Category Archives: Drill Teams

Information for drill teams of all kinds

Creating the “Drill Buddy” Concept for Your Unit

Battle BuddyThe Army and Marine Corps have the Battle Buddy system. The Navy and Coast Guard have Shipmates and the Air Force incorporated it’s Wingman system service-wide in the late 2000s. Maybe you are not familiar with this concepts but might see the opportunity to adopt it once you see how it works.Honor guard units and drill teams can use this to their great benefit.

Getting Buddy-Buddy
In the military, the number one priority day-in and day-out is safety and the old adage, there’s safety in numbers, is very true. It’s also the reason that many in the law enforcement community have a partner on the job, safety. You do not go anywhere without your “Battle” and it doesn’t matter where you are going. We, in the military drill world, can stretch that concept to go a little further to meet our needs.

Cadets have all kinds of things for which they need to keep track: all of the other classes in school, JROTC and then there is drill team, color guard and even Raiders/Orienteering. On the team, you have to remember to dry clean your uniform, shine shoes, prepare the uniform, haircut, practice days and times, performance days and times, etc. Keeping track of all of that can be much easier when two cadets are working toward that same goal.

Honor guard units (law enforcement, firefighters and EMS) can reap the same benefits of using a buddy system. It’s all for making the team look their best when it counts.

Uniform prepWhat a Drill Buddy Does
Spending the night before a competition to help setup uniforms and shine shoes. That 0400 phone call to make sure your Drill Buddy is up. Finishes your breakfast since it’s way too early. Gives you part of his/her lunch since he/she ate half of your breakfast. But the biggest role a Drill Buddy accomplishes is checking your uniform right after you check his/hers. Yes, it is your responsibility to ensure that you are wearing everything that you need to have on and carrying the rest, but it is your Drill Buddy who makes sure your cover (hat) is on straight and that the chin strap is flush with the bill, that you do not have wrinkles and he/she is the one ready with the lint roller.

To bring all of this together, does your unit have a contract/list of expectations? No? You should and I’ll soon publish an example that you can download, use and modify. Check back, it will be on the Downloads page.

The Ultra-Reinforced DrillMaster Bayonet

DrillMaster and Air Force Honor Guard Airmen
TSgt Carmen Hassell and the proud Airmen of the USAF Honor Guard Supply

It took three months to create the final version of the Ultra-Reinforced DrillMaster bayonet. The DrillMaster worked with the Air Force Honor Guard Drill Team and Supply Airmen to create this extremely reinforced bayonet.

The picture below is the final version. extra spot welds and a small plate of steel to reinforce the handle. This DrillMaster Bayonet* is the Air Force Honor Guard Drill Team’s new practice bayonet.

DrillMaster Ultra-Reinforced Bayonet

How it Began
An Airman on the current AFHG Drill Team, SrA Jason Black, contacted my about my bayonets since they do not have a sharp edge or point- a much safer alternative than what they use in performances. The issue was training new members of the team and having them more comfortable with not only spinning a rifle, but having a bayonet on the end.

The Welded DrillMaster Bayonet was the answer, or so we thought. That and two more versions broke after training with it for a while. They needed something extremely strong to take the rigors of a new drill team member constantly dropping the rifle without the constant breakage that the team experienced. SrA Gabriel Goldsborough and finally, A1C Johnathen Howard finished the whole process.

You can now benefit from these three months of work and information exchange between the USAF Honor Guard Drill Team and The DrillMaster. Click here to go to the DrillMaster Bayonet page.

*Patent pending


Something is Very Wrong North of the American Border

UPDATE (2 Apr 15)

The official word from Cadets Canada:

To clarify, Canadian Sea, Air and Army cadets – from 12 to 19 years old – will continue to have drill rifles.

Canadian Cadets Update Message

While the picture below says, “Cancelled”, the more appropriate term would be, “Banned”.

Canadian Cadet Rifle Drill Ban

I just found out that rifles are now being banned for Canada’s Navy Cadets and, as the text in the picture asks, who is next?

Over the last approximately five years, American Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (JROTC) units have had their demilitarized (demil’d) rifles taken away and had them replaced with the Daisy Drill Rifle an M1903A3 replica (with a possible choice being given to units of the Daisy or one of the Glendale DrillAmerica rifles- M1 Garand/M1903). But why take the real demil’d rifles and replace them with toys*?

There are a couple of possible reasons:

  1. Mostly Marine Corps & Navy JROTC units had the M14 which was still a fully-automatic rifle even though it was demil’d. Other JROTC units had the M1 Garand and several versions of the M1903. All three rifles were created decades ago and parts, including stocks, have been getting more difficult to find.
  2. There has been a political move to take Constitutionally authorized weapons away from law abiding American citizens for many years now and this could be part of that move.

The Canadian Cadets could benefit from adopting the use of either the Daisy Drill Rifle or one of the Glendale DrillAmerica models since they are specifically Drill-Purpose rifles. This would seemingly fix the problem, unless the heart of the issue is that the Canadian cadets are using an “implement of war”, whether it is real, demil’d or fake. But the best way to handle the situation is to educate young men and women on gun safety and respect for weapons. Plus, what a great way to live out Isaiah 2:4, “And they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks.” Using something that was meant to hurt as something to build a skill set that can help further teach young people team work, leadership, followership, timing and so many other things that will help them meet and exceed goals in the future!

Please don’t let this rifle ban continue for the Candian Navy League or spread to the Canadian Cadets. Please contact Calgary MP Jason Kenney at this link and please share this article as far and wide as possible.

*FYI: When Daisy Drill Rifles or Glendale DrillAmerica Rifles are shipped overseas to JROTC or honor guard units, the customs sheet states that the rifles are toys.



“And now for something completely different…”

world drill association, drill team, exhibition drillWhen studying to be a judge, I was exposed to so many other forms of performance where precision plays a key role. If you want to judge performances in the Military Drill World, I suggest that you purchase my two World Drill Association books and then begin to watch not only military drill performances of all kinds, but other performances as well so that you will develop your an eye for appreciating precision and various types of performances.

When watching performance after performance of military  drill, your eye can then begin to miss things. Watching other precision sport performances can help avoid that. The videos below, and ones like them, will help you sharpen or create your observational skills.

I will get you started:


Putting Things into Perspective

“We won!”

Those words are great to hear and sometimes even better to yell. I knew the feeling of “winning” at drill meets throughout my four years of high school AFJROTC; my team swept every meet and so did I as the team’s commander for my last two years. It was hard work, fun and I learned quite a bit. But what did we really “win”?

I went to Agua Fria Union High School in Avondale, AZ (’79-’83) and our most intense rival school was a MCJROTC unit from Tolleson High School. Our unarmed teams were always neck-and-neck. It was a good rivalry and kept us on our toes the whole school year. The other schools in the Phoenix and surrounding areas attended most of the same meets that we did. The only school to come close was our rival that I mentioned above, the other schools always came in behind us. Our instructors (CMSgt Broomhead- not making that up- and Lt Col Lorenz) always had some great music waiting for us on the bus ride home and we would sing/yell the words to We are the Champions by Queen and Celebration by Kool and the Gang.

Then we went to the Southern California Drill Meet and had an attitude adjustment. I think we took home a third place trophy in one of the phases of the competition. We left dejected, but guess what our Chief did? He had the same music waiting for us on the bus? “But, we were ‘losers'”, we thought. We were never “losers” in the sense that the world sees it. We practiced for two hours every day after school all through the school year and even had some Saturday practices thrown in. When we went to SCIDM, we entered a competitive area to which we had not been exposed and we learned great lessons from that experience and applied those lessons to our training so that we could be a better team than before.

The same goes for you and your team. I am very happy for teams and cadets that post pictures on Twitter and Instagram showing off their trophies. The same goes for the teams that post pictures after a competition without a single trophy, but smiles all round. You did it, you both “won”! Kudos to you!

Drill Team

Picture from Twitter

Now let me explain how to put things into perspective.

The world is all about “winners”. Ricky Bobby’s father said, “You’re either first or you’re last”, as he drove away in that silly movie Taladega Nights. But later on, he made the comment that he had been wrong in his thinking. Now, I’m not suggesting taking meaningful life lessons from every movie that you can watch, but sometimes there are very pertinent ideas that can come across. Sometimes.  But his second statement later on in the movie was absolutely right on the mark of truth: there is no such thing as, “first or last”. Competition is great and it is meant to, as I wrote earlier, keep you on your toes.

You are meant to keep training, keep studying and be the best that you can be. THAT is winning. Getting up early to exercise and get in some extra practice. THAT is winning. Paying attention when you are practicing regulation drill for the millionth time. THAT is winning. Not losing your cool when training new cadets who just can’t seem to figure out that you pivot on the left foot for a right flank. THAT is winning. Not getting angry, not throwing your rifle when you still can’t get that Hawaiian Punch. THAT is winning. Knowing that you did your very best in a performance and, “leaving it all on the drill deck”. THAT is winning.

You don’t need a trophy or ribbon to know that you are already a winner when you are going that extra mile and if that is all you are going for, then there is something missing in your approach to the what the World Drill Association calls, the Sport of Military Drill.

Don’t fall into the trap that society tells you: “You’re either first, or last.” It’s a lie. Everyday accomplishments make you a “winner”.

Now, go practice.

The 22 March 15 Michigan Online Drill Competition Results!

Yet another military drill season is upon us and the videos were submitted by midnight Eastern time on March 21, 2015. I have judged each Michigan Online Drill Competition (MIODC) and have learned as well as taught with each successive competition.

My thanks to Devin Milhem for creating and running this event. For more information on MIODC see the Facebook group.

Here is the link to watch the playlist of YouTube videos. On with the results. I commented on the World Drill Association’s Overall Effect caption (OE; there are three more captions: Movement, Equipment and Composition Analysis). Since I only scored OE, the score is out of a possible max of 200. If I were to score all four captions, there is a formula to give a final score out of a possible 100 points- just like grades in school.

In ech WDA caption there i a further breakdown of scores between the “What” and the “How”. You will notice that, while a Driller’s total score may have placed him higher than another, he may have one of the sub-caption scores lower then other Driller(s) whose score was overall lower.

I am on the road having just finished judging the Romeoville High School Drill Meet yesterday. I apologize that I do not have the time to offer a full four-caption score. I did make some comments though pertaining to the other captions.

Below you will see the soloist’s placement, name and then the scores for Repertoire Effect score (the “What”), Performance Effect (the “How”) score and the total score. Click on the name to download the DrillMaster Audio Performance Critique.

  1. Bisher, 66-57-123
  2. Milhem, 60-53-113
  3. Alejandro, 57-55-112
  4. Gill, 54-51-105
  5. Ansboro ACUs, 49-43-92
  6. Perrault, 46-39-85
  7. Josh, 43-34-77
  8. Jon, 41-35-76
  9. Daniel, 31-26-57
  10. Doyle, 26-25-51
  11. RetributionGM, 27-23-50
  12. Ansboro Class B, 21-19-40

Thank you, Drillers. You all did an outstanding job. My hope is that my critiques benefit you in your growth in exhibition drill.

Romeoville High School JROTC Drill Meet

Yes, I did. I drove from Melbourne, FL to Romeoville, IL to judge a drill meet. Seriously. I love to do what I do and Don Dunning asked me if I would come up and judge about a week and a half before the competition. My answer: “Sure!” And now it’s over with, but it was such a great day!

I was blessed to judge colors and then tandems. I made my DrillMaster Audio Performance Critiques for each of the performances and let everyone know they could download them. When I first began judging in the morning, I received some strange looks; “We thought you were talking to yourself!” was the feedback I received while I was giving my feedback! Once I explained, I saw nods of approval.

So, without further unnecessary typing, here are my critiques in no particular order.

Color Guard Regulation Drill

Tandem Exhibition Drill Performances

Unarmed XD Squad (I wanted to give the cadets some feedback)

Feet: Transitioning From and To a 45-degree Angle

The small details (read: Sweat the Small Stuff) are what build up from one tiny aspect to a whole routine and when you pay attention to these small details it helps create greater effect and better communication and team cohesion.

Feet seem to be an afterthought in military drill, but that is changing. In exhibition drill, if you have not coordinated your footwork into the routine along with every other nuance of your performance, you have not completed the design process and it will show. The same goes for regulation drill, but it’s different.

The Open Toe Method
In regulation drill, we stand at Attention and Parade Rest with our feet at a 45-degree angle and when we begin to march… Ah, there is the afterthought!

The Transition
If you have not addressed this with your team, then you probably have some members marching like this (improper):

Feet- No Transition

And then some on your team marching like this (the proper method):

Feet- Transition from 45

If you have variations in how your team members march, that’s not a good thing and no, it is not a personal preference that everyone just has to deal with. There is a proper and improper way to step and halt.

So, why does this happen? Easy, one of my favorite sayings, “Practice make permanent.” What you do in practice you will do in a performance. But what if someone has never practiced marching before, like a first-year cadet in JROTC? Oh, but they have! It’s called, “Walking”. From when you were a little child, each time you walked, you have been practicing marching. If, when walking, your gate takes your feet pointing out or rolling inward or any other kind of improper variation, that is the way they will march. And that goes for walking properly as well.

When I was about  nine-years old or so, my mother noticed that my toes tended to point outward while we were on a walk, “Point your toes straight, John,” was all I needed and I’ve striven to keep them that way ever since. I do, however, have an issue with the muscles in my right hip, they are a little tighter than should be so my right toes angle out just a bit when I am not concentrating on it.

Physical differences, like the muscle issue I mentioned above, are either overcome  or dealt with as they are as there may be a medical issue that inhibits a team member from creating a proper step. The team deals with medical issues and works on improving how someone learned how to walk improperly.

To make the transition from a halt with the feet at a 45-degree angle to pointing forward when marching, simply point the foot of the lead step straight forward and then the foot of the trail step. It seems easy enough, but not everyone does it and you need to make sure your team is fully aware of this.

The Transition Back
While the team is marching, the team will eventually hear the command to halt and that is when the second transition comes into play.

Feet- Transition to 45

Address with your team, the transition from marching with feet pointing straight to halting with feet at a 45-degree angle. Plant the lead foot (left/right) after the command, Halt, at 22.5-degrees to the outside and then bring the trailing foot (right/left) along side the lead foot, heels touching and also at a 22.5-degree angle in the opposite direction of the lead. That is how one halts with one’s feet at a 45-degree angle.

Marking Time
The same transitions go for Mark Time, when either beginning or halting; when marching in place, the feet point forward, when you halt, the lead foot planted, points at 22.5-degrees outward and the trail foot planted then points 22.5-degrees outward in the opposite direction making up 45-degrees.

Feet Together for Exhibition Drill?
You don’t have to concern yourself with any of the information above if your team uses the Closed Toe Method. The Open Toe Method is mandatory in regulation drill, though.

Military Drill World: March Fourth!

Happy March 4th, or I should say, #MarchFourth, to everyone on a drill team, honor guard, color team, color guard, marching band, drum and bugle corps, winterguard, indoor percussion ensemble- anyone who marches and loves it.

Today is YOUR DAY!

March Fourth


Service Drill Teams Attend Annual Training Camps

Each year around the end of February and the beginning of March, each of the service drill teams (Army, Marines, Navy and Air Force- not sure about the Coast Guard*), leave their duty station and head out to train for about 30 days to work on the upcoming season’s routine.

USMC SDP Challenge DayBefore the teams leave for training there is a challenge time or, at least for the Marine Corps, Challenge Day. Honor guard members wishing to be a member of the team can perform the drill team’s manual, which they have practiced for weeks, and be graded in the hope to make a performing spot on the season’s team.

The Army, Navy and Air Force Silent Drill Teams, separately, go to different installations around the country and the Silent Drill Platoon along with the Drum and Bugle Corps heads to Yuma, AZ each year.

The photo is courtesy of the Marine Corps and shows a Marine performing for a grade by his inspector.

*Unlike the other service drill teams that have permanent members who are assigned to the team and usually do not have other honor guard duties, the Coast Guard’s honor guard is very small and all honor guard members are cross-trained and certified on the different ceremonial elements. Members volunteer to march on the drill team but the assignment is also part of their regular honor guard duties, so they have double and triple roles to perform in any given day with funerals, VIP arrivals, etc. including drill team practices and performances.