Last-Minute Performance Advice

Drill Team TechniqueI am consistently asked about last-minute advice whether it be for a competition the next day the next week or even the next month. Most of the time the request for advice comes a bit too late to fix any major issues.

What what a team can work on at the last minute is uniforms and haircuts, etc, but teams and individuals are really looking for ways to make improvements in in their performance right before they go to a competition. But that’s really not possible. Muscle memory is the culprit.

Muscle memory is part of what creates a great performance and, when there is poor or incorrect muscle memory, it is the problem with last-minute changes. You are most likely not going to change a certain “fault” the night before a competition, although it is possible. Repetition with the new technique to change the muscle memory is the key.

Nothing replaces proper training and consistent long-tern practice to prepare for a performance.

However…

Where to Concentrate


The Mistake
. Make sure that everyone on the team looks like they know what they are doing 100% of the time. Every answer to a question and every movement while marching the regulation, color guard, and exhibition routines must have a look of complete knowledge and authority. If not, the judges will see the kink in the armor and start looking deeper. Did a team member make a mistake? Odds are that if he or she did not “broadcast” the mistake, no one noticed it.

Warm up. Going into a performance, especially an armed solo,

Focus. Leave out everything else. Concentrate on what you are doing right here, right now.

Envision your Performance. Close your eyes and see yourself going through the performance. Click here to read The Seven Parts of an Exhibition Drill Routine. Go through each segment and picture how you are performing.

Release Tension. Put your energy into positive Focus.

Have a plan. Ultimately, being prepared is best, but there are some things that one can do.

Tuck Your Gloves! But, In Your Epaulet?

OK, this is a hotel doorman, but you get the idea here. Courtesy of alamy.com

Some may find this innocuous, but (first responder) ceremonial guardsmen need to maintain a professional image when in uniform before, during and after a ceremony. Any other time that we are out of uniform, dress is most likely not an issue.

For us in the military, it’s a big no-no to tuck gloves into an epaulet. That’s not where they belong (on your hands, in your left hand or put away somewhere).
When I was on the Base Honor Guard at Davis-Monthan AFB in Tuscon, AZ many years ago, my team and I had the distinct pleasure of escorting President Reagan for a visit. When we were finished, he took the time to shake each of our hands for an official picture, but what were we to do with out gloves? Our Lt made the quick command decision to have us all tuck the pair into the bottom of our ceremonial belts. When the pictures were finished, we pulled out the gloves from our belts and carried them in the left hand until we were back at our transportation where we could put them away.
What does this all mean for you? You’re organization is not the military, but you wear a uniform and are a paramilitary organization which means you also have certain standards to uphold. Sloppiness is in the eye of the beholder, but I do agree that gloves on the shoulder do not present a professional image and should not be practiced at all.
Am I able to point you in the direction of a rule that says “Do not tuck your gloves into an epaulet on your uniform after you are finished wearing them”? No, I’m not. What I suggest is for your organization to create uniform wear guidelines, an SOP (Standard Operating Procedure), if you haven’t already, that specifically addresses your concerns for the members of your unit and then stricter guidelines for the honor guard members.
Shaking hands with while wearing gloves is inappropriate and wearing them after a ceremony is not a good idea, but where can gloves go? In the uniform cover (hat), in your left hand or out of site under the blouse tucked into the uniform belt. All until everyone can get back to their transportation and put them away.

The Colors Reverse How-to

This is for Army and Air Force. For the Colors Counter March (Marine Corps, Navy and Coast Guard), Click here.

We can read in the Army Training Circular how to execute the move and even see the provided diagram, but it sometimes really helps to see exactly what the feet do. To begin, here is what the Colors Reverse* does:

*Called Counter March in the Marine Corps, Navy, and Coast Guard

Now, let’s look at the feet:

The command is given from the halt, while marching or marking time. If given while marching, the command is on two consecutive left steps.

During the movement, the team’s steps will not be exactly half or whole, they will be just a little less to make proper distance and alignment.

ALL STEPS ARE AT THE SAME PACE FOR YOUR SERVICE!

Whether you are marching forward at a full step, half step or marching in place, DO NOT SPEED UP, maintain the same tempo all of the time.

NOTE: If you have to take extra steps, that is acceptable!

TECHNIQUE FROM THE HALT

  • RRG- Right Rifle Guard
  • US- US Color Bearer
  • AZ- Arizona Color Bearer
  • LRG- Left Rifle Guard

For the Right Rifle Guard

The RRG takes steps on the outside of the team, LRG moves inside these footprints. The steps that lead from the team, should be just large enough to bring the guard on the outside of the AZ and LRG and no farther or you will take forever to make it back to the team. Make your steps as equally spaced as possible for all three sets of steps (from, across, and to the team), but do not make all of your steps equal- only within each set. Begin Mark Time when you get in place.

For the US Bearer

The US Color Bearer, in place(!), executes a Left Face-in-March (not facing movements!), take two steps to move into the place where the AZ Bearer stood, executes a Right Flank-in-Place*, and begins marking time.

*There really isn’t a term such as that, I just made it up to illustrate that you do not move forward on this flank.

For the AZ Bearer

The AZ Color Bearer takes a half step forward, flanks, takes two almost half steps, flanks, takes a step forward and then takes up Mark Time.

For the Left Rifle Guard

LRG does the same thing as the AZ Color Bearer following right behind and then taking two more steps, a flank and a step forward, and then begin Mark Time.

TECHNIQUE WHILE MARCHING

Take the above information and put it into this setting: Colors Reverse, MARCH, is called on two consecutive left steps (Counter March, MARCH ends on the left foot in the Marine Corps style).

The First Right Step: US Bearer executes an immediate Right Flank, takes one step forward into the AZ bearer’s position and begins marking time while turning 90-degrees in place to the left.

The Next Left Step: AZ Bearer and LRG execute a Left Flank, march across, and flank into their positions, just like the technique outlined above in the From the Halt section.

The Next Right Step: RRG executes a Right Flank, takes one step forward, marches across, and and flanks into position, just like the technique outlined above in the From the Halt section.

And finally, the image from the Army Training Circular for the four-man color guard.

Washington DC Cherry Blossom Festival- Joint Service Drill Exhibition

 

2017 Joint Service Drill Exhibition is on April 8, 2017!

HistoryThe Marine Corps won the first competition years ago when it was held inside a shopping center. You can see brief videos of that on YouTube. There was a long hiatus and the competition started back up, this time in front of the Jefferson Memorial. The JSDE is now held at the Lincoln Memorial.

Drill team training and motivation
Drill team training and motivation

Exhibition? What happened to the Competition?
Wasn’t it called the Joint Service Drill Competition? It was. The last JSDC, which I judged, was in 2011 and the Air Force was the winner- by a hair. Why the change? Fairness. The Marine Corps and Army have had their separate drill teams in one platoon and the members of those platoons have had their specific job of perfecting the routine. The Air Force eventually created a flight that does the same thing. I’m not completely informed as to the Navy’s team, but they probably have a platoon that is only for drill. That leaves the Coast Guard. They will never be able to win- that is not a statement that should in any way be associated with the CG’s team being poor. It is not. I am thrilled to watch all of the team’s performances every year ad love to watch the Coast Guard’s team. Why won’t they win? They are the smallest honor guard and are unable to have honor guard members totally dedicated to the drill team. All of the Coast Guard honor guard members must master every element of the honor guard: Colors, Pall Bearers and Firing Party. They all can switch around as needed so most of their time is spent practicing all of their duty related tasks, drill team is extra. Those who are on the drill team put in extra hours- and do a great job, mind you- but the routine must be kept relatively simple. The other teams that have dedicated honor guard members can create complex routines that “wow” the crowd and while the Coast Guard drill team still “wows” crowds with their performances, their routine, when viewed through a judges lens of Overall Effect, Composition Analysis, Equipment and Movement is unable- on purpose- to be as complex and still have the excellent execution that we see in the other service honor guard teams.

So, instead of handing the trophy back and forth between the Air Force and the Army, with the Marines getting in there every few years, we can go and watch and appreciate all of the performances since, in reality, they are winners just because they get up every morning, put on a perfect uniform, honor our country’s war dead and heads of state and then go off to practice drill.

joint service drill exhibition, joint service drill competition, cherry blossom festival, drill competition

Exhibition Color Guard? Consensus Says it’s OK!

Firefighter Color Guard Axes at Right Shoulder
DrillMaster Honor Guard Academy Graduation Chino Valley Fire 2016 Firefighter Color Guard Axes at Right Shoulder

I cannot even bring myself to insert a picture of a color guard performing exhibition moves. Instead, here is an awesome firefighter color guard, the members of which were trained by yours truly.

Reference: Training Circular 3-21.5; Marine Corps Order P5060.20; AF Manual 36-2203; The Honor Guard Manual

I have heard from several cadets that their color guard has performed exhibition moves while presenting the colors for many VIPs and everyone seemed to be OK with it since the cadets did not hear of any negative feedback. It looks as though we do not need to follow service regulations, instructions, and manuals after all. We just need to decide which ones are not necessary to follow and which ones are.

It’s not about us, it’s about rendering proper respect and honor to the flag.

Or, we could consider an issue with which everyone in each of the armed services is quite familiar. Standards. Let’s consider something innocuous, underwear. When an individual goes through Basic Training/Boot Camp, they are told to either roll or fold everything in their wall/foot locker to a certain size. While I don’t remember what we had to do as college cadets going through six weeks of what was then called Basic Camp, at Ft. Knox, if I remember correctly, all of the members of my flight in Basic at Lackland AFB had to fold our t-shirts and underwear into a six-inch square. Sounds silly, right? It’s not. There are two reasons why this is done: 1. To get you to conform to service requirements; 2. To get you to pay attention to tiny, seemingly insignificant details. These requirements and small details save lives, I’ll give you an example.

Standards Not Maintained
In Germany in the late 1990s, two USAF Staff Sergeants were on trial for possible negligence. They had crossed two metal pieces incorrectly in the wing of an F-15 or F-16 and that incorrect crossover caused the aircraft to crash with the pilot staying in the plane long enough to guide the aircraft away from a village and into a field. The pilot died and the villagers were spared. Inattention to detail and failure to maintain standards. Military standards are written and pictured in many regulations, pamphlets, and instructions. We need to pay attention to both the words and the pictures.

Hidden in Plain Sight (at least for some)
There is a reason one does not see, in person or in a manual, a service color guard spin rifles or do ANYTHING other than what is specifically written in a service drill and ceremonies manual or internal honor guard manual.

There is a reason one does not see, in person or in a manual, a service color guard use swords, sabers, or bayonets (the MCO does specifically bans bayonet use for a color guard).

Consensus means zero when there is a written standard.

Guidance by a negative? While we cannot fully cover what is not acceptable for a color guard, we have the guidance by a positive- what is written and pictured in the Training Circular, Marine Corps Order, and the Air Force Manual (get them here) for the military services and, The Honor Guard Manual, Second Edition, for first responders. What is written and pictured is what we are supposed to do. Period. We do not add to manuals, especially when the goal is to look “cooler”.

Look at and heed the pictures and wording in your service drill and ceremonies manual.

American First Responder Joint Service Order

Is this a “thing”? Possibly, my reasoning for the research and writing this article is to provide information that may be necessary for certain situations for American First Responders.

For the US military, we have our joint service order or military order of precedence:  Army, Marine Corps, Navy, Air Force, and Coast Guard. The order is based on the creation of the service and, in the case of the Navy, whether that service was continuous from that date.

For first responders (law enforcement, fire and EMS), there is a similar creation date here in the USA. In my research (wikipedia, unfotunately), I found the following information. Now, I understand that different agencies began in different areas at different times, my focus was on the first instance, the first paid positions in the US for that entity. If you have additional information, please let me know, I welcome it.

For joint service work, the order, in general, is: Law Enforcement, Fire, and EMS. This means that a color guard would look like this:

First Responder Joint Service Order
First Responder Joint Service Order

In the image above, you can see:

  • Right/Lead Rifle Guard- Law Enforcement Officer
  • US Flag Bearer- Law Enforcement Officer
  • State Flag Bearer- Law Enforcement Officer or Firefighter
    • In the military joint service color guard, pictured below, the Army has the honor of right rifle guard, carrying the American flag and then the Army flag and then each service flag after that. A state or other flag is never carried. So, my suggestion is to share the wealth, so to speak, for this position.
  • Law Enforcement Flag Bearer- Law Enforcement Officer
  • Firefighter Flag Bearer-  Firefighter
  • EMS Flag Bearer- EMS
  • Left/Trail Axe Guard- Firefighter
Military Joint Service Colors Order
Military Joint Service Colors Order

Here are the dates of inception that I found.

Law Enforcement

  • The first Sheriff, 1626 in NY
  • The first Police 1751 in various cities
  • Marshal 1789 establishment of other federal police (Parks, Mint, etc.) followed
  • Border Patrol, 1924

Firefighting

While people have been fighting fires on their own or with neighbors since there has been things to protect, I found that the first paid firefighters came into existence in 1678. Having said that, I do not want this to be contentious as far as volunteers and paid firefighters.

Emergency Medical Service

The first EMS service came into existence in 1865.

 

Firefighter Uniform for the Funeral Procession

I constantly receive questions on here my website and on my social media accounts. I also belong to a couple of Facebook first responder groups where drill and ceremonies and honor guard questions are posted from time-to-time. For some questions, I just read the responses and learn; for others, I am able to share my knowledge. This one was a great question where I added a little information, but really just sat back, read, and learned.

In the group, Elmhurst [IL] Honor Guard Academy, firefighter Todd Kirkpatrick asked this great question: I’m looking for information and/or opinions regarding appropriate dress for on-duty personnel. Our fire department will be positioned along the procession route for a fallen police officer. We are not part of the processional, but want to pay our respects to the fallen officer. A few of the members are insistent on wearing turnout coats with helmet. They are stating the cold weather makes it appropriate and we are on duty anyway.

I feel wearing our dirty turnout gear is somewhat disrespectful when it would be just as easy to wear our duty shirts (button down shirt with a badge) and our duty jackets (yellow reflective squad jackets) along with our dress caps. My department is full-time with nine personnel on duty that day. We are firefighters and paramedics with 82% of our calls being EMS, so it’s not like we are likely to get called to a fire during this time.

My Facebook friend and firefighter, Glen Busch, had this excellent answer: There is nothing cut and dry however Turnout gear is work wear. it was designed for the mud of WWI Trenches originally. That being said not everyone has good quality Class “B” uniform much less class “A”. Personal preference especially for a memorial wear your duty uniform. Cap and Tie if possible would also be appropriate. And don’t forget to clean off your boots/shoes.

Firefighter Bryan Downie added, I was on duty a few miles east of Todd for the same procession. I’m also the Deputy Commander of our honor guard. One thing that I feel needs to be factored into the equation is weather. That particular day was extremely cold with steady winds. Our on duty crews wore turnout coats, helmets and fire gloves.

DrillMaster. The military requires headgear for rendering a salute (except for the Army and AF indoors) because all uniforms require headgear and since not all firefighter uniforms require headgear, requiring a salute only while wearing headgear (not that that is what you wrote), would require a last minute headgear/uniform scramble when, honestly, everyone just wants to show their respects.

Todd. The shift OIC ended up having both on and off duty personnel wear turnout coats, helmets and firefighting gloves. Looked very “uniform”. But in my opinion not appropriate or professional for a line of duty death.

My thoughts on the pictures of the firefighters is that they look absolutely wonderful! While firefighters understand much more what this uniform is all about and that it may not be a very good “ceremonial representation”, It looks to be the perfect way to pay respects to a fallen officer and, much more importantly, the officer’s family- what they saw was a great deal of respect being given to their loved one. It was awesome.

Training and Education for Drill Teams and Honor Guard Units

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