During my 20-year US Air Force Career, I was stationed in three European countries and Japan as well as two states. I had not been to the Middle East or the African continent. Those two places are now added to the list.
Six Months in Planning
Apparently, I have a fan or two overseas. One just happens to live in Qatar and is part of the Police College of Qatar (PCoQ). He contacted the translation staff at the college asking for them to initiate a discussion as to how I could accomplish a significant task for them. The next six months were all about ironing out details and ensuring we were talking about the same thing in two different languages, Arabic and English.
Exhibition Drill Around the World
All one has to do is go to YouTube and see all kinds of videos that highlight drill teams performing exhibition drill. The bulk of videos is going to be of American drill teams, mostly high school JROTC. However, if you keep searching you will see some very interesting exhibition performances from all across Asia, Europe and even a few from the Middle East.
Of the performances outside of the USA, most are made up of a single-file line with some amazing ripple movements (see the Belarus Ripple Line here). That is because the rifles used now (M-16 like) do not facilitate any other effective manipulation or armed exhibition drill that includes tossing rifles around is just not a cultural thing.
After judging all kinds of visual performances since 1986, my view as to a limiting factor for exhibition drill outside America, is the use of what I consider highly ceremonial British-styled (foot) drill. Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate the style and have worked with a Canadian Army Cadets team as well as spent a few hours learning how to march being taught by British Army cadets and staff. I enjoyed learning the style and exchanging good-natured slighting remarks.
You can see this limiting factor that I previously mentioned in videos that display the style. The style does not allow for a consistent horizontal or even vertical flow for an exhibition performance (read about Flow here). As I said, it is very ceremonial in nature, and that is what makes watching the style so mesmerizing at times. For exhibition drill, though, it creates severe performance restrictions. As an example, see these selected videos (https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLcRniWQELcW4uU89-FEIL4po_e6boF6Up)
So, what is one to do when the prevailing style is British and yet one wants to knock the socks off of everyone with an exhibition drill performance? Teach a new style that is specifically for the performance and this is exactly what the PCoQ training staff was looking for.
Below is the video of the opening ceremonies of the PCoQ. The PCoQ does not have it’s own compound, it is part of the Police Training Institute. The PCoQ’s own compound will be finished some time in 2017.
The cadets here were trained for five weeks before the ceremony by the staff of the PCoQ. Just weeks prior, the cadets were in high school having not marched before. I think they did an outstanding job!
Note: I do not have pictures and video that I can share due to the Qatar Military Secrets Act, I cannot publish anything other than official work from the PCoQ. I’ll have that soon. The pictures and video I have were used for training purposes.
New, New, New!
Now that we established the style that the cadets and staff know by heart, we can see what the three-week training session entailed.
Once established, muscle memory can be difficult to recreate and that is exactly what Matt and I had to do with the 15 staff members, recreate their muscle memory. We worked Standing Manual, teaching the staff to stand with their feet together at the heels and toes, new facing movements and then a new manual of arms with totally different rifles (thank you Joe Rivas of Glendale Paradestore!), not to mention the rifles being quite a bit heavier than what the staff members were used to! We even had classroom time for briefings on how to train, how to write drill and how to judge/develop a critical eye.
Only Three Weeks?
Three weeks is not enough to learn a completely different way of drill, let alone an exhibition routine, but the staff did an amazing job of just that and they learned almost four minutes of the routine! Here is a glimpse of the graduation ceremony performance:
Much more work, much more. The ultimate performance will be for the first graduation of the PCoQ in 2019. That means a great deal of practice and still more training to come and that means more news to come!
South Africa is quite a wonderful, hard and difficult country, for me, at least. For seven years Tshepo (“Tse-poh”) Tautshwane and I have known each other through Facebook. He has been very interested in drill and has wanted to start a drill team/(marching band) color guard for his church’s marching band.
Tshepo is the drum major of his band and a student at North West University majoring in music education. He plays tuba extremely well and has a passion to teach others. Below are some pictures of my trip. Top left is my wonderful new family, Lilly, Elizabeth, Nkepile (Tshepo and Elizabeth’s mom), and Natsu. Lilly and Natsu are Tshepo’s Nieces. Christian, who had to run off to school before the picture, is his nephew.
The bottom right picture is of Tshepo and fellow drum major for another marching band, Motlatsi Moloi. I took six color guard rifles over to help create the new auxiliary for the band. They learned some military manual of arms and also how to spin the rifles.
There is also much more to come from South Africa and the DrillMaster!