Category Archives: Drill Teams

Information for drill teams of all kinds

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

AFJROTC Cap Device


Thanks to MSgt Lee Messina for the uniform guidance quote.

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!


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 ( 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.

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 Little Honor Guard Members

I have been scouring the internet for many years learning about the differences in military drill around the world. One thing that isn’t different is the interest that many young men and women enjoy in the hours of work it takes to present a superior drill team (called an “honor guard” in Asia) performance and in some cases, age does not matter.

2010071500341This little boy, Ryan, in the picture at right, lives in Taiwan. This picture is from 2011 when he was just three-years old.

He loves honor guard in Taiwan, so the Taiwan military has allowed him to perform with their drill teams for several years now. This video is from 2012.

Ryan even changes uniforms! A video from 2015.

One question that I posed was, why does Ryan do everything in the opposite (opposite shoulder, Port to the right) from the members of the drill team? The answer I received was that he learns by watching and mirrors what he sees. I don’t think it will be that difficult to have Ryan switch when the time comes- who knows, he may very well be Taiwan’s greatest exhibition Driller in the coming years.

Click here to see Ryan’s Facebook page.



If I remember correctly, this little boy back in the early 2000s, loved what his uncle did at an Air Force Base in Southern California so his mother made him a tiny Air Force Honor Guard ceremonial uniform.

Little Boy in USAF Ceremonials

Just like children taking an interest in music or other arts, this is a positive influence on these very young men. If you would like to encourage the children you know in military drill or even marching band color guard, you make your own rifle out of wood: go to the Downloads page and find the DrillMaster iDrill Rifle and also the iDrill Rifle Jr!

Exhibition Drill Injuries

Before we begin: I am not a medical doctor. This article is not a substitute for obtaining professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Minor InjuryNow, on to the article.

Many exhibition Drillers (you are not an “exhibitionist” unless you remove your clothing while spinning the rifle) have spent some time dealing with an injury or six.

At your JROTC unit, it is a very good idea to have a first aid kit available during practice. At home, it would be a good to have the same thing or something similar.

Repetitive Use Strains
Doing the same move over and over is the way to finally get it perfected and the best way to strain certain muscles and tendons.

When you have a strain, remember “RICE”: Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation. Ibuprofen or natural supplements to reduce swelling is also a good step to take.

Click here to read a great article about Repetitive Strain Injury. At the site, Clay Scott, explains everything you need to know, including pictures of two very helpful stretches.

Prevention is the key here, but you will still receive an abrasion or cut eventually. Removing both sights and the stacking swivel from your rifle is going to help to significantly reduce opportunities for the rifle parts to cut you.

Cuts still may happen, especially if you drill bladed (Got Bayonet?). If receive a minor cut, clean the wound and cover it with a bandage that has a small amount of tea tree oil or honey (must be real, not the processed junk) on it.

Click here to read about some excellent natural methods to treat cuts and abrasions.

The JROTC Instructor and The DrillMaster

DSCN0479I have heard at times from cadets that I say the same thing as their JROTC instructors. That is a good thing. It shows that the JROTC instructors are on the right track of creating a solid educational foundation for their teams (color guard and drill team). The instructors may not teach just like me, but different approaches offer fresh training experiences. But, what if the instructor does  not say the same thing that I do when teaching?

Not everyone in the military knows drill and ceremonies inside and out. As a matter of fact, that is the norm. Most JROTC instructors are senior NCOs who have been away from the marching scene for ten or even fifteen years or more. They were managers in their career field and were not anywhere close to a military formation- for the most part. There are exceptions, most definitely, as evidenced by several JROTC teams that are top-notch for drill.

Civil Air Patrol, US Navy Sea Cadets and the Army-based cadet programs that are across our nation are sometimes better than JROTC units at drill and ceremonies, however, in my experience, all cadet programs are about the same.

Problems? Go back to Competitive Regulation Drill
Many issues can be eliminated by revisiting Competitive Regulation Drill (CRD) training and

Competitive RD is very different from the standard RD that one learns in Basic Training for each service. Regulation Drill moves a military formation from point A to Point B; it teaches teamwork, leadership, etc. Competitive RD goes much beyond that helping the team understand the mechanics behind taking the first step, each subsequent step and how to apply the principles of CRD in the exhibition drill program.

Herein lies the issue: most adults who work with cadets, including JROTC instructors, do not understand what goes into creating a training program that encompasses CRD. In walks The DrillMaster.

What does the DrillMaster offer?
A fresh perspective at training cadets for those units that already have a top-notch team. Basic, intermediate and advanced training information and techniques for everyone else. Books on every aspect of military drill: RD, XD and CD (Exhibition Drill and Ceremonial Drill).

I visit JROTC and other cadet programs for a minimal tuition fee depending on the length of training and help with transportation and lodging. I teach for an afternoon, a weekend or even a week or two.

DrillMaster University
This is the umbrella under which I offer the following courses:

  • DrillUp! (for cadets and instructors)
  • Drill Team Improvement Seminar (for instructors)
  • Cadet Joint Service Honor Guard (click here for more information– offered every summer)
  • Certification programs for instructors/coaches and

Visit the Downloads page to download information sheets about the above-mentioned courses.

Follow The DrillMaster on Periscope!

I teach in various locations around the United States of America and with the advent of Periscope, the application for smart phones, I can now share live training moments when working with law enforcement, firefighters, EMS and cadets!

Download the free app from your phone’s store and start watching. Broadcasts begin the first week of August 2015 at the Cadet Joint Service Honor Guard Academy!

DrillMaster Periscope

The JROTC “Feeder” Program

Randolph-Macon Academy
Randolph-Macon Academy

If your JROTC unit does not have a plan on how to recruit at the local elementary schools that feed your high school, then you need to implement a strategy this school year!

JROTC programs need cadets, that we know. If 8th-grade students are unaware of the benefits of JROTC (leadership, organization skills, drill team, etc.), then those students will probably not sign up for JROTC. One of my favorite sayings is, “Education is key!” Applying that phrase to this situation means that you, as a cadet, can help ensure that 8th-graders are aware of JROTC and how it can impact their life whether they join the military or not. But, how do you do this? I’m glad you asked.

Self-promotion is a leadership and political skill that is critical to master in order to navigate the realities of the workplace and position you for success.”
― Bonnie Marcus

Promotion, Promotion, Promotion
I am not talking about telling everyone how wonderful you are or how amazing your units is. That is not the point. The point is to help students understand how much fun they can have and all of the different things they can learn just by being in the program.

Create a team that has can visit different places (schools, community events) that sets up a table with flyers with information and a tri-fold display board complete with pictures of cadets in all of the different activities.

During the high school open house, ensure that the PT, drill and rocketry teams all get a chance to show off their skills. Have the color guard present the colors to begin the night.

  • Raiders– run to the elementary school and do PT with the students.
  • Drill Team and Color Guard– perform at the school. March in as many parades as possible.
  • Reveille or Retreat– perform for the cadets in all of the different ways that you can.

Note: You must ensure students and their parents are fully aware that JROTC does not come with a commitment to the military. Junior ROTC is a citizen building program only, about 14% (it varies slightly by service) of cadets join the military either by directly enlisting or by attending college and commissioning.

Your JROTC unit needs to be prepared and the Public Affairs cadet(s) should put all of this into motion in conjunction with the team commanders. Educate the incoming students and the people living near the school by putting your best foot forward.