left side of the formation. Each pair of whistle blasts must be echoed by a pair of staccato-like slaps from each BVA as he slaps the stock of his rifle with the left hand. Any aspirant who falls out of the formation, or fails to maintain the "rifle smack" cadence, is pulled from the run and given a cut for that day's training.

Perfection of the drill is also stressed and much time is spent by the aspirants outside of the designated times perfecting the drill. At the end of the second phase there is a final "Cuts Day" where the aspirants are graded on their drill proficiency and for each mistake a cut is assigned. Each BVA squad is moved from one station to another where they are instructed to complete different version of The Series. A total of eight Guard graders are assigned to each station, one for each member of the squad, to assign cuts for any mistakes made. When a squad has completed their last station on Cuts Day their time in the second phase ends. Each aspirant's total number of cuts, from both Cuts Runs and Cuts Day, are tallied by the Guard leadership at the conclusion of Cuts Day.

The following day a roll call formation is held and the sixty-one BVA's with the lowest cuts are chosen to become the new Summerall Guards. Fifty-one "Regulars" composing the marching platoon and ten "Alternates" kept in reserve to fill in as needed. The remaining cadets who are not selected are known as "Bond Volunteers", or BV's, named after a former president of The Citadel, Colonel Oliver Bond. They do not take part in any performances, but are allowed to take part in training. However, if a Summerall Guard graduates early or is dismissed from the unit for whatever reason, a BV may be "bumped up" into the platoon and given the title of Summerall Guard; thus maintaining the infamous sixty-one member head count.

Third phase[edit]

The third phase centers around the new platoon's constant practice of The Citadel Series in anticipation of their debut performance on the Citadel's Corps Day Weekend. Corps Day Weekend usually occurs in early March. It is at this time that there is a ceremonial passing of rifles and the new members of the unit officially take the title of Summerall Guards. After the old Guards hand over their rifles, and officially end training, the new Summerall Guards perform for the first time in public. After the performance, the new Guards are given their distinctive blue Summerall Guard field jacket patch by an old Guard who took care in ensuring their success during training.


Once Cuts Day is complete and the rising Summerall Guards have been announced; the newly titled Bond Volunteers (BV) participate in "Feats Day". Feats Day is usually conducted the same day that the former aspirants find out whether or not they have been selected to replace the current Summerall Guard class (the following morning after Cuts Day). All sixty-one BVs are invited to attend Feats Day and try out for any one feat of their choosing. This day is known for its relaxed military atmosphere. The feats center around competitions of physical prowess and strength. They range from wrestling matches, various runs and other competitions among the selected BVA's. Guards holding the old feats titles administer the competitions and regulate awarding of feats to the deserving aspirants. BVAs may choose one event and the winner receives a much coveted title.
However, not all feat titles are awarded on Feats Day. Some are earned over the course of training.

Feats conducted on Feats Day[edit]

  • Mud Brother must complete a trek through the large spartina grass marshes and oyster beds bordering The Citadel's western campus. The BVs trek through waist-deep pluff mud to keep up with the current Mud King leading the run. BVs that complete the trek are awarded the Mud Brother feat. Typically, 8-10 BVAs earn this title.
  • Mud King is awarded to the Mud Brother who finds the "Mud King Stick." The Stick is hidden after the run and the newly title Mud Brothers race to find the stick and carry it back to The Citadel parade field to the current Mud King. At any point during the run, the BV holding the stick can be attacked by his peers and the Stick can be removed from his possession. The BV who successfully hands the Stick to the Mud King assumes the new title. Only one BVA earns this title each year.
  • Last Man Standing is a day-long physical assessment that subjects willing BVs to a brutal gauntlet of non-stop physical training exercise. The variation of both stationary and cardiovascular focused exercises slowly brings each BV to muscle failure. The feat competition continues for hours until only one BV is left from the original group, thus earning the title of Last Man Standing.
  • Moto Engineer / Moto Conductor (pronounced "mow-toe", as in the abbreviation of the word "motivate") are a series of wrestling matches between willing BVs following several hours of intense stationary and cardiovascular exercises. The 1A-5A squad members wrestle for the Moto Engineer feat, while the 1B-4B squads wrestle for the title of Moto Conductor. This breaks the wrestlers into two groups based on their body weight. The winner of each group wins their respective titles.
  • Rifle Queen is awarded to the BV who finishes the Rifle Queen run first. Rifle Devils are selected by the current Rifle Queen. They undergo various PT and runs until only two BVs are left. Then, the two remaining BVs begin a 3-4 mile race starting off-campus. After the BVs arrive at the ending location on-campus, they must complete a class set of pushups. The Rifle Queen castro cover is placed 80-100 yards away and the first to grab it earns the title. The 2nd-place finisher earns the informal title of "Rifle Princess."

Feats conducted during BVA training and awarded at the end of Feats Day[edit]

  • Voice is awarded to the BVA an each squad that who calls the sequence of commands on Cuts Day. The Voice serves as the informal leader of each 8-member squad, and acts as a go-between for the current Summerall Guard or Bond Volunteer squad members and the BVAs. Traditionally the loudest member of the squad, each Voice must call specific commands while current Summerall Guards attempt to distract BVAs performing Drill on Cuts Day.
  • Company Rep is awarded to a BVA voted by his Company classmates as the representative of their company BVAs to the current Summerall Guards. The Company Representative, or "Rep," must maintain particularly high standards of personal appearance, so as to reflect well on his company classmates. Additionally, he is expected to assist his classmates in various ways, such as Drill instruction and uniform maintenance.
  • Battalion Rep is awarded to a BVA voted by his Battalion classmates as the representative of their battalion BVAs to the current Summerall Guards. The Battalion Representative, or "Rep," must serve as the highest example for BVA standards among his fellow battalion BVAs. Much like the Company Representative, the Battalion Representative must consistently go above and beyond normal Summerall Guard expectations to assist and lead his battalion classmates in all areas, including, but not limited to, Drill, PT and uniform standards. Battalion Representatives command high respect among their peers as a result of the intense scrutiny they must undergo throughout the First and Second Phases. Certain Battalion Representatives have particular nicknames that reflect their respective battalions' reputations in cadet culture. For example, Fourth Battalion's Representative goes by the feat name of "Zoo Keeper."
  • Rock Brother is awarded to the BVAs who make the Rock Brother Run. This run is considered one of three "Plus Cut" runs. Only 2-3 aspirants make the long-distance run, which lasts for hours.
  • Rifle Devil is awarded to all BVAs who complete training with a -1, or -2 depending on the overall Cut Run score for Phase 2. Rifle Devils must make all Cut Runs and several Plus Cut runs to equal the negative run score. Rifle Devils are the only Summerall Guards allowed to grab a BVA's rifle during a Cut Run for not staying in cadence. Rifle Devils are authorized to wear finger-less black gloves as part of their training uniform. The term "Black Gloves" is used interchangeably with "Rifle Devil" to refer to Summerall Guards who hold the feat. The gloves are modified white parade gloves dyed black with the fingers cut off. Typically, 7-8 BVAs earn this title.
  • 61 Minute Man, or abbreviated 61mm, is awarded to all BVAs who successfully hold their M14 at Present arms (command) for forty-six minutes followed by an exaggerated version of the same position (with arms extended straight out, parallel to the ground) for fifteen minutes, for a total of sixty-one minutes. BVAs line up shoulder-to-shoulder and cannot move or twitch during the 61mm feat contest, or risk having their rifle snatched by a current 61mm Summerall Guard. Typically, 3-4 BVAs are awarded this feat.
  • Rifle King is awarded to the 61mm who holds his rifle out for the longest period of time.
  • Low Cuts is awarded to the BVA with the lowest number of cuts accumulated throughout training and Cuts Day. This aspirant will have successfully completed various Plus Cut runs and near-flawlessly executed Drill on Cuts Day. "Low Cuts" will have negative cuts upon completion of BVA training. Only one BVA can earn this feat.
  • Papillon is the hardest feat for any BVA to obtain. Those who attempt this feat fully commit themselves toward this one goal, as the Papillon aspirant endures constant PT during the Second Phase of training, ceasing only for the Cut Runs. He is expected to learn the hybrid Citadel Series on his own time, as all scheduled training periods are devoted entirely to PT. He is almost always the most physically fit and determined among all BVAs. The Papillon aspirant can be identified during training by the OD green Patrol cap worn with his BVA uniform or differently colored chucks. The Papillon aspirant will often purposefully distract or goad current Summerall Guards during PT training, so as to take any negative attention off of his classmates. His training is the responsibility of the current Papillon, or selected Guards, and is not officially assigned to a BVA squad until the day prior to Cuts Day. It is understood that Papillon aspirants must not have any cuts prior to Cuts Day, with rare exceptions. Not every class of Summerall Guards will have a Papillon, and only one BVA can earn this title. However, following a restructure of BVA training at the behest of The Citadel's administration in 2012, Papillon is no longer an attainable feat.
  • First Guard is awarded to one BVA that is a member of the class one year younger than the existing BVA class. For example, if the current BVA class is 2014, the First Guard is a member of the class of 2015. The First Guard aspirants are often identified by a marking identifying their matriculation class (Spray paint, Marker, etc.). Only one of the aspiring First Guard aspirants can be awarded this feat, although more than one may still earn a spot as a Summerall Guard. A core requirement the First Guard feat is that First Guard aspirants must be trained by the current First Guard. However, following a restructure of BVA training at the behest of The Citadel's administration in 2012, First Guard is no longer an attainable feat. As a result, the term "First Guard" has since been informally adapted to refer to any member of the younger class that makes the Summerall Guards.


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