Excellence is More Than “Clean”

“Clean” has many different definitions. In visual terms, however, we use it to mean, “having no needed corrections; easily readable”.

WHOA! what is this “easily readable” stuff, are we are talking about drill teams? Yes, drill teams are a part of the visual performance family. This family includes, dance, marching band, step, etc. Click here for my article explaining Readability.

See this article, The Difference between Accuracy and Precision. Accuracy: the quality or state of being correct, and, Precision: the quality, condition, or fact of being exact.

Excellence: the quality of being outstanding or extremely good.

More than just the absence of error
You will notice how there are timing and technique issues, but the audience is always mesmerized and fully appreciative of the drill team’s performances, no matter what service team performs. The military service drill teams strive for audience engagement. The way you can tell is the constant use (all of the service drill teams do this) of the basic manual with slight adaptations and very little advanced exhibition rifle manual. In fact, the teams usually pick 2 or 4 soloists that have a more advanced and wider vocabulary with the rest of the team using the adapted manual.

Striving for excellence motivates you; striving for perfection is demoralizing.

Harriet B. Braiker

JROTC Cadets May Not Wear Service Uniform Items

AFHG Cover

UPDATE: AFJROTC cadets may wear the Hap Arnold, Wing and Star cap device only if the unit has written permission from HG AFJROTC. Individual cadets may not wear the device, but special teams may with the written permission. For more on seeking permission, read the article, New AFJROTC Drill Team Uniform Policy.

JROTC Cadets May Not Wear ANY Service Uniform Items. Cadets in JROTC are not in the military.

A few Air Force JROTC cadets created a little stir in the Military Drill World a little while ago when a friend of mine and I discovered pictures on Instagram and Facebook showing cadets wearing uniforms items that are solely for military service members. What began with Air Force and even Army JROTC cadets wearing the AF Base Honor Guard Badge continued with cadets wearing the Hap Arnold, Wing and Star cap device and other cap devices. Rest assured, those instances were taken care of by a colleague of mine at HQ AFJROTC.

Army JROTC, Marine Corps JROTC, Navy JROTC, and even Coast Guard CPJLP cadets all have guidance on the authorized accouterments for your specific uniform. Find those guidelines (listed here) and follow them. Ignorance is unacceptable. Please remember: Federal law imposes certain restrictions on wearing a military uniform.

For AFJROTC cadets, here is the information that you need to know:

AFJROTC Consolidated Operational Supplement, August 1, 2015, 7.6.8: Badges or insignia from Active Duty, Guard, Reserve, or any other non- AFJROTC group are not authorized on the AFJROTC uniform.

What is authorized? Here is a picture showing the proper device (picture from supplyroom.com).

AFJROTC Cap Device


Thanks to MSgt Lee Messina for the uniform guidance quote.

Service Core Values and You


Each Service several years ago began codifying what the service stands for and what standards the service members needed to uphold. Even if you are a first-year JROTC cadet, you need to take on these standards and make them your own. It will be so beneficial for you right away and in the long term.

Don’t follow the ways of all of the junk broadcast on TV and in movies. Set standards and maintain them. You can also go a step beyond that and exceed the standards.

In service order:

Army Pall Bearers_200x280US Army (LDRSHIP)

  1. Loyalty – Bear true faith and allegiance to the U.S. Constitution, the Army, your unit and other Soldiers.
  2. Duty – Fulfill your obligations.
  3. Respect – Treat people as they should be treated.
  4. Selfless Service – Put the welfare of the nation, the Army, and your subordinates before your own.
  5. Honor – Live up to all the Army values.
  6. Integrity – Do what’s right, legally and morally.
  7. Personal Courage – Face fear, danger, or adversity [physical or moral].

US Marine Corps

  • Marine ColorsHonor This is the bedrock of our character. It is the quality that empowers Marines to exemplify the ultimate in ethical and moral behavior: to never lie, cheat, or steal; to abide by an uncompromising code of integrity; to respect human dignity; and to have respect and concern for each other. It represents the maturity, dedication, trust, and dependability that commit Marines to act responsibly, be accountable for their actions, fulfill their obligations, and hold others accountable for their actions.
  • Courage The heart of our Core Values, courage is the mental, moral, and physical strength ingrained in Marines that sees them through the challenges of combat and the mastery of fear, and to do what is right, to adhere to a higher standard of personal conduct, to lead by example, and to make tough decisions under stress and pressure. It is the inner strength that enables a Marine to take that extra step.
  • Commitment This is the spirit of determination and dedication within members of a force of arms that leads to professionalism and mastery of the art of war. It promotes the highest order of discipline for unit and self and is the ingredient that instills dedication to Corps and country 24 hours a day, pride, concern for others, and an unrelenting determination to achieve a standard of excellence in every endeavor. Commitment is the value that establishes the Marine as the warrior and citizen others strive to emulate.

US Navy


  • Navy Honor Guard from FlikrI am accountable for my professional and personal behavior. I will be mindful of the privilege I have to serve my fellow Americans. I will:
  • Abide by an uncompromising code of integrity, taking full responsibility for my actions and keeping my word.
  • Conduct myself in the highest ethical manner in relationships with seniors, peers and subordinates.
  • Be honest and truthful in my dealings within and outside the Department ofthe Navy.
  • Make honest recommendations to my seniors and peers and seek honest recommendations from junior personnel.
  • Encourage new ideas and deliver bad news forthrightly.
  • Fulfill my legal and ethical responsibilities in my public and personal life.


  • Courage is the value that gives me the moral and mental strength to do what is right, with confidence and resolution, even in the face of temptation or adversity. I will:
  • Have the courage to meet the demands of my profession.
  • Make decisions and act in the best interest of the Department of the Navy and the nation, without regard to personal consequences.
  • Overcome all challenges while adhering to the highest standards of personal conduct and decency.
  • Be loyal to my nation by ensuring the resources entrusted to me are used in an honest, careful and efficient way.


  • The day-to-day duty of every man and woman in the Department of the Navy is to join together as a team to improve the quality of our work, our people and ourselves. I will:
  • Foster respect up and down the chain of command.
  • Care for the personal and spiritual well-being of my people.
  • Show respect toward all people without regard to race, religion or gender.
  • Always strive for positive change and personal improvement.
  • Exhibit the highest degree of moral character, professional excellence, quality, and competence in all that I do.

US Air Force


911 Airlift Wing Res in PA flag on leftThe Airman is a person of integrity, courage and conviction.

Integrity is a character trait. It is the willingness to do what is right even when no one is looking. It is the moral compass, the inner voice, the voice of self-control and the basis for the trust imperative in today’s military.

Integrity is the ability to hold together and properly regulate all of the elements of a personality. A person of integrity, for example, is capable of acting on conviction. A person of integrity can control impulses and appetites.

But integrity also covers several other moral traits indispensable to national service.

A person of integrity possesses moral courage and does what is right even if the personal cost is high.

Honesty is the hallmark of the military professional because, in the military, our word must be our bond. We don’t pencil-whip training reports, we don’t cover up tech data violations, we don’t falsify documents and we don’t write misleading operational readiness messages. The bottom line is: We don’t lie, and we can’t justify any deviation.

No person of integrity is irresponsible; a person of true integrity acknowledges his/her duties and acts accordingly.

No person of integrity tries to shift the blame to others or take credit for the work of others. “The buck stops here” says it best.

A person of integrity practices justice. Those who do similar things must get similar rewards or similar punishments.

Professionals of integrity encourage a free flow of information within the organization. They seek feedback from all directions to ensure they are fulfilling key responsibilities, and they are never afraid to allow anyone at any time to examine how they do business.

To have integrity is also to respect oneself as a professional and a human being. A person of integrity does not behave in ways that would bring discredit upon himself/herself or the organization to which he/she belongs.

A person of integrity grasps and is sobered by the awesome task of defending the Constitution of the United States of America.


An Airman’s professional duties always take precedence over personal desires.

Service before self tells us that professional duties take precedence over personal desires. At the very least, it includes the following behaviors:

To serve is to do one’s duty, and our duties are most commonly expressed through rules. While it may be the case that professionals are expected to exercise judgment in the performance of their duties, good professionals understand that rules have a reason for being – and the default position must be to follow those rules unless there is a clear, operational reason for refusing to do so.

Service before self, tells us also that a good leader places the troops ahead of his/her personal comfort. We must always act in the certain knowledge that all persons possess a fundamental worth as human beings.

Professionals cannot indulge themselves in self-pity, discouragement, anger, frustration or defeatism. They have a fundamental moral obligation to the persons they lead to strike a tone of confidence and forward-looking optimism. More specifically, they are expected to exercise control in the following areas:

Military professionals and especially commanders at all echelons are expected to refrain from displays of anger that would bring discredit upon themselves and/or the Air Force.

Those who allow their appetites to drive them to make sexual overtures to subordinates are unfit for military service. Likewise, the excessive consumption of alcohol casts doubt on an individual’s fitness.

Religious toleration
Military professionals must remember that religious choice is a matter of individual conscience. Professionals – and especially commanders – must not take it upon themselves to change or coercively influence the religious views of subordinates.


Every American Airman strives for continual improvement in self and service.

Excellence in all we do directs us to develop a sustained passion for continuous improvement and innovation that will propel the Air Force into a long-term, upward spiral of accomplishment and performance.

We must focus on providing services and generating products that fully respond to customer wants and anticipate customer needs, and we must do so within the boundaries established by the tax-paying public.

Military professionals must seek out and complete professional military education, stay in physical and mental shape and continue to refresh their general educational backgrounds.

Community excellence is achieved when the members of an organization can work together to successfully reach a common goal in an atmosphere that is free from fear and that preserves individual self-worth. Some of the factors influencing interpersonal excellence are:

Mutual respect
Genuine respect involves viewing another person as an individual of fundamental worth. Obviously, this means that a person is never judged on the basis of his/her possession of an attribute that places him/her in some racial, ethnic, economic or gender-based category.

Benefit of the doubt
Working hand in glove with mutual respect is that attitude that says all coworkers are innocent until proven guilty. Before rushing to judgment about a person or his/her behavior, it is important to have the whole story.

Excellence in all we do also demands that we aggressively implement policies to ensure the best possible cradle-to-grave management of resources.

Material resources excellence
Military professionals have an obligation to ensure that all of the equipment and property they ask for is mission essential. This means that residual funds at the end of the year should not be used to purchase “nice to have” add-ons.

Human resources excellence
Human resources excellence means that we recruit, train, promote and retain those who can do the best job for us.

There are two kinds of operations excellence: internal and external.

Excellence of internal operations
This form of excellence pertains to the way we do business internal to the Air Force from the unit level to Air Force Headquarters. It involves respect on the unit level and a total commitment to maximizing the Air Force team effort.

Excellence of external operations
This form of excellence pertains to the way in which we treat the world around us as we conduct our operations. In peacetime, for example, we must be sensitive to the rules governing environmental pollution, and in wartime we are required to obey the laws of war.

The Coast Guard Honor Guard stands in formation before the beginning of the Coast Guard's Veteran's Day wreathlaying ceremony at Arlington National Cemetary.  USCG photo by PA1 Adam EggersUS Coast Guard

  • Honor

Integrity is our standard. We demonstrate uncompromising ethical conduct and moral behavior in all of our personal actions. We are loyal and accountable to the public trust.

  • Respect

We value our diverse work force. We treat each other with fairness, dignity, and compassion. We encourage individual opportunity and growth. We encourage creativity through empowerment. We work as a team.

  • Devotion to Duty

We are professionals, military and civilian, who seek responsibility, accept accountability, and are committed to the successful achievement of our organizational goals. We exist to serve. We serve with pride.


An Embarrassing Color Guard Performance

I created this article for two reasons:

  1. Help deflect questions that usually arise and come my way. The questions go something like this: “Can we do this/[is this proper] for our color guard?”
  2. Communicate to everyone, even Active Duty, Guard, Reserve, law enforcement, and firefighters that what you do is usually caught on camera and/or video and affects others in some way and that is communicating that ‘they must know what they are doing, so we can do it too’.

I am not writing this to lambast anyone. It’s all about educating. Bad Navy Colors2I reposted the picture at right on my Instagram page from the Yankees baseball team page. In the comments of that picture on my account, you can read comments from an individual who tears into me for pointing out the huge mistakes saying that I should “punish in private, etc.”. While that is a great rule to follow, there are dozens of JROTC cadets and even members of the military who ask me questions all the time about pictures just like this. See Reason 1, at the top.

Yogi Berra just passed (25 Sep 15) and the team paid their respects having a Navy Reserve color team from the NOSC (Naval Operational Support Center, NYC) come to present the colors since Mr. Berra was a Sailor. It was a great ceremony and everyone can give kudos to the Sailors there to present the colors, their hearts were in the right place. However… Their technique mars the performance and heart does not come into it!

If we dissect the top picture, we see the problems:

  1. The colors are in the incorrect order
  2. The right rifle guard is at Reverse Port, which is not authorized for a color team
  3. The left rifle guard is in a different position from the other- but she is the only one who is correct!
  4. The color bearer’s left hands should be at their sides since there isn’t much of a breeze.

Bad Navy ColorsIn this next picture, courtesy of cbssports.com, we get a closer look and find even more that is wrong.

  1. The color bearers’ right-hand grips are incorrect
  2. Now both rifle guards are at Reverse Port, which is again, not authorized for a color team

How did this happen? One very plausible theory is that not one of the Sailors cracked open MCO P5060.20, the Marine Corps drill and ceremonies manual that the Navy and Coast Guard also follow. They may have been taught what to do- maybe even last-minute, buy another Sailor.

This reflects poorly on the military. During my career in the USAF, we always heard the phrase, “As an NCO*, you should [fill in the blank].” NCO is Non-Commissioned Officer which is the equivalent of PO or Petty Officer, which each of these Sailors seem to be. We can see the ranks of two PO1s and one PO2. The rifle in the second picture blocks the US color bearer’s rank.

We NCOs/POs are experts in drill and ceremonies. I get it, our day-to-day jobs probably do not allow those in today’s military to march and practice as often as we would like unless assigned to a specialized unit. Preparation and knowledge are the keys to successful performances. But, we know this already. So, these egregious mistakes in this instance are inexcusable.

Honor Guard Academies for end of 2015

DrillMaster Honor Guard AcademyThere are two (possibly three) DrillMaster Honor Guard Academies for the last quarter of CY 2015.

20140121_103431The first is a law enforcement academy, October 26-30, in Gonzales, LA. Co-hosting the event are the local police department and sheriff’s office with LEOs attending from other states. There are still five “extra” seats remaining*.


20131204_160035The second is a firefighter academy, most likely November 9-13 (that could change), in Modesto, CA. The host for this event is Modesto Fire. There are still ten “extra” seats remaining*.

If you would like to attend one of these academies or host your own, please contact me here.

*The classes are full, but all hosts and the DrillMaster want to have as many properly trained first responders as possible.

Drill Team Recruitment and Retention

Program Motivation/Incentives

“A soldier will fight long and hard for a bit of colored ribbon.”
Napoleon Bonapart

recruitingThis is the reason, among others, that we in the military have ribbons, medals, badges and other awards. The same for JROTC and all cadet and even scouting programs.

Ribbons and shoulder cords are worn on the standard uniform and help let everyone know that that cadet does something special, something above and beyond the norm. Special uniform accouterments (belts, gloves, spats, berets, etc.) help further provide a distinction from other cadets.

Leadership positions. While rank does go along with responsibility, sometimes rank must catch up to the position. Be that as it may, the most qualified should be put in as drill team and color guard commanders, assistant commanders, squad leaders, etc. Cadets must know that when someone in a leadership position speaks, everyone under that cadet needs to do as told, regardless of rank (e.g. a cadet captain is part of the drill team, but his squad leader is a cadet sergeant).

Training Positions. In the (marching band) color guard world, there are different instructors for each subsection of the guard, 1) Head Instructor; 2) Weapon Technician (rifle and saber); 3) Flag Technician; and 4) Movement Technician. For a JROTC drill team, you can have something similar.

A drill team could have a rifle tech and a movement/marching tech. while these other positions require some leadership qualities, they are mainly concerned with training cadets in their assigned specialty, ensuring standardization among the cadets and standardization over time (ensuring cadets maintain their initial training throughout the school year).

Have interested members write the drill and then design the rifle and/or body work that will be layered over the drill. They can download, print and use the DrillMaster Routine Mapping Tool to fit their needs (click here to go to the Downloads page, scroll down and you will see the tools listed there).

Use your imagination, keep the team members engaged- the sky is the limit!


The #drillstrong Online Drill Competition

drillstrongA short time ago, For the Art Clothing Company created the #drillstrong bracelet to raise funds for a friend, colleague and creator of the only civilian bladed drill team, New Guard America. One hundred percent of the profits of the bracelets is going to Constantine Wilson who was diagnosed with cancer and has been fighting it through all available natural means. Read more here.

When I saw that Andrea Bryant (FTAclothing.com) had created the bracelet and the hashtag, #drillstrong, I knew I had to jump into action and create something that would help. Live competitions are the best, but an online competition would allow more people to be

The #drillstrong Online Drill Competition (DSODC) will raise funds in its inaugural year (December 2015) for Constantine, but I want to push this even further. I want to make this an annual event that raises funds for those who may be in need in the Military Drill World. People will be able to make an application to the #drillstrong Drill Competition. All of the profits go to those in need, the first year is Constantine Wilson.  They would have to be a current member of a JROTC drill team, first responder honor guard or an independent soloist who has at least competed once independently.

I have never done anything like this before but am willing to take this on and covet your prayers about this. If you would like to be involved in the creation of the competition, please click here and send me a message.

Those interested in competing will not be donating! You will be paying for a service, your adjudication.

Under the guidance of the World Drill Association, the DSODC uses qualified visual adjudicators for each phase of the competition. The judges will assign scores and give verbal feedback during each performance in the form of a downloadable audio MP3 file.

Competition Phases
At first I thought of exhibition drill soloists and tandems, which will be a part of the competition, but there is more!

Exhibition Drill

  1. JROTC Drill Teams
  2. ROTC Dill Teams
  3. Independent Soloists and Tandems
  4. JROTC Soloists and Tandems

Ceremonial Drill

  1. Firefighter and Law Enforcement Color Team Posting the Colors
  2. Firefighter and Law Enforcement Two-Man Flag Fold
  3. Civil Air Patrol and US Naval Sea Cadets Color Team Posting the Colors

The OI/SOP will be out soon.

Kings Dominion JROTC Drill Competition 2015

KD JROTC EagleFor those JROTC units in the Maryland, DC, Virginia and North Carolina area, save October 17th as your date to attend the 2015 Kings Dominion Multi-Service Drill Competition (KDDC)!

Kings Dominion Youth Programs has partnered with The DrillMaster and the World Drill Association (WDA) to bring the only published, professional adjudication system to the field in Virginia! This is a unique opportunity to perform at Kings Dominion and receive adjudication based on the visual standards used in the pageantry arts.

Click here to go to the KDDC web page and download the 2015 SOP.  The SOP includes the score sheets, click below to download the score sheet reverses. In this first year, we will use the WDA’s Open Class standards. There are other classes with lesser or increasing standards which may be used in subsequent KDDCs. Reminder: the sheets and the information they contain are copyrighted.

Open Class Regulation Drill

Open Class Exhibition Drill

Please direct any questions about registration to Kings Dominion (youthsales@kingsdominion.com) and questions regarding specifics of the competition to The DrillMaster.

JROTC Recruitment and Fundraising

fundraisingJROTC has not had the funding available to do many things over the last 2 years and I believe that it will either remain the same or become worse over time. Therein lies two issues, 1) recruitment of cadets and, 2) funding.

A little while back, I posted on Instagram that I wanted cadets to send me their ideas on fundraising that they do at their school to help defray the costs of drill team, color guard, etc. and some of the ideas spilled over into how to recruit students into the corps. Some of the ideas I already had, but there were also several good ideas to come from my request.

Recruiting Cadets
High schools are “fed” by middle or elementary schools. If the middle school does not already have some sort of military-based program, cadets in JROTC need to interact with students in the eighth grade to give them a taste of what cadet life can be like. Examples of this are doing PT with students at the middle school and/or having the drill team work with interested cadets once a month after school. Any positive interaction is a must. See also the article The JROTC “Feeder” Program. and How to Plan and Coordinate a Color Guard Event has some recruiting information as well from a Civil Air Patrol perspective.

Two-Fold Ideas
Community involvement. Having cadets seen by others as well involved in the community as servant-leaders is an outstanding idea. Cadets by the side of the road cleaning up, marching in parades, presenting the colors for the school board, elementary/middle schools, the county board of directors, veteran organizations, or providing a cordon for VIPs at a community event, will go a long way to establish concrete relations with local people, organizations and businesses.

Performing in the community then generates interest from younger students who see cadets in uniform performing at events and everyone who might be able to donate to the program who see the same thing or even just hear of cadet involvement. Everyone wins in these situations while your team or even the whole unit is perceived as a valuable asset.

The typical school fundraiser. Each year one of the schools where I teach the morning drill class and work the after-school drill programs, one of the cadets came to me selling cheesecake and she knew (she graduated!) that I would be good for purchasing one of the items. I don’t eat sweets all that much at all, so the first year I just handed a slice out to my drill class cadets. This is what most parents do, they know that $20 here and there will help a worthwhile program and do not mind shelling it out once or twice a year.

Atypical fundraisers. Golf outings, raffles. Fundraising-Ideas.org.

The “Ship Store”. One of the cadets offering advice mentioned that her NJROTC unit has what they call a Ship Store where they sell all kinds of things including school supplies and snacks to the whole student body. The store is open to all students before and after school and during lunch and open to cadets throughout the day. Cadet volunteers manage the store under the oversight of the instructors and they make a considerable amount of money.

JROTC Booster Club. If parents or other local interested adults are not involved in the program, it’s time to get them involved. It takes one hour a month for the meeting and a few hours of work after that.

Cadets, instructors and parents are going to have to find ways to raise funds to make their extra-curricular programs work and work well. Hopefully, this article has brought your unit one step closer to accomplishing that. If you have a unique idea, please comment on this article.


The Youth Trumpet and Taps Corps

From The Taps Bugler, Jari Villanueva

TAPSOn Tuesday, September 15th, the White House will honor eleven young women as “Champions of Change” who are empowering their communities. In addition to honoring these young people for their courage and contributions, the goal of the event is to inspire girls and young women to recognize their potential for leadership– as educators, advocates, peer-mentors, artists and entrepreneurs — and to appreciate that they can be leaders in their own way and in their own style.
Katie Prior of Oklahoma City, Oklahoma is one of the 11 chosen to be honored.

TAPS1Katie Prior is the 15-year-old founder of the Youth Trumpet & Taps Corps, http://trumpetandtaps.org/ a non-profit organization that trains, supports, and recognizes high school trumpet players who use their musical gifts to honor military veterans. Katie has recruited and trained trumpet players in Oklahoma, Texas, Colorado, Illinois, Nebraska, and Wisconsin who volunteer to sound Taps at military funerals and perform patriotic music at community events honoring veterans. When Katie heard that many veterans’ funerals have an audio recording of Taps, she decided to recruit her friends to see to it that veterans in her community get the live tribute they deserve. She developed the program as her Girl Scout Gold Award and became the council’s youngest awardee in history at the age of 14. She has since grown her organization, held training workshops in Texas and Wisconsin, and created an online training that can be taken by any high school trumpeter across the country. Katie is a trumpet player with Oklahoma Youth Orchestras.

I am proud to be attending the White House ceremony to support and honor Katie Prior and the Youth Trumpet & Taps Corps, an organization Taps For Veterans is pleased to be associated with. Katie and her group of young people who are making a difference! I plan to visit her group and do a training session with them.

Katie will be speaking on a panel discussion about girls and leadership. To watch, visit www.whitehouse.gov/live on September 15th at 9:30AM ET. Katie is speaking on the second panel. Each panel is about 1 hour long.

Training and Education for Drill Teams and Honor Guard Units

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