USMC Mounted Color Guard
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The Legacy of the United States Marine Corps Mounted Color Guard

Active Military
Active Military
February 19, 2024
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The Marine Corps Mounted Color Guard rides through the streets of #SanAntonio during the Western Heritage Parade, building camaraderie with the community and retired service members.

In the annals of military tradition, few units embody the spirit of the United States Marine Corps (USMC) as vividly as the Mounted Color Guard. Based in Barstow, California, this unique ceremonial unit stands as a testament to the Corps' storied history, its values, and its enduring commitment to excellence. This article delves into the rich legacy of the Mounted Color Guard, highlighting its origins, mission, and the profound impact it continues to have on the public and the Marines who serve within its ranks.

Origins and Evolution

The Mounted Color Guard's story began in 1967, emerging from a blend of necessity and tradition. Initially formed to add a ceremonial presence at parades and events, the unit has grown to become a symbol of pride and history for the Marine Corps. Unlike any other in the military, the Mounted Color Guard is noted for its use of wild mustangs, adopted through the Bureau of Land Management's Adopt a Horse and Burro Program, reflecting a deep connection to American heritage and the spirit of the West.

The Horses: Wild Mustangs with a Mission

The decision to adopt wild mustangs as the steeds of choice for the Mounted Color Guard is a narrative of resilience and adaptability. Initially, stablemen would capture and train their own horses, but the partnership with the Bureau of Land Management formalized a process that not only provided the unit with capable mounts but also saved these majestic animals from uncertain fates. These horses, once wild and untamed, are meticulously trained to meet the exacting standards of performance required by the unit, showcasing the transformative power of dedication and discipline.

A Unique Selection Process

Marines selected for the Mounted Color Guard are chosen not for their equestrian skills, which many initially lack, but for their embodiment of the Corps' values: honor, courage, and commitment. These stablemen undergo rigorous training, transforming from novices into skilled horsemen capable of performing intricate maneuvers on horseback. Working closely with civilian horse trainers, they learn not just to ride, but to care for their mounts, manage a ranch, and, most importantly, to present the national ensign and organizational colors with the dignity and precision expected of the Marine Corps.

The Formation

Central to the Mounted Color Guard is the senior Marine and Color Sergeant, who carries the National Colors. This role is pivotal, as the National Colors symbolize the United States and the principles for which it stands. Accompanying the National Colors is a Marine tasked with carrying the Marine Corps Colors, representing the illustrious history and values of the Corps itself. Flanking these central figures are two rifle bearers, whose presence underscores the readiness and protective stance of the Marine Corps. Together, this formation is not just a unit; it's a representation of the Marine Corps' dedication to country, Corps, and the unwavering respect for those who have served.

Rendering Military Honors

The primary duty of the Mounted Color Guard is to render appropriate military honors. This responsibility is profound, encompassing the presentation of the colors during national anthems, participating in military funerals, and appearing in events that commemorate significant moments in the nation's history. The act of carrying the colors in this traditional formation is more than ceremonial; it is a visible expression of the respect and dignity afforded to the nation and its service members, past and present.

Awards and Recognition

Throughout the 1980s and 1990s, the Mounted Color Guard was a formidable presence in the competitive equestrian circuit, earning accolades such as the Overall Outstanding Equestrian Group and the Overall High Point Champion from the California National Association of Paraders. Although military regulations have since directed the unit away from competition, these honors underscore the exceptional skill and dedication of its members.

The Significance of Service

Serving in the Mounted Color Guard is more than a duty; it's a privilege that allows Marines to engage with history, tradition, and the community in a profoundly personal way. Presenting the colors on horseback is a responsibility that carries the weight of the Corps' legacy, demanding the highest standards of conduct and performance. For those who serve, it is an opportunity to be part of a living history, representing the values of the Marine Corps in every parade, ceremony, and event they attend.

The Future of the Mounted Color Guard

The United States Marine Corps Mounted Color Guard is a living emblem of American military tradition, bridging the past with the present and fostering a deeper appreciation for the values that define the Marine Corps. Through its dedication to excellence, its unique use of wild mustangs, and its commitment to community engagement, the Mounted Color Guard continues to inspire and captivate, ensuring that the legacy of the Marine Corps is carried on with pride and honor.

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