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Do Standards even Matter?

August 19, 2014 in Commentary, Drill Teams

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.

exhibition drill, regulation drill, color guard, color team, drill meet, drill competition, jrotc, air force, army, navy, marine corps, coast guard, standards, uniform

Details, Details, Details

July 15, 2014 in Color Guard/Color Team, Drill Teams, Honor Guard, Instructional

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.

honor guard, firing party, color guard, color team, cordon, pall bearers, body bearers, firefighter, law enforcement, military

How to Request each Service’s Drill Team

July 8, 2014 in Drill Teams, DrillCenter News

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

July 1, 2014 in Commentary, Drill Teams 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?

June 10, 2014 in Drill Team Training, Drill Teams, Instructional

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

So, you want to be a drill team Instructor?

June 3, 2014 in Commentary, Drill Teams, Instructional

Drill Team Instructor CoachIf you are like me, you love to work with students and teach them everything you know so that they can go off and maybe do the same while building on the foundation you’ve given them. There is another side to working with children/young adults: protecting them and even yourself against evil.

I’ve never thought about this kind of danger since my motives have been to educate. It was a shock to go through youth protection training and see that not only are children in danger from predatory adults and other children, but I was possibly in danger as well. Guarding the youth I work with and guarding myself have been part of my philosophy ever since I began teaching, but now, I have the tools with which to be more effective at it.

The truth is, there is evil in our world and it is possibly right next to you. Evil hides well. For a while. It is then discovered, but only after something terrible has happened. Guard yourself against it, become aware and know the signs of evil against children/young adults.

BSA-logoBoy Scouts of America Youth Protection Web-Based Training

Create an account, take the training and save the certificate. It’s also a good idea to keep your certification up-to-date at least every two years if not annually.

Become a Certified DrillMaster
Nothing communicated that you know what you are doing like certifications. Almost every field has some sort of certification process and military drill is no exception! For complete information on obtaining certifications, click here.

Complete local requirements
Contact the school where you would like to work. Volunteer in the beginning, if necessary. Many good job begin as volunteer opportunities. Find out as much as possible about the courses that are offered either through the school district or at a community college and make every attempt at finishing the following before the first practice date.

  • Completion of an 8-hour Fundamentals of Coaching course.
  • Completion of a Concussion in Sports course.
  • Completion of an approved CPR course issued by the American Red Cross, The American Heart Association or similar entity.
  • Completion of a 4-hour Sports Medicine or Sports Safety First Aid course issued by the American Red Cross or similar entity.
  • Any other required courses/documentation that the school district may require.

Show initiative!
Working on your certifications and completing required course work through the summer will show the staff that you mean what you say: you are the best person for the job, bar none!

Creating Check Points When Training

May 20, 2014 in Drill Team Training, Drill Teams, Honor Guard, Honor Guard Training, Instructional

Defining and Creating Check Points

A check point is a moment in time and space where synchronized movement takes place. Let’s take a look at a simple hand salute:

Check Points- Hand Salute

Hand Salute

Check Point Begin

Check Points- Hand Salute

Hand Salute

Check Point 1


Hand Salute

Check Point 1&

The positions are approximate


Check Points- Hand Salute


 Check Points- Hand Salute

Hand Salute

Check Point 2

Hand Salute

Check Point 2&

 Hand Salute

Check Point 3


For honor guard units, we have a three-second hand salute. We count it this way: “one thousand one, one thousand two, one thousand three.” In the picture sequence above, the six images to illustrate the salute movements and we can count it in a similar fashion but break it down like counting dance or music like this: “one and two and three.” Yes, “Begin” is a check point. When you are dealing with a team, you must ensure that everyone is in the same position for initiating the movement. The pictures are from my book, The Honor Guard Manual.

Now, let’s talk about equipment. For military exhibition drill, equipment is defined as a rifle, sword, saber, and guidon and for San Fransisco JROTC drill teams, this also includes what is called a swing flag (a shorter flag, about the length of a rifle). In the (marching band) color guard and winter guard world, we use three standard pieces of equipment: flag, rifle and saber. This equipment comes from military color guards and how marching bands and drum corps had many musicians and marching instructors that were veterans returning from WWII. Flag presentations were part of every performance. Eventually, the young ladies in the color guard incorporated more and more dance, layered underneath equipment use, and now what we have today is more of an athletic-dance-color-guard with military roots.

The advancement of movement and equipment use in (marching band) color guards has far surpassed military drill since the late 1970s and early 1980s and now military drill is catching up- but we need to educate.

Synchronized equipment work creates a powerful visual effect and it is the goal of a team to be in sync and we do this through check points. The equipment, in this case we will use the rifle, must be at a certain point/angle at a certain time.


How to spin a rifle- start



How to spin a rifle- count 1


How to spin a rifle- count 1&



For the pictures above, I am executing a single-handed front spin with my left. Start at Port, drop to horizontal and push with the right while lifting with the left to create the spin.

Sets of Eight
It is always a good idea to break sequences down into smaller sets to work on the fine details, master those details in that set and then move on so that when you get into more technical work, you can begin counting in sets of 8 and create check points through that set. The following video gives an excellent illustration of this point. Though it is based on spinning a (marching band) color guard saber, it applies perfectly.

exhibition drill, regulation drill, drill team training, jrotc, honor guard

Flag Drill Teams: Making Lemonade out of Lemons

May 13, 2014 in Drill Teams, DrillCenter News

The reason some of the drill teams in San Fransisco and other areas of California use swing flags instead of rifles is due to anti-gun sentiments for many years. According to their website, “The Flag Team, or FT (formerly Boys Drill Team, or BDT) descended from the Rifle [Armed Drill] Team, which was discontinued in 1994 by the San Francisco Unified School District. So instead of using rifles, the Flag Team drills with metal poles with flags. Both the Flag Team and the [female Unarmed) Exhibition Drill Team perform in various parades and the Annual Spring Review Competition [among other drill meets].”

This is Washington High School’s Flag Team.

Many moves similar to exhibition drill performed with a rifle.

This is the female Exhibition Drill Team.

Quite a bit of singing/chanting with unorthodox movements.

And something very unique, what the JROTC units in the area call a “Drum Corps” (actually a marching percussion section)

The drum major’s use of the military signal baton isn’t exactly “regulation,” but he gets the job done nicely.

jrotc, exhibition drill, unarmed drill team, flag drill team, drill comptition, drill meet

Learning with the DrillMaster: Horizontal Switches

May 6, 2014 in Drill Team Training, Drill Teams, Instructional

A fun practice for our drill team members.

There is a specific reason that this video was made which I am unable to fully divulge at this time. The cadets and I did go through learning a new move, but the “yelling” was staged and really didn’t work well- we couldn’t keep straight faces most of the time. This was a fun training session!

army jrotc, exhibition drill, horizontal switch, drill move, drill team

Footprints in the Sand- for Teaching!

May 4, 2014 in Drill Team Training, Drill Teams, Honor Guard Training, Instructional

Footprints in the Sand- for Teaching!

While I was running and then walking on the beach this morning to begin my day here at Daytona Beach at the Nationals competition, I realize that the ideas that I’ve had in the back of my mind can be best expressed through my footprints in the sand. While I was walking, cooling down from my run, I noticed as I looked back, that my footprints were even and did not disturb the sand as much as other footprints (I was running and walking on the harder sand while the tide was out).

I have worked on my walking which has subsequently influenced my marching for many years. When I was in middle school, my family went for a walk and my mother noticed that my toes pointed outward as I walked. She corrected that and that was the beginning of what I would describe as a struggle- at first. However, as I continued to work on keeping my feet straight, it became natural; I was retraining my leg muscles to have my feet land properly- straight.

You and your team must approach technique in the same manner and this includes how each members takes a step. It also applies to every other aspect of drill: arm swing, flank movements, rifle and flagstaff manipulation, etc. Technique is very important! it is the building block on which everything rests.

In this picture, Smooth Step, you can see that the foot’s pressure is even across the step: side-to-side and front-to-back. This is the best step to acquire and maintain for competitive marching and also honor guard duties, not to mention if you play a musical instrument and march. This is the eight-to-five step (eight steps to five yards).

Smooth Step

Smooth Step

This picture, Popping the Toe, shows a step that has more pressure and force on the toe.

Popping the Toe

Popping the Toe

In, Digging the Heel, we see just that: a step where the heel is digging into the ground. This is the most common step that is taught in Basic Training for each service (not always, but it is quite common). This step helps hose who have not marched before begin to hear and feel the timing of the platoon’s/flight’s cadence. The step is helpful, but does not facilitate a smooth step that is required for honor guard units and especially competitive marching since it tends to send a jolt through the body and can also.

Digging the Heel

Digging the Heel

And finally, Walking on the Outside of the Foot, shows pressure that is concentrated on the outside of the foot through the step. Taller people tend to do this.

Walking on Outside of Foot

Walking on Outside of the Foot


drill, regulation drill, color guard, color team, how to march, footprints, marching technique, honor guard, exhibition

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