On Veterans Day
in 1921, the body of an unidentified
American soldier killed in France during World War I
was laid to rest in Arlington National Cemetery
, in accordance with Public Resolution 67 of the 66th Congress
. The first military
guard was posted at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier
in late March of 1926, and in early July of 1937 the guard became a twenty-four hour watch. Since 1948, the all-weather watch has been the responsibility of the Third United States
Infantry, headquartered at Fort Myer
After becoming qualified members of the 3rd U.S. Infantry, soldiers may volunteer for duty as sentinels. There are strict requirements to earn a position in Company E, the Old Guard: each soldier must be in top physical condition and have no negative marks on his or her military record, and must be between 5'10" and 6'4" in height with a proportionate weight and build. An interview and two-week trial is conducted to determine if a volunteer may begin training as a tomb guard. During the two-week trial period, volunteers must memorize seven pages of the Cemetery's history and be able to recite it verbatim.
After the first phase of training, "new soldier" training begins and individuals must study a more intensive history of the Cemetery - including the locations of more than 300 veterans' graves. They also learn the process of the changing of the guard ceremony and how to keep their uniform and equipment in peak condition. The new sentinels are given a Badge Test covering manual of arms, uniform preparation, and walks; there are 100 questions on the exam and a passing score is 95% correct. If a sentinel passes the test, they receive the silver Tomb Guard Identification Badge as a temporary award. After nine months of service at the Tomb, they may wear the award permanently for the rest of their military career.
There are three reliefs at the Tomb, each with one relief commander and about six sentinels; reliefs are divided by height so each ceremony will appear similar. The Tomb Guard Quarters are staffed using a rotating Kelly system: one day on duty, one day off duty, another day on, another day off, one day on, and four days off.