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1) The Guard takes 21 steps during his walk across the tomb of the unknowns. It alludes to the 21 gun salute which is the highest honor given any military or foreign dignitary.
2) After his about face, the guard hesitates 21 seconds before he begins his return walk for the same reason as the steps.
3) The Guard's gloves are moistened to prevent his losing his grip on his rifle.
4) The Guard always carries his rifle on the shoulder away from the tomb. After his march across the path, he executes an about face and moves the rifle to the outside shoulder.
5) The Guards are changed every 30 minutes 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.
6) For a person to apply for guard duty at the tomb, he must be between 5' 10" and 6' 2" tall and his waist size cannot exceed 30".
In 2003, as Hurricane Isabelle was approaching Washington, DC. The Congress took 2 days off with anticipation of the storm.
On ABC News, it was reported that because of the dangers from the hurricane, the military members assigned to duty of guarding the Tomb of The Unknown Soldier were given permission to suspend the assignment.
They respectfully declined the offer. "No way, Sir!"
Soaked to the skin, marching in the pelting rain of the storm, they said that guarding the Tomb was not just an assignment, it was the highest honor that can be afforded to a serviceperson.
The tomb has been patrolled continuously, 24/7 since 1930.
Is it true they must commit 2 years of life to guard the Tomb, live in a barracks under the tomb, and cannot drink any alcohol on or off duty for the rest of their lives.
No, this is a false rumor. The average tour at the Tomb is about a year. There is NO set time for service there. The Sentinels live either in a barracks on Ft. Myer (the Army post located adjacent to the cemetery) or off base if they like. They do have living quarters under the steps of the amphitheater where they stay during their 24 hour shifts, but when they are off, they are off. And if they are of legal age, they may drink anything they like, except while on duty.
Is it true they cannot swear in public for the rest of their lives?
Again, another false rumor.
Do you guard in a blizzard or a bad thunderstorm?
YES, BUT the accomplishment of the mission and welfare of the Soldier is never put at risk. The Tomb Guards have contingencies that are ready to be executed IF the weather conditions EVER place the Soldiers at risk of injury or death – such as lightning, high winds, etc. This ensures that Sentinels can maintain the Tomb Guard responsibilities while ensuring soldier safety. It is the responsibility of the Chain of Command from the Sergeant of the Guard to the Regimental Commander to ensure mission accomplishment and soldier welfare at all times.
It was erroneously reported that during Hurricane Isabel, the Sentinels were ordered to abandon their posts for shelter and that they refused. No such order was ever given. All proper precautions were taken to ensure the safety of the Sentinels while accomplishing their mission. Risk assessments are constantly conducted by the Chain of Command during changing conditions to ensure that soldier welfare is maintained during mission accomplishment.