Category Archives: Drill Teams

Information for drill teams of all kinds

Grammar Rules and Exhibition Drill “Rule” Equivalents

grammar (1)A routine is like a document that contains words, sentences, paragraphs and, finally, a “story.” We communicate through writing and we communicate through our actions as well. One aspect of exhibition drill is clear communication. Here we take a look at how to effectively communicate.

Grammar Rules and Exhibition Drill “Rule” Equivalents

Above, the word, “Rule” is in quotes because, in this context, we don’t necessarily have strict rules like the rules listed in a drill meet standard operating procedure (SOP), this is more like guidance. However, this guidance can really help you understand the concepts of creating a more effective routine for your drill team or yourself.

You may not realize how spelling can work here, but let’s take a look the words, their, there and they’re. While these words have completely different definitions, it is the sound on which I want to concentrate. What is the exhibition drill parallel? The same type of move that can be performed in slightly different ways, for instance, the Ninja. Today’s known variations are the . Here is a video of a friend of mine performing


Variations of different moves are great! Variation keeps a routine alive and fresh.

Unfinished Words

I see this in many Drillers who are new to exhibition drill. While some people seem to speak without finishing their words, no one would ever want to write like this:

“Thi natio, unde God, sha ha a ne birt o freedo.”

This is actually a line from President Lincoln’s Gettybserg Address, “This nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom.” But it is unrecognizable; communication is lost. Exhibition drill is about communication: clear, effective communication.

Many new armed and unarmed Drillers fall into this mistake in their drill. While performing one move, their concentration shifts to the next move and they never complete the current move and the same with the next move and the next, etc.

Punctuation (i.e. periods, commas and exclamation points)
This is similar to Unfinished Words, above. This problem is when move after move after move is performed without appropriate transitions. You need to have visual pauses and breaks. These come in the form of stops (foot, arm or any other part of the body) and also. This is different from what we call “flow.” Flow, is a segment in a routine that is smooth with the rifle passing from one side of the body to the other, up and down, back to front, etc. with smooth, clean effortless movement without stopping.

Awkward Transitions
When we write effectively, one paragraph needs to seamlessly transition into the next by having the last sentence of a paragraph contain the idea that creates a bridge to that next paragraph. When transitions don’t exist or they do not fit very well, then reading becomes difficult. The same goes for exhibition drill. (<—that’s the transition sentence to the next paragraph.)

A big culprit in destroying a routine’s effectiveness is the lack of appropriate transitions as I mentioned above. But, what is an “appropriate transition”? Let’s take a look.

GrammarFacing movements are some of the worst moves one can perform in a routine. Field coverage is part of the score, yes. But relying on a facing movement to move to another part of the field shows a lack of creativity. Now, when a Driller/team is first beginning, basic movement is expected, but with experience, should come growth as well. Let the rifle guide you around the field. Which way are your shoulders facing when you finish that toss or flow segment? That is your new direction. Don’t want to go that way? Change your entrance into the move or during the move if you are able or even create a way to move that does not include a basic facing movement to change the direction in which your body is facing.

Do Standards even Matter?

Drill Team Uniform for XDThe picture at right was sent to me by a Facebook friend who is an Army JROTC instructor in Texas. He sent it with the note that, at this particular drill meet, the SOP stated that only authorized service uniforms were to be worn. He told me the reason for the strict uniform requirements:

One year I saw a color guard there wearing western wear. They had black denim trousers, western style shirts, cowboy boots and hats, and even wore red bandannas around their necks. It was getting ridiculous.

The Fancy or Basic Uniforms? article.

My response follows.

While I think the white Kevlar helmets are a strange choice, I don’t understand the Army’s (or any service’s) stiff-necked approach to uniforms. While I understand and fully support inspection, regulation and color guard in only authorized service uniforms, I don’t see why there is an issue regarding “exhibition uniforms” when it comes to exhibition drill. I in no way support any other kind of uniform when it comes to all regulation drill.

That being said, if instructors and cadet leaders cannot be bothered to read the SOP/OI, then the cadets should suffer the consequences which, unfortunately, ruins the purpose and experience of a drill meet.

What’s more, those who were running this competition did not even uphold the rules! This communicates to everyone involved that, no matter what standards are, it really doesn’t matter. I seriously doubt that this is what any JROTC command or unit wants to convey.

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Details, Details, Details

Yours is a Professional Ceremonial Unit
Army Pall Bearers
And you need to project that at all times not only in what you do, but in what you say.

Calling out “Detail” as the preparatory command, which is quite common, is not a word that is usually associated with a professional honor guard unit and I suggest not using it at all especially in public. After all, in the military, members get picked for unpleasant details, jobs that they would rather not do and that word is associated with the members of a detail not wanting to be there. This is not something that we want to project to VIPs or even the next-of-kin.

Better preparatory commands, as you will read throughout The Honor Guard Manual, are specific:

  • “Bearers” for the pall bearers
  • “Colors” for the color team
  • “Firing Party” for those on the team firing the 3-volley salute
  • “Cordon” for those on a cordon
  • “Guard” for the honor guard
  • “Drill Team” or “Team” for a Drill Team

For downloadable audio examples of how to give commands, click here and scroll down to Honor Guard Commands.

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How to Request each Service’s Drill Team

Air Force Honor Guard Crest
Air Force Honor Guard Crest

Each American service drill team can be requested for a performance. There are certain requirements, however. Here is how to get in touch with the teams or the service’s honor guard public affairs unit which handles performance requests. Click on each title to be taken to the information page.

US Army, the Old Guard, Silent Drill Team

US Marine Corps Silent Drill Platoon (FYI, they are not called the “Silent Rifle Platoon” or “Silent Drill Team”)

US Navy Ceremonial Guard Drill Team- I’m working on this one, it is difficult to find. If you have the info, please let me know.

US Air Force Honor Guard Drill Team

US Coast Guard Drill Team


Contact your local military installation. Whether it is active duty, reserve or national guard, you should be able to get the help you require and a special visit from a military service.

Drill Team Drama Unarmed Drill TeamDrillMaster,

My JROTC unit recently formed a drill team but there is so much drama, no one is happy with anything. Is there any advice you could give me so that I can end the drama and continue drill without having to leave upset?

The commanders are busy with color guard the cadet in charge is as childish as all the others and it doesn’t help that I’m the only girl. I don’t want to quit because I love it but at this point I don’t know what to do anymore. We all argue so much that we barely practice and we have a competition in about a month I really want us all to do well.

~Cadet P

Hello Cadet P,

Teenagers = drama, in general. Who is the Commander? Leadership is required here to establish what happens at practice, etc.

My website,, has tons of good info for you as well as my books. The team’s leadership and the team members need to educate themselves as to how to practice, where to begin and how to create a routine.

Communication is necessary. Go to my site, read about how to create a routine and then go to the downloads page and print out some routine mapping tools and anything else you’d like. Take the info in to school and show the team members that you have a desire for success.

Any questions you may have, please let me know.


jrotc, exhibition drill, drill team, how to write drill, how to create a drill routine

Where’s the Power?

Where's the beef?Several years ago, the Wendy’s restaurant chain had a commercial with some older women asking, “Where’s the beef?” suggesting that Wendy’s competitor’s beef* patties were comparatively small. (*You would be surprised at the contents of fast food burgers.)

While I do not advocate fast food at all, I do advocate asking questions and learning. Hence the title of this article, “Where’s the Power?” But what is this, “power”?

Knowledge is power and, if you’ve read my website for any length of time, you will know that my books and articles are geared toward educating anyone with an interest in military drill.

The military services do not teach past the ‘marching a unit from point A to point B’ paradigm. This is exactly what they need so why teach beyond that? Sure, there are a few specialized units that require a higher level of knowledge of drill and ceremonies, here, though, we speak of the general everyday Soldier, Marine, Sailor, Airman or Coast Guardsman: they all graduate their service’s Basic Training with a certain level of knowledge of marching. When it comes to competitive drill, the paradigm shifts to a much higher level of required knowledge.

In another article, The Seven Parts of an Exhibition Drill Routine, I wrote about dividing the time a soloist or team spends on the drill area. It is helpful to understand the time spent in these different sections. It is also helpful to understand the geography of a drill area and the gravity each area contains.

Drill Area Diagram

Powerful vs. Weaker Movement
Movement that is inward, forward and sometimes outward (think of a team in a circle at the center) can be powerful. Movement that take the team or soloist away from the audience is seen as ‘weak’.


The Weak Areas
These areas are not meant to be avoided! One must us as much of the area as possible, but when creating a routine powerful movement on the sides might be lost by the audience. The arrows also show that moving backwards or away from the audience is also considered ‘weak’. Drill and equipment movements here can help build tension and have that tension flow through to:

The Strong “Push” Area
Here we can see that moving toward the audience communicates strength so it is beneficial to create a strong sequence here that moves the team/soloist forward. A word of caution: moving forward too soon or too often can create tension too early or too many times in the program, leaving the audience tired from watching or even flat at the end of the performance. Which leads the team or soloist right into:

The Power Area
In this area, we see that this is where strong, powerful move and sequence communication is best: the team/soloist is closest to the audience and movement articulation is clearest. The area does not extend to the front edge because one can be ‘too close’ to one’s audience, it depends.

jrotc, exhibition drill, drill team, how to write drill, how to create a drill routine