Manning The Rails

Manning The Rail
L/Cpl Belleau, Sgt. Hubbard, Cpl Kowolski, L/Cpl Williamson, Staff Sgt. Garza
01 Forward, Color Guard, 1980  

Manning The Rails in modern time is a ceremonial display of the ship's company and our nation's colors when entering a foreign port or entering the ship's homeport upon the completion of a long deployment. Sailors and Marines line up at specific intervals along the rails (the edges of the weather decks) and the superstructure of a ship. MarDet's post for manning the rails on CGN-9 was 01 forward, which was the upper Terrier launch pad. A Color Guard was placed forward and center, facing the oncoming destination while Marines lined up port and starboard normally in Dress Blues. MarDet was issued Dress Whites in late 1979 with the advent of the Silent Drill Team and were used for this duty in that time period.

manning the yardToday's manning the rails evolved from a centuries old tradition back in the days when ships were driven by the wind. Sailors would "man the yards" (where the spars held the sails) at even intervals to give 3 cheers to someone being honored. Later, manning the rails became a message to the people of a port that the ship was approaching with no ill will. Logically, if all hands were on deck it was easy to see from a distance no one was manning the guns. Another signal of non-hostility that came to be used was firing the gun(s) as the ship approached the port to show the guns were not loaded. Which was the beginning of gun salutes.

Interestingly enough... What we called "manning the rails" wasn't actually manning the rails according to the United States Navy Basic Military Requirements book. In chapter 9 page 9 under "Honors" we read, "Passing honors for the President of the United States and for rulers of foreign nations include manning the rail. Manning the rail consists of the ship's company lining up at regular intervals along all weather deck rails. Normal saluting procedures are followed. Having the crew at quarters when the ship is entering or leaving port is a less formal ceremony than manning the rail. The crew is paraded at quarters on ceremonial occasions, such as--
  • When the ship is entering or leaving U.S. ports at times other than operational visits.
  • When the ship is visiting foreign ports, or
  • When the ship is departing for or returning from extended deployments, and other special occasions as determined by a superior. When the ship is entering or leaving U.S. ports on operational visits or home port on local operations, the normal procedure is to parade only an honor guard.
Manning the rails was not a desired duty. Standing in one spot for hours as the ship made its way into or out of a port. As explained by Dan The Navy Man on his blog in this article, Deja vu While Manning The Rails.
                                                                                             -- Be Advised! Raw Language Warning! --

More pictures may be posted as they become available
Marine Detachment CGN9