Service members from the Joint Armed Forces Color Guard (JAFCG) and The U.S. Army Band provided a skills clinic for students at the Sunburst Youth Academy on Joint Training Base Los Alamitos, California, February 12, 2022. The clinic at Sunburst Youth Academy was one of several outreach missions for the JAFCG and drummers prior to presenting the colors at Super Bowl LVI.
“My favorite part of the weekend was definitely going to Sunburst Youth Academy and hearing how excited the kids were,” said Staff Sgt. Cody Royster, Continental Color Guard, 4th Battalion, 3d U.S. Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard). “They truly enjoyed every moment they had with us and to me, that is more rewarding than anything…to have a positive impact on the younger generation and ensure they know how important they truly are.”
Sunburst is a residential leadership academy for Southern California teens. The voluntary program, funded by the Department of Defense and the State of California, is designed to develop self-confidence, discipline, life skills and education.
“We talk about the perfection we have and poise we have, and we apply that to colors,” Seaman Caleb McFarlin, U.S. Coast Guard Ceremonial Honor Guard, told students during introductory remarks, “But we’re hoping that what we share today…you can apply it to your life.”
The service members guided students in basic drill and ceremony movements with flags and rifles. They offered guidance on marching in step, making turns, and presenting the colors.
“I was very impressed by the students’ willingness to learn, engage and improve,” said Sergeant Cameron Williams, 40th Color Sergeant of the Marine Corps. “They were all very humble and accepting of any notes or corrections we provided. I also enjoyed that they attentively listened and did the best they could in such a short time frame. This was undoubtedly a very memorable experience.”
Drummers from The U.S. Army Band provided demonstrations and explained the history of drummers accompanying the colors to keep troops in step, assist in ceremonial duties, and signal movements on the battlefield. They also explained drumming rudiment basics and answered questions about what auditioning for the band was like as well as the differences between the service premier bands.
Sunburst Youth Academy students arrived to the school in January so they had not yet selected a drill team. Drill and ceremony training was new for many of them. Service members focused on their instruction on basic movements, emphasizing the importance of muscle memory and practice.
“We spend hours and hours on this specific drill. Picking it up in one day is going to be difficult, but with practice, you’ll pick it up,” said Airman 1st Class Justin Chambe. “Even though they say we’re the best of the best, you guys could be better than us if you put the time and effort into this.”
Cpl. James Lilley, Drill master for the Marine Color Guard led a clinic station for rifle basics.
“I’m really excited to be here. This is my home state – I’m from Thousand Oaks, California. I want to answer questions and help them,” he said.
The service members answered questions from the cadets about their military service, the selection process to their elite units, and what opportunities are available to them as members of the service ceremonial honor guards in Washington, D.C.
McFarlin told students about the relief efforts the Coast Guard Ceremonial Honor Guard supported during the pandemic when in-person ceremonial and outreach missions were limited.
Sgt. Grayson Boyd from the Continental Color Guard of the 3d U.S. Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard) discussed physical fitness and the new Army Combat Fitness Test with the students. They asked him if he was nervous about presenting the colors at the Super Bowl.
“Yeah,” Boyd said. “We always get nervous. We do sports events, ceremonies at the White House, the Pentagon, the Capitol – and before every one we get nervous.
Boyd explained that the units’ intense training cycles help ease those nerves, and that every mission is an important one.
The Academy is operated by the California National Guard in partnership with the Orange County Department of Education. Students are immersed in a five and a half month-long, military-style environment where they earn high school credits. They live on base, attend high school during the day and work on physical fitness, life skills, team building and goal setting activities before and after school.
“We get to do some amazing things in the military, but giving back to the community has always been my favorite,” said Jeremy Kern, U.S. Army Military District of Washington community outreach officer, who helped coordinate the visit. “Clinics like this present an opportunity to make a difference in the lives of young adults, and it gives students a chance to have a positive and meaningful interaction with members of the military. The students here were so engaged and willing to listen and learn. It was a great experience for all of us.”