Category Archives: Drill Teams

Information for drill teams of all kinds

Programming, Continued

Dropping the BaseApparently “dropping the base” can have something to do with describing how one creates a routine and, while that may have some sort of relevance at the moment, this description could very well have lost its meaning in a short time. I’ll stick with terms that designers have used for decades.

Below, are the Seven Parts of and Exhibition Drill Routine from the article I wrote of the same name. See that article for an in-depth look at each part. This will help you break down a routine in the creation process.

  1. The Opening Statement
  2. Up to the Report-in
  3. After Report-in
  4. The Routine Body
  5. Before Report-out
  6. After Report-out
  7. The Closing Statement

See also the article, Where’s the Power and put the two pieces of information together for a better understanding of what should happen and when.

Note: being able to only enter and exit from one specific area severely limits the mixing of the above identified seven parts and the power areas of the drill deck (area, floor, pad).

Variety in Programming Creates Intrigue/Excitement
A routine that has one tempo will not hold the audience for very long. Visually speaking: highs and lows; excitement and rest are necessary to create effectiveness in your routine.

There are three types of effect (from The WDA Adjudication Manual):

  • The intellectual aspect of effect is reflected in the range and quality of the design.
  • The aesthetic aspect of effect involves the ability to capture and hold the audience’s attention through the manipulation of familiarity and expectations (think: “surprise”). Aesthetic effect may resonate with a larger percentage of a general audience.
  • The emotional effect is the planned response to stimuli that is designed, coordinated and staged for the purpose of evoking a specific, planned reaction.

When, where, how and why effects occur successfully, involves:

  • Manner of presentation (how the effect was created — equipment, staging, movement alone or combined)
  • Pacing (the “when” factor of planned effects. How far apart, how often, how large is the effect?)
  • Continuity (the development, connection and evolution of planned effects)
  • Staging (where each effect is placed on the stage–highlighting, focus, interaction of effects, etc.)
  • Coordination (how all elements work together to heighten the effect)
  • Impact points (the beginning of important visual ideas)
  • Resolutions. (the completion of important visual ideas)

There is so much more to programming that everyone should know, pick up a copy of The WDA Adjudication Manual and read, read, read! Educating yourself will give you the edge you need to create the most effective routines!

How to Restart a JROTC Drill Team

drill team traiing: XD Cover 2AExhibition Drill for the Military Drill Team
The First Book for Drill Team Training: XD Cover, Exhibition Drill for the Military Drill Team

I received this question over the summer of 2014. It is always relevant, though!

Question: I’m a freshmen going into my sophomore year, also to my let 2 year in JROTC. I was wondering if you can give me tips and/or advice for starting up an exhibition team. Because in my freshmen year, at my school’s drill meet, I conducted one routine for alternative arms. It was OK, but I knew we could have done better. It was very last minute, unorganized and stressing. My team only practiced for not even a whole week, and the meet was on Saturday. Yes, I know… But that’s why, I was wondering that, maybe with your help and expertise, you can maybe help me start up exhibition again in my school. By the way our JROTC program hasn’t seen a drill trophy in years. Seriously, anything you say will help.

DrillMaster’s Reply: You have this summer to prepare for this coming school year and three more years of school which is perfect! Here is what I recommend.

1. Always first is educating yourself and your teammates.
2. You must have a plan to effectively move forward with your individual and team progress.
3. Put that education into practice. You must begin much earlier in the year.

First you and your team MUST download and read the latest edition of your service drill and ceremonies manual. Go to my website,, and click on the Downloads tab. There, you will find all kinds of downloads, including all three of the latest D&C manuals. You and your team must perfect regulation drill, unarmed and armed. Once you have accomplished that, then move into exhibition drill.

There aren’t any exhibition drill manuals except for my books. which are here, I do have many articles for drill teams on how to create effective routines, what to do and what not to do when it comes to marching, but the books have so much more. This summer I’ll be publishing two more books specifically on how to train others in regulation drill and color guard- you are actually the first to know about these two books!

The Guidon’s Two Different Salutes

While each service (Army, MC/Navy/CG and AF) has a slightly different way of having the guidon render a salute while in formation, there is another salute rendered by a guidon that each service requires when outside of a formation when the guidon bearer is on his/her own.

The only authorized giudon bearer salute  when in formation for each service ends up looking like this:

Guidon Salute

When a guidon bearer is not in a formation (either walking somewhere or standing and holding the guidon) and is approached by an officer, there is only one authorized salute, which is different from the salute pictured above. This salute is not authorized while in formation.

Guidon Bearer Individual Salute

Perfect Drill Team Rifle Tosses

The picture, below, is of a winter guard (a marching band color guard that performs indoors, see WGI) back in the 1980s. In the picture you can see the rifles are at the exact same angle while in the air and the arms, legs and bodies of the guard members are very close to being the same. 

Drill Teams: this is what you want. You want to be as close to exactly the same all throughout the performance. But how can you do this? Technique. This is for both unarmed and armed drill teams.

Here is how we can describe technique. Where you put your hands on the rifle, angles of your head, arms, legs, feet and torso.

Perfect Rifle Toss, color guard, winter guard, armed drill team

Techniques need to be the same for each of the members of your team, they have to be the same. If they aren’t your audience will notice right away. It also impairs the effectiveness of synchronous movement like marching, hand and arm movement and rifle movement, just to name a few.

Drill Team Technique

Rifle and arm angles

Drill Team Technique

Arm positions and rifle angles

Drill Team Technique

Rifle angles along with body and arm positions

Drill Team Technique

So close: Foot angles

Drill Team Technique

Arm positions and hand angles

So, now you can see technique is extremely important in all you do out on the competition field or any performance. Technique begins with initial training and must be reinforced through consistent revisiting that initial training. Without that reinforcement, techniques will begin to vary over time.

Having a Complete Plan for a Performance

0649c73c-787d-4f6c-982f-39fb4d710402.jpgThis information applies to any performance: presentation/posting of the colors, solo exhibition or drill team routine. The key is acting with nothing but professionalism the whole time.

Before: Arrive at least an hour early. No two performances are the same and the more time you have to set up and rehearse, the better. Speak with your point of contact as soon as you arrive and ensure the timeline .

The service honor guards and installation honor guards travel and rehearse at performance site in their travel uniform which consists of the ceremonial or Class A trousers and a lightweight jacket- even in summer. About 20 minutes before the ceremony, the team changes into their ceremonial/Class A blouse and sets up for their entrance.

During: Perform, giving it your utmost!

After: Here is the sticking point for some. For installation honor guard units, it is permissible to remain in the ceremonial/Class A uniform if invited to a celebration, etc. because many people like to have pictures taken with those in uniform and the ceremonial/Class A is much more appropriate. If the team is going to be in the area and have time to partake of the county fair (for instance), it may be a good idea to stay in the performance area for a time for pictures, head back to transportation to change into the travel uniform and put equipment away. Then the team can go back and have some fun.

This is the “sticking point” I mentioned above: some, especially in JROTC, seem to think that once the performance is finished, the uniform can be treated however some cadets seem fit to treat it: no cover, shirt untucked, etc. This is unacceptable.

Have a plan, develop a standard and enforce that standard. It only takes on person acting inappropriately just one time to give your organization a bad name. Don’t let that happen.

Creating your own Exhibition Drill Uniform

Military-type exhibition Drillers around the world are looking more and more into developing their own uniform.

Creating your own uniform sounds great- after all that is what I did!

Copying a military service, law enforcement or firefighter uniform is perfectly acceptable. Many law enforcement and firefighter dress uniforms are based off of military dress uniforms. However, wearing a service’s uniform without being a veteran or cadet of that service would be frowned upon. Caution: Wearing a specific service’s uniform, without being a member of that service or service’s cadet program, is highly frowned upon. That is not to say that, when you wear a uniform that you have created, you will not be mistaken for a “soldier” of some sort. That’ is OK. Remember, wearing any kind of uniform may create some kind of question as to who you are or what you do. Explaining the situation and not wearing the uniform at any other time except for performances will work the best.

Think “uniform” and not “dress shirt and slacks” because it will look like you are wearing a dress shirt and slacks. You’re not just “dressing up,” you are dressing for the part. “Sunday-go-to-meetin’s” is not dressing for the part.

Here are some ideas of work-type uniforms. If you go with a 511 set of blue “BDUs” (for instance, the pant and the shirt), this is something that is easily recognizable as a uniform and is nondescript  It may not be what you are thinking of, but it is along the lines of a military-style uniform and this is the style you are looking to pull off to create the military flavor (click here for an article on Military Flavor) look of the performance.

Look for official dress- or ceremonial-type uniforms here: Lighthouse Uniform Co. and Marlow White.

Here’s an idea, create a persona- this is easier for a soloist, tandem or tetrad, but can be accomplished for a larger team. Create a routine that uses a special uniform on purpose (WWII, law enforcement, gangster, cowboy, etc.). Uniform also equals costume. Not necessarily a story book costume, but something that enhances the persona that you want. But remember, military flavor.

What makes a “uniform”? Trousers, a shirt, (optional- a jacket/blouse), shoes and a cover/hat. It’s about design and color. For great insight on this, I’d like to introduce my friend, Brent Becker, a uniform designer for marching bands and drum and bugle corps, has done extensive research into what makes a uniform and the history of uniforms (read an outstanding article of his here: RE-Defined: A New Look At Uniforms).

Brent BeckerBrent designs for musical ensembles, but the door is wide open for military uniforms. As a matter of fact, did you know that the Air Force Honor Guard wears a different uniform from the rest of the Air Force? Slight changes in design and material, but these are hardly noticeable. The contract for making the USAFHG uniform was awarded to DeMoulin, another uniform company that makes marching band and other uniforms just like Standury, the company that Brent works with.

Exhibition drill is ripe for uniform design for teams across the country. My hope is that teams begin to explore the opportunities an exhibition performance uniform creates.

Here is what he has to say on our subject of creating military-styled uniforms:

From my perspective, you’re absolutely on the right track. So much of the literature I’ve read on this matter refers to these garments as “Military Costuming.” This can be a bit of a head scratcher, since even today, the term “costume” is frowned upon even in more theatrical venues. However, your notion of developing a persona is an intriguing one, as it opens itself up to a physical manifestation of said character portrayal through wardrobe – this is the essence of theatrical costuming design and as such, where we encounter a relatively undefined zone in the philosophy of uniforms.

Speaking mainly from the standpoint of musical groups, much of my philosophy revolves around this idea that, a) uniform purchases are tremendous investments and that they should be, b) based upon the intrinsic values and performance demands of a specific unit within their given time and place.
Again, this is kind of an “easy out” and it doesn’t define anything per se, but it lends certain academic credence to your statement concerning costuming.

Perhaps more important here is the facet of “how” the articles of clothing in question are worn or presented. In the earliest records of European military-issued uniforms, they were part of a compensatory package – a “perk” if you will, of joining up – a man who enlisted received an overcoat emblazoned with colors and markings significant to his master or nation/state. For an impoverished peasant, this was a tremendous and cherished offering! King/Country was literally putting clothing on his back – and very often, that garment would be the absolute finest article that that man would ever wear – hence the long-standing tradition of men marrying in uniform! So dressy without being too flamboyant. Refined and mature without appearing stuffy and droll.

Uniforms in the European military tradition were also seen as something of a extension of the Colors – banners, standards, and other symbols representing Divinity, Ruler, Nation, City, Unit, etc. As a representational extension of those institutions, it is approached with utmost reverence and honor. Hence, to be referred to as “a disgrace to the uniform” is to accuse its wearer of disrespecting that which the uniform represents. So, without directly taking a serviceman’s uniform and copying it, let’s think about what those colors and symbols mean to the people who wear them and the citizens they defend. I’d recommend a sort of, “reverse engineering” of government issued attire – think about the image those uniforms create and for what they stand [emphasis mine -DM]. What can a military Driller assemble on their own to present that same-said essence?

I guess my point in all this comes back to my contextual/art & design stance – When is a uniform “military” in nature? Certainly when it appropriates physical accouterments of government-issued apparel. Sight lends itself to immediacy in the mind of most observers and as such, a visual suggestion of militaria immediately connects such a uniform to the armed forces and service organizations. But I would think the underlying motive driving one’s choice of military costuming must be considered – and this ties right back into your earlier notion about developing personae – in other words, if going with a military-inspired outfit, why? Is the Driller in question presenting an outward manifestation of honor, duty, sacrifice, patriotism, strength, precision, loyalty, etc.? If so, what kinds of lines, shapes, colors, or existing symbols can be used to suggest those otherwise intangible elements? Again, I know it’s subjective, but I would honestly leave this more open on the grounds of individual preferences within their given context. Perhaps advise striking a balance between a very standard military image and creating a unique, lasting impression, especially when adjudication is a factor.

Must read articles by Brent: Uniform Rumination.

So, dress for the part. Otherwise, you might look like you’re just headed off to church and took a wrong turn.

What is “Flow”?

Flo_from_Progressive_InsuranceThis is Flo

Her name is right there on her name tag. However, we are talking about, “flow” in armed and unarmed exhibition drill which is broken into two different types.

This is not Flow

Before we get into the two types of flow, let’s quickly go over what flow isn’t. Flow is not a sequence like this:

Port Arms to Right Shoulder into a Shoulder Roll/Drop catching the rifle behind your back and bringing it to Order.

All of those movements require completing the movement and providing what is called, articulation.

See also: Grammar Rules and Exhibition Drill “Rule” EquivalentsThe Seven Parts of an Exhibition Drill Routine, Routine Design Considerations, The Opening StatementProgramming, Programming, ProgrammingWhere’s the Power?How to Write a Military Drill Routine: Routine Mapping ToolsHow to Switch from Regulation Drill to Exhibition Drill,

Yes, the above is quite a bit of reading, but then you will be that much more educated. Now, let’s get into the “flow.”

1. Vertical Flow. This first definition is about the smooth work of a piece of equipment and/or body movement.

The word, vertical, is used to describe the brief usage of flow in the performer’s equipment or body work. This flow is only in a short segment and there can be more than one segment.

When using a piece of equipment, flow centers around continuous spinning and the Here is an example:

Unarmed exhibition drill vertical flow is more difficult as the performer’s footwork, hands, arms and body all play a part in continuous smooth movements over a short amount of time. I have judged military drill for over two decades and can only remember seeing one true flow segment and that was when I marched in high school back in the early 80s. My teammate, Russell Fryman, created an amazing unarmed routine that had large segments of flow using his arms and footwork that I have not seen duplicated since. I wish we would have recorded his performances!

2. Horizontal Flow. The second definition takes the whole routine into account.

Logical progression best describes Routine Flow. This is when there are smooth transitions between segments of drill. This flow is from the beginning to the end of the routine encompassing all movement, body and equipment.

Watch any routine and pay specific attention as to how segments fit together. This can be difficult because it is normal for us to only react to a performance in the form of liking or disliking it. You have to train yourself to not be entertained and react to those feelings (probably 90% or more of how drill has been judged for decades) and look further into the performance. Try it with this video:

exhibition drill, rifle drill, jrotc, drill team, rifle team, armed drill, rifle spinning

Have you wanted to Write for the Military Drill World?

Drill team training and honor guard training at its best!
Drill Camps, Honor Guard Academies, Drill Team Training & Coach Certification

In 1990 I began my first book, Exhibition Drill for the Military Drill Team. I didn’t know that it was going to be a published book, I thought I’d write out a few drill moves and offer it to whoever wanted a copy- for free. However, in 2009, with a big shove into the unknown from my wife and my daughter, I finally published what I call XDI. I never considered myself a writer, how was I to know?

Fast forward to 2014 and I have written over 1000 articles and am working on books 8-12. So, I guess that qualifies me as a writer now and maybe you are in the same boat; you have an idea, but don’t really know how to get it out there. Well, that’s where I come in.

Under the name/title, The DrillMaster, I have created education, training and certification programs for members of the military drill world and here is another program: guest writer for this blog.

A guest writer would write on any topic that is within the realm of military drill: regulation, exhibition, ceremonial- or maybe you have thought of another tie-in on one of the above subjects that has not been covered here, something new and you have wanted to reach Drillers each day around the globe.

Dozens of people from around the world read this blog each day. Depending on the time of year (the school year, specific holidays or ceremonial-type days), this blog, as of 2014 averages over 600 hits per day.

If you would like to, write. Use the articles here as a guide and provide a picture or two or even a diagram with your article. When you think you are ready to have it published on this blog, send me an email through my Contact page stating that you are interested and I will get back to you right away so that you can forward me the article(s) you have in mind.

Get paid to write?
Well, not exactly. But if I do feel that your article would be a good addition to the next edition of my book, Filling in the Gaps, then I will send you a copy of one of my books that you choose while giving you full credit in the book- your name will will be in print as a contributing author!

What are you waiting for? Get writing!

Need I say it? No plagiarism…

The Air Force Academy National Invitational Drill Meet 2015!

USAFAThe Air Force Academy‘s (USAFA) Cadet Honor Guard will run the 41st National Invitational Drill Meet (NIDM) this coming April (2015). This has been a big competition in the past, and the USAFA cadets want it to be even bigger from now on!

For 2015, NIDM is open to both JROTC and ROTC drill teams, color guards, small teams and soloists! Download the SOP for more information. If you need further help, join the Facebook group, Military Drill Professionals, to contact the cadet in charge of the competition.

Click here to download the 2015 NIDM SOP PDF.

A Graph of Military Drill

A Graph of Military Drill

Over the years, I’ve been asked by high school students for information on drill teams so that they could write speeches, research papers or something similar. This article is just another step in that direction. See also, What is a Military Drill Team? ,The Seven Parts of an Exhibition Drill Routine and Where’s the Power? plus many more.

This is a visual representation of where military drill began and its development into different branches.

At far left we have Regulation Drill, it then develops into Ceremonial Exhibition Drill and then Armed and Unarmed Exhibition Drill. Step and Stomp is next and then we see (Marching Band) Color Guard and Winter Guard. Notice the thin grey line of Regulation Drill at the bottom that is at the basis of each discipline. Where the grey Regulation Drill line stops is shortly after the beginning of color guard now that it is purely a dance-oriented discipline. So the graph ranges from pure Regulation Drill at left to pure dance at the right.

The lines of each discipline overlap since there really isn’t an absolute delineation between disciplines, their styles overlap somewhat.


exhibition drill, regulation drill, military, drill team, jrotc

exhibition drill, regulation drill, military, drill team, jrotc