NEWS | Jan. 17, 2024

Joint Armed Forces Color Guard Takes the Field

By Hannah Frenchick JTF-NCR/MDW

The smells of charcoal on the grill and freshly fallen rain wafted through the parking lot as 11 service members made their way to the NRG Stadium entrance, equipment in hand.

The sounds of fans yelling “Go Blue” or “Go Huskies” echoed as fans tailgated and prepared for kickoff of college football’s grand finale. While fans of the University of Michigan and University of Washington were there for the game, the service members arrived to complete their one mission – presenting the nation’s colors.

That was the mission of the Joint Armed Forces Color Guard and drummers from The U.S. Army Band “Pershing’s Own” as they made their return to the field at the 2024 College Football Playoff National Championship game on January 8, 2024, in Houston, Texas.

“Traveling to a sports function is kind of high visibility, which is one of the main facets of our job,” said Spc. 4 Nicolas Ames, a Guardian serving in the U.S. Space Force Honor Guard.

“Being where people can see us and trying to promote patriotism and esprit de corps among not only the veterans but those who are serving [and] the next generations who will go after us – as well as for people who have never served.”

It was the JAFCG’s second consecutive appearance at the College Football Playoff Championship, making their debut at last year’s final.

“It's a great way to reach out to the community and to show what the military is all about,” said Marine Sgt. Steven Sexton, a member of the color guard assigned to Marine Barracks – Washington.

The trip to Houston marked a homecoming for another member of the JAFCG.

“I'm happy to be back in Texas,” said Army Sgt. Francisco Ramon, from Floresville, Texas. “I am really enjoying seeing the sights and the good food that I missed in Texas.”

“It's been really great kind of getting a little piece of home after being away for three years.”

While Ramon, a Soldier in the Continental Color Guard Platoon, 3d U.S. Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard), made his return to Texas, other members of the JAFCG found a piece of home on the mission, too.

“A lot of people would be jealous of me back home,” said Sexton, hailing from Mattawan, Michigan. “Especially because I know a lot of people who have gone to the school or are big Michigan fans.”

“It’s a great honor to be here and to represent the Marine Corps,” he said.

The competition on the field is like the competition between the branches of the military; it is steeped in respect.

“Getting to work with people from places like Michigan and Texas is a real treat,” said Ames, from Shelton, Washington. “You make a lot of good friends, longtime friends. There is a lot of competition, just like between Michigan and the Huskies tonight. Same thing in the branches.”

In addition to their pregame responsibilities at NRG Stadium, the service members also took time to meet with students from the Houston Independent School District and Humble Independent School District. The visit included a color guard demonstration, a question-and-answer session, and a small group session to work with the schools’ Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps color guards.

“I really enjoy going to schools and talking to the students,” said Sexton. “It's important to reach out to the next generation to see what their plans are in life and to see what the Marine Corps or the other branches can offer.”

Ramon, while not from Houston, found it easy to connect with the students because of their common ground – being from Texas.

“It's a lot easier to connect for me,” said Ramon. “Of course, I'm not originally from Houston, I’m from San Antonio. But there's always that connection of ‘we both grew up in Texas’. That's our home state.”

This event gave the service members a chance to talk about their experiences, jobs, and benefits the military has provided them. It also gave the students a chance to ask questions.

“It's important that we have an outreach with everyone in our surrounding area because a lot of people don't really get to interact with the military as much as you would think,” said Ramon.

“There might be some misconceptions about us and our job and what we do. Maybe they thought this was the last option and we're here to address those stigmas and say this wasn't our last option. This was an option to better ourselves and our future.”

The Marine Corps has opened many doors for Sexton by providing opportunities to attend events like the national championship game. He said he wanted kids to understand no matter how scary something might seem, don’t pass up an opportunity when it comes your way.

“In the Marine Corps, I've had so many opportunities and I don't want those opportunities passing me by,” said Sexton. “For me when reaching out to these kids, it's important for them to understand that whenever something comes their way, take advantage of it, latch on to those opportunities and make the most of it.”

He said it’s okay to be afraid of uncertainty.

“But ultimately, if you don't take that leap, you're never going to get to where you could potentially be.”

Before the game that meant standing in front of more than 72,000 people in attendance, and over 28 million viewers at home, proudly representing the Armed Forces and our Nation.

For members of the JAFCG, who routinely perform all around the world, each mission is important. For Ames, the ones across the United States just mean a little bit more.

“I think the missions here in the U.S. kind of remind people of what we do and why we do it,” said Ames. “Good times and bad times, no matter what you believe, we're all Americans.”

“If you ask any of the service members here, we come from all walks of life, all creeds, colors, and religious backgrounds, but we all have that ‘one team, one fight’ mentality.”

For more information on the Joint Army Forces Color Guard and how you can apply, visit or