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Sergeant of the Guard: Security, Supervision and Safety

by MSG W. Joe Horn, FSB Sergeant Major O/C

The Sergeant of the Guard is the senior noncommissioned officer of the guard. He supervises the guard and ensures that all safety regulations are observed.

Proper protection of troops and equipment in the field is essential to maintaining a secure and safe perimeter that enables mission accomplishment. When planning for the protection of troops and equipment in the field, the first and most important duty that should come to mind is guard duty. The first position that should be considered is the Sergeant of the Guard. Observations of fire support battalions in training indicate that leaders tend to neglect the vital role that the Sergeant of the Guard plays in a prepared defensive posture.

Current Trends:

  • Soldiers are not posted to guard duty by the Sergeant of the Guard.
  • Soldiers do not receive special orders prior to being posted for guard duty.
  • Soldiers are not aware of their responsibilities while on guard duty.
  • Soldiers manning the .50-cal position are not qualified and/or familiarized with the .50-cal (familiarization is a minimum requirement).

Walk up to a gate guard training in the field and ask, "Who put you here?" The answer will always be different. It most likely will never be, "The Sergeant of the Guard." Next, ask the soldier standing on guard duty, "What are your responsibilities, orders, and duties?" The answer to this question will normally be followed by a reference to the challenge and password. Now ask the soldier whom he or she would call if a person approaching the gate does not know the password. The response will normally be, "Anyone who will answer."

The .50-cal (M-2) is normally situated at the front gate. Most soldiers assigned to this weapon have never fired a .50-cal. In fact, the average soldier assigned to this weapon has never even been familiarized with its operating procedures. When a guard assigned to the .50-cal is asked to check the head, space, and timing on the weapon, the response is most often silence, confusion, and frustration. Look closely at the .50-cal itself and you are likely to see that there is no head, space, and timing key on the weapon!

The Basics. Guards have three general orders. These are supplemented by special orders given to them by the Sergeant of the Guard. Special orders vary from one guard post to another. Each guard should know his general and special orders.

General Orders:

1. "I will guard everything within the limits of my post and quit my post only when properly relieved."

  • Exact limits of the guard's post are defined in the special orders.
  • If a suspicious or unusual situation arises, if a guard suffers an illness, or if the relief is late, the guard must contact the Sergeant of the Guard for instructions. (Communication lines between the guard and the Sergeant of the Guard must remain open.)

2. "I will obey my special orders and perform all of my duties in a military manner."

  • The Sergeant of the Guard must ensure that all guards understand and properly perform their orders and duties.
  • The Sergeant of the Guard is responsible for clarifying any doubt as to the meaning of the special orders.
  • The Sergeant of the Guard questions all members of the guard about the instructions they receive.
  • The Sergeant of the Guard is responsible for the conduct of the guard.

3. "I will report all violations of my special orders, emergencies, and anything not covered in my instructions to the commander of the relief."

  • The Sergeant of the Guard is responsible for establishing and maintaining constant and adequate communication with the guards on duty.

The purpose of the guard detail in the field is to protect a unit from the element of surprise. The conduct and action of the guard and the role of the Sergeant of the Guard in the field are limited only by the instructions of the commander. It is imperative that the Sergeant of the Guard knows his basic responsibilities and uses his initiative to guarantee proper protection of troops and equipment. The responsibilities of the Sergeant of the Guard should be explicitly and clearly defined in the tactical standing operating procedures (TAC SOP).

Responsibilities of the Sergeant of the Guard:

  • Ensures that equipment of the guard is properly cared for.
  • Ensures that all reliefs are posted at the proper time.
  • Is readily available for the guards on duty.
  • Keeps communication with the guards flowing.
  • Informs guards of their duties and orders.
  • Is responsible for the conduct of the guard.
  • Ensures guards are qualified with their individual weapons and are familiarized with any other required weapons.

Security Issues:

Leaders need to pay more attention to security issues in the planning stages of deployment. They need to answer the following questions:

  • "Are the soldiers qualified on their individual weapons and familiarized with the functions and safety regulations of all weapons they could be assigned?"
  • "What is the Sergeant of the Guard's role?"
  • "Will the guards have adequate communication in case of an emergency?"
  • "Will the troops and equipment be protected from and prepared for any situation?"

It is impossible to foresee and plan for all possible situations. Units must rely on their security personnel to apply sound judgment. The judgement is based on a combination of common sense, proper and thorough training, and decisive initiative.

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