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SENTINELS OF THE TOMB OF THE UNKNOWN

11:09 AM
SENTINELS OF THE TOMB OF THE UNKNOWN
Originally a civilian watchman was responsible for the security of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.
Then, March 24, 1926, a military guard from the Washington Provisional Brigade (forerunner of the U.S. Army Military District of Washington) was established during the day-light hours.

In 1948 the 3d U.S. Infantry "The Old Guard" assumed the post following the units reactivation in the nation’s capital. Members of the 3d Infantry’s Honor Guard continue to serve in this distinguished duty today.

A soldier seeking the honor of serving as a sentinel at the Tomb must possess exemplary qualities, to include American citizenship, a spotless record, and impeccable military bearing.

While on duty the sentinel crosses a 63-foot rubber surfaced walkway in exactly 21 steps. He then faces the Tomb for 21 seconds, turns again, and pauses an additional 21 seconds before retracing his steps. The 21 is symbolic of the highest salute accorded to dignitaries in military and state ceremonies.

As a gesture against intrusion on their post, the sentinel always bears his weapon away from the Tomb.

Only under exceptional circumstances may the guard speak or alter his silent, measured tour of duty. He will issue a warning if anyone attempts to enter the restricted area around the Tomb, but first will halt and bring his rifle to port arms.

According to the First Army Division East, which posted the picture on its Facebook page, the three soldiers of the 3rd Infantry Regiment stood guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier as the first heavy bands of rain from Hurricane Sandy moved across the Washington, D.C. area.

"The tomb," they write, "has been guarded continuously since 1948."

Back in 2011, during Hurricane Irene, the Old Guard stood watch over the tomb. As Mark reminded us at that time, "there is a shelter the soldiers could use, but they have consistently declined to do so."

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