The Old Guard extends community outreach to Vatican City

Story by: Staff Sgt. Kelvin Ringold

3d U.S. Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard)

VATICAN CITY, Italy—Aside from being the face of the Army and the nation’s premiere memorial affairs and ceremonial unit, the 3d U.S. Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard) also participates in community outreach missions around the world.  For Soldiers from one specialty platoon, that mission brought them to the Vatican.

Musicians from The U.S. Army Old Guard Fife and Drum Corps, embarked on an outreach mission March 12-15, 2017, to Vatican City, Italy, in order to share their knowledge with members of The Swiss Guard.

Being in FDC for 15 years, Master Sgt. J. Mark Reilly, drum group leader, headed the trip with four other members, and further explained the purpose of their visit.

“[We wanted] to steward the military music profession by connecting with the Old Guard’s military musical counterparts around the world,” said Reilly.

Reilly has an extensive background in music and outreach opportunities like this are something he values greatly.

“I have been blessed and fortunate enough to have presented and spoken in several countries on the topics of military music history, drumming techniques, leadership and team building,” said Reilly.

Once the musicians arrived at the Vatican, they worked with the Swiss Guard on some of the traditional fife and drum music like the American classic, “The Connecticut Halftime.”

“Connecticut Halftime” is an interesting drum piece, because it matches really well with a plethora of different fife tunes,” explained Staff Sgt. Kara Loyal, fife player. “Staff Sgt. Barone and I were able to play some very traditional American fife songs, such as “Brandywine” and “The White Cockade,” both of which the FDC have performed in the past.”

As they taught their counterparts American fife and drum music techniques, the musicians would also take the opportunity to learn from the Swiss Guard’s culture as well.

“We were exposed to an exorbitant amount of history,” said Reilly. “The firing and drumming tradition that we celebrate here in the United States is intimately connected to the fife and drum culture of the Swiss and therefore the Swiss Guard. We were shown the Arms Room where suits of armor, weapons and instruments, some of which dates back over 400 years, were held.”

“The most amazing [thing] I learned from the Swiss Guard was the incredible sense of reverence in being a member of their unit,” added Reilly. “It was quite humbling.”

The musicians also got to meet Pope Francis which was an experience all its own.

“A little unreal, actually,” exclaimed Loyal. “After the Mass is when we were able to meet him, and he was so humble and unassuming. He took the time to greet as many people as he could, and the audience was so appreciative.”

After another successful community outreach venture, the musicians are now better able to reflect on the experience.

“The professional development and relationship building that took place during this trip afforded our Soldiers with a unique perspective on the Fife and Drum Corps’ role in American history. Furthermore, highlighting the importance of honoring our national musical heritage.”

Chances like this are something Loyal could have never imagined when she first started out in FDC.


Members from The U.S. Old Guard Fife and Drum Corps take a picture with Pope Francis at St. Peters Square, Rome, March 13, 2017. The musicians were on leave and volunteered to work with the Swiss Guard at the Vatican. (U.S. Army photos by Master Sergeant J. Mark Reilly)


Members from The U.S. Army Old Guard Fife and Drum Corps present Pope Francis of the Roman Catholic Church, a TOG Cockade at St. Peter’s Square, Rome, March 13, 2017. The musicians were on leave and volunteered to work with the Swiss Guard. (U.S. Army photos by Master Sergeant J. Mark Reilly)

“When I was growing up as a small fife player, I had no dreams or ideas of the opportunities that music would afford to me,” explained Loyal. “Because of the FDC, the music and other musicians with the same kind of drive, I’ve had some truly unbelievable experiences. I believe this is why it’s so important to continue to pass this music to the next generation.”

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