If you’re former or current military this flag refers to your company, squadron, or unit guidon. 

First Sgt. McMillan and an unidentified soldier who is holding the 501st MP guidon.

The definition found on the internet identifies the word “guidon” as a noun, and is a pennant that narrows to a point or fork at the free end. Sometimes we have two points, or no point at all.

The basic idea has been around for a long time.  Certainly a case could be made that the Roman Legions used them or at least something similar. And the concept probably goes even further back than that.

But today’s guidon we use in the military goes back to flags used by Cavalry units in Europe. We started seeing it here around the time of the Civil War and then became a mainstay of the American Frontier.

What it does have is serve as something to identify the type of unit and to provide a identification point for soldiers in the unit. Since I was an MP, our guidon had the crossed pistols of the MP Corps. Infantry has crossed rifles, and Cav has crossed sabers. Someplace, the name of the unit would be on it as well. Often times, there’s two guidons. One which is outside the company area, and then one inside. The one outside goes on the runs with the company, and into the field. The one inside is for decoration and special events (change of command, promotion ceremonies, and so one), and it almost always has a variety of streamers on it. These streamers represent battles and campaigns the unit has been in. My old unit, 1st MPs, has or rather had (the unit has been disbanded) a streamer for the Normandy invasion. They weren’t supposed to get it. Had everything gone according to schedule, the beachhead would have been secured when they came ashore. As it was, it wasn’t secure, and the MPs had to fight their way off the beach along with everyone else. Since the beachhead was far from secure and they took a hand in the actual fighting, the company got the Normandy streamer.

The guidon has always served as a rallying point for soldiers assigned to a unit. In a crowd,

The function of a guidon, to help you find your unit. Note ours in about the center of the picture. Cpl. Eric (Mac) McCartor is soldier closest to the camera.

all you have to do is look for it, and you’ve found your unit. In a run, it’s what you follow.

Being the guidon bearer almost always goes to an enlisted man (or woman) who is a bit of an athlete, and also a good soldier. You have to be athletic because in a company run, guess who’s out front. That person can’t afford to fall out of the run. Also, if the guidon bearer had a streak of majorette, flag twirler, or cheer leader in them, they could put on a show with the guidon which can be really cool to watch.

In my basic training company, we had two Guidon Bearers. One was a guy from Kansas State University. He’d been on a backup on the Olympic Team and looked like a runner. The other was a girl from the Navajo Nation in Arizona, and she didn’t look at all like a runner. But in her case, looks were deceiving. She was a superb athlete and could push the four minute mile with ease.

One of the fun things to do with the guidon was during a company run is to break formation, run up to the guidon bearer and take the guidon from him or her, then run it around the formation a time or two. You give it back to the bearer and soon someone else breaks ranks and repeats what you just did.