Flawless is Standard in the Old Guard

To Join the Army's Old Guard, Iraq War Veteran Learns to Sweat the Small Stuff - Christian Davenport, Washington Post.

That ceremonial, iconic role makes it essential for Old Guard leaders to choose their soldiers carefully. Members of the unit must be at least 5-foot-10, physically fit and able to stand for hours at a time without so much as flinching. They have to master choreographed steps and marches and put together a flawless uniform, all of which they learn during an intensive three-week Regimental Indoctrination Program, which, as Pata is discovering, is unlike anything else in the Army.

Here, a ruler is almost as important as a rifle. Everything must be in its place - medals half an inch above the breast pocket, U.S. insignia one inch from the lapel edge, buckle two inches from the belt loop. Nothing in the constellation of the many decorations on Pata's uniform may be outside a one-sixteenth-of-an-inch margin of error - two tiny tick marks on the inspector's ruler, about the width of this o. Anything more and Pata gets what the Old Guard calls a gig. Three gigs and you fail.

Inspection time looms. A fellow soldier helps Pata fix his belt tight, clips one last derelict thread, and then, like a designer prepping a model for the runway, checks the soldier's shoes, soles, hair, hat, rifle, belt, gloves, cuffs, medals...

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