Category Archives: Drill Teams

Information for drill teams of all kinds

Don’t Break Vertical

Don't Break VerticalWhen executing facing movements while armed with a rifle, do not break vertical. But, what does that mean?

In Regulation Drill, drill that is based on the drill and ceremonies manual for each military service, without any added movements whatsoever, Drillers must execute the movements exactly as described.

The preparatory commands for facing movements are Right, Left and About. Do not lift the rifle off the marching surface on the preparatory command. Accomplish that only right after the command of execution, Face, while executing the first count of the movement (see the pictures, above).

When you move, the rifle must remain vertical, lift it just enough to clear the ground/deck and move it to directly next to the right foot on the second count of the movement.

Merritt Island Competition Critiques

On 30 Jan 16 Merritt Island High School hosted the first Brevard County Army JROTC drill competition. With C/MAJ Anderson, from Florida Institute of Technology, who is working on an engineering degree, I judged Unarmed Squad Regulation and Armed Squad Exhibition. I was head judge for the regulation sequences and cadet Anderson took over that position for the exhibition portion of the day. What a great day!!

Below are the DrillMaster Audio Performance Critiques for download. I also broadcasted three of the performances on my account at Periscope, @TheDrillMaster. In performance order:

  2. MIHS Female UA SQD REG
  3. CHS Male UA SQD REG
  4. AHS Male UA SQD REG
  5. AHS Female UA SQD REG
  6. CHS Female UA SQD REG
  7. MIHS Male A SQD XD
  8. MIHS Female A SQD XD
  9. CHS Male A SQD XD
  10. CHS Female A SQD XD

The DrillMaster Broadcasts Live on Periscope!

DrillMaster PeriscopeOn January 30th, 2016, I will broadcast two or three routines from Merrit Island High School’s Army JROTC Drill Competition while I judge platoon exhibition and regulation. The broadcasts are then turned into video recordings

If you don’t have Periscope, go to your app store for your smartphone, download it, and then follow @TheDrillMaster!


How to Execute Change Step

Feet- Change StepGive the command, Change Step, MARCH! on the right foot. In the image at right, you can see the foot placements just before, during and right after giving the command. The following is what each service manual says on the specific execution of the command.

A non-military explanation of the steps:
The tempo is 120 SPM (steps per minute). We can mark each step like this (the numbers are an example of we count it musically):




To execute Change Step, it looks like this with the command, MARCH, called on the first right step for our scenario:




The Step-Step-Step, happens quickly and not at the same tempo. If you execute it at the same tempo, you will never change your step pattern, you will still be on the same foot.

The Army

This movement is executed automatically whenever a Soldier finds himself out of step with all other members of the formation. It is only executed while marching forward with a 30- inch step. To change step, the command Change Step, MARCH is given as the right foot strikes the marching surface. On the command of execution MARCH, take one more step with the left foot, then in one count place the right toe near the heel of the left foot and step off again with the left foot. The arms swing naturally. This movement is executed automatically whenever a Soldier finds himself out of step with all other members of the formation.”

The Marine Corps (Navy & Coast Guard)

“2212. TO CHANGE STEP. The purpose of this movement is to change the cadence count without changing the rhythm of the cadence.

  1. The command is “Change Step, MARCH.” It may be given while marching at quick or double time, marking time, or double timing in place. The command of execution is given as the right foot strikes the deck.
  2. While Marching at Quick Time or Double Time
    • a. On “MARCH,” take one more step, 30 or 36 inches, as appropriate.
    • b. As your right foot comes forward to the next step, place the toe near the left heel and step out again with the left foot. This changes the cadence count, but not the rhythm.
  3. While Marking Time
    • a. On “MARCH,” lift and lower the left foot twice in succession.
    • b. The second time it touches the deck, raise the right foot and continue marking time.
  4. While Double Timing in Place
    • a. On “MARCH,” hop twice on the left foot.
    • b. Continue double timing in place.”

The Air Force

“The command is Change Step, MARCH. On the command MARCH, given as the right foot strikes the ground, the airman takes one more 24-inch step with the left foot. Then in one count, place the ball of the right foot alongside the heel of the left foot, suspend arm swing, and shift the weight of the body to the right foot. Step off with the left foot in a 24-inch step, resuming coordinated arm swing. The upper portion of the body remains at the position of attention throughout.”

No matter which service, DO NOT turn turn your hips and/or shoulders to the right, keep them squared forward to the Line of March.

“Military Neck”

Military schools across the nation are notorious for telling their new cadets to pull back/tuck their chin. It’s difficult to tuck your chin, pull in your stomach while it’s up against the edge of the table, and look straight ahead while eating your three squares a day. Eating at the position of Attention.

Three Squares (a meal): take a scoop of food on your fork, move the fork straight up above your plate, directly across from your mouth and move it straight to and into your mouth. You follow the same path, put your fork down and then chew.

The problem that this position, your tucked chin, creates, is what the medical world calls, “Military Neck”. It can cause issues for the people who have it. In the picture below, my neck looks just like the one on the right. This could be a problem for all kinds of current and former cadets.


An excerpt from

Does Military Neck Hurt?

No, not always. A neck can be straightened without neck pain symptoms, however, a military neck is often noted with muscle spasm which pulls on the spine. This is often seen after a whiplash injury from an accident and is primarily seen on x-rays. A military neck may be related to stiff neck muscles, headaches related to neck problems and restricted or painful motion.

What Can Help Military Neck?

Military Neck2Correcting a military neck is a long-term process, there are simply no quick fixes. Similar to wearing braces on your teeth, making changes to the curve of the cervical spine takes time. One thing is certain, as a postural problem, it will not magically fix itself. A combination of 3 methods can provide solutions for improving a military neck, as well as the health of your cervical spine.

To find out more about this condition and its treatment click here to go to

I urge all military schools to reconsider or, at least, research enforcing this position for the health of their cadets.

Vocabulary Vs. Excellence

XD K-state-eduMany members of the Military Drill World catch the bug for solo exhibition drill (XD) and create a lifestyle around spinning. Some of the newest XD Drillers, however, try to be a Sam Gozo, Andres Ryan or Matt Wendling in a matter of weeks by attempting to learn as many moves or “tricks” as possible. Thinking that is the way to go- no real direction, just create an immense vocabulary, no matter what it all looks like. Here is some direction for you:

It has taken Sam, Andres, Matt and literally countless other Drillers years of work to get where they are and not just two or three years, I’m talking serious, dedicated work for well over five years each. Yes, you will see improvement within the first year, but do not kid yourself in thinking that you have finally “arrived”. Keep on practicing and attending competitions.

Here is a comment that I’ve given to many new XD Drillers:
“You have a very wide vocabulary, but you really need to concentrate on excellence and building your core Muscles. Take one move, work on it for a few days and perfect it. If you are satisfied with the results, go to the next move and repeat the process, include the first move in your new “mini routine” and keep adding. If you throw all kinds of moves together and never really concentrate on developing each one individually, you will never generate the kind of excellence expected and really required in military drill.”

By following that advice, you will build a vocabulary the proper way, by concentrating on excellence and building the muscle groups that will help you manipulate the rifle. Who knows? Maybe one day you will be a challenge for one of these World-Class Drillers.

Training and the Three Styles of Leadership

Leadership taskandpurpose-comImage from

Training Levels. Since I spent my last seven years in the Air Force as a Unit Education and Training Manager (AFSC 3S2), I will use the USAF’s levels. They are applicable to everyone, no matter what task, no matter if you are in the military or not. Our emphasis here is military drill and ceremonies.

  • A 3-Skill Level: Apprentice. This equates to first-year cadets after they have gone through their initial training in all regulation drill (RD).
  • A 5-Skill Level: Journeyman. A cadet, (first- and possibly second-year) fully trained in RD, who still needs time and experience.
  • A 7-Skill Level: Craftsman. A cadet (third-fourth-year), fully skilled and capable of leading a color guard and a platoon/flight in RD.
  • A 9-Skill Level: Superintendent. A cadet (third-fourth-year) fully skilled in RD and tasked with maintaining standards while supervising others training new cadets.

Eisenhower on Leadershipimage from

Leadership Styles: Directive, Participative & Laissez-Faire. These are the three basic types of leadership. When I first learned about them in AFJROTC in high school (79-83), I thought you picked one and stuck with it, making other people deal with your selected “style”, the style you thought fit with your personality. I soon learned that you are not supposed to do that! You use each one of these styles on a moment-by-moment basis, depending on 1) the situation and 2) the person/people.

On paper (or on screen), it can seem straightforward and even easy, but when you begin applying what you have learned on other people, it can be difficult.

Directive. Also called, Authoritarian. You, as the leader, make all of the decisions and tell your team everything they need to do. This is a punitive leadership style and many people immediately think of that as its only aspect, but there are other reasons to adopt this style.

  1. Time-sensitive project and you do not have time to explain all of the details to your team.
  2. Team member(s) is 3- or 5-Level and still learning.
  3. Used in initial training and then you gradually transition to another style, as appropriate.

Participative. You allow your team to have a say in how tasks are accomplished. you check on their progress occasionally. Some 3-Levels and most, if not all 5-Levels and all 7-Levels. This style is used most often and can lead to Laissez-Faire with some team members needing you to revisit the Directive style.

Laissez-Faire. This means you can allow your team to do what they need to do because you are fully confident that the task can be accomplished effectively. Some 5-Levels and most, if not all 7-Levels and all 9-Levels. Some team members will need you to revisit the Participative style at times.


JROTC Drill Team Issues


My name is John and I was selected to be the drill commander for this year. It’s only been a few days and we are already having problems, especially between my selected leaders. The whole atmosphere changed the next day when my AI handed me the drill cord, it was like my leaders didn’t want to socialize with me anymore (Problem 1). Some of them actually fought with me about getting the position (Problem 2). Others try to take over while I’m teaching, but I need my leaders, I know I can’t do it on my own. I try talking to them in a meeting or even individually but they never listen. I don’t want to yell at them to do things or baby my drill team becuase we just started and I don’t want to scare off the LET1s by yelling at someone, but my leaders don’t want to work with me. I’ve been kicked out of the staff chats and someone showed me everything they were saying. I know as a drill commander it’s my job to just concentrate on my team and get things done but now I just feel I’m on my own here and I don’t know what to do.

Hi John,

What a dilemma! It may not help, but you are not alone, metaphorically. This is a common problem in JROTC.

Addressing Problem 1. Leadership is lonely- or can be. The social issues are part of what happens. Leaders begin to distance themselves from those they lead when selected for a position- to a certain point. For a high school cadet, this can be tough as teenagers are very social creatures.

Side note on leadership. While each member should be treated the same at the beginning of your new assignment, you will see which team members need to be treated differently to get the same results. It has to do with personality and also level of training. Here is what I mean.

Addressing Problem 2. The reason this is happening is because your cadets do not see leadership in you- or they THINK they don’t see it. Let’s change that. Come at them with a plan and, here it is.

Bad JROTC instructor? Click here to read if this may play a part.

smart goal setting conceptYou have three types of goals, short-, medium- and long-term. RD= Regulation Drill; XD= Exhibition Drill

See the article, Create  Goals Not Dreams. SMART goals are best. Image from

Your short-term goals:

  • Assign Drill Team Trainer and Lead LET1 to ensure LET1s are fully trained in RD
    Ensure all drill team members attend practices
  • Get two/three volunteers to help you plan the team’s XD platoon/flight (and squad/element) (armed and unarmed) sequence(s)
  • Encourage all team members to practice XD at home (Check out this sample of some basic armed XD that I teach)

Your Mid-term goals:

  • Assign Commanders* for Squad and Platoon RD Armed and Unarmed sequences (must memorize sequence)
  • Assign Backup Commanders* for Squad and Platoon RD Armed and Unarmed sequences (must also memorize sequence)
  • Learn all RD sequences and perform from memory

*Armed and Unarmed Squad and Platoon Commanders and their Backups are only in charge of that specific portion of the team when in competition only. Assign these commanders as you see fit- have tryouts in three weeks, that gives team members enough time to memorize the sequence they want to command. You can break this down further if you have a male and female team.

Your long-term goals:

  • Attend and win X-number of competitions (identify all competitions coming up)
  • Assign someone to help you with planning transportation to events

Write all fo these goals on the classroom board during a team meeting. Tell the team this is what you have come up with and ask for their input about any goals you may have missed and how to achieve the goals. You must show strong leadership at all times and ignore the petty immaturity that happens outside of drill team time. During drill team time- practice and meetings- it’s you who is in charge, but you do not need to be a hammer. Be assertive and know what you are doing. The only way to know what you are doing is to learn and read.

Read all of my articles with the Drill Team Training tag and Ask DrillMaster tag . Give the tag to all of your teammates and get them to read them as well. Everyone needs to be educated.

Dear reader– what is your input? Please comment below.

Leadership: Parent, Adult, Child

I am publishing this article to help everyone, but it is specifically for one young man who I have known for a short time.

You have a choice when addressing someone in person as to how you sound, what you say and your facial and body expressions.

Before we continue: if you come across as a parent to others, especially if they are (much) senior to you (in rank and/or age), you will only anger them. If you come across as a child- unless you are a child, you will probably do the same. Adult to adult interaction is best between adults, even young adults who are learning. Thank about how you are coming across to others, ask for feedback and learn.

With the Theory of Transactional Analysis (TA), Eric Berne attempts to explain the process of communication, how it can go well and how it can fail, by identifying the players in the process of communication (the transaction). When two people communicate, the transaction sender is called the Agent and the receiver is called the Respondent. The agent sends the Transaction Stimulus and the Respondent gives the Response. Each person is made up of three alter ego states, the Parent, Adult and Child.

The following information on TA comes from

Original TA Theory

TA Bad CommunicationParent
This is our ingrained voice of authority, absorbed conditioning, learning and attitudes from when we were young. We were conditioned by our real parents, teachers, older people, next door neighbours, aunts and uncles, Father Christmas and Jack Frost. Our Parent is made up of a huge number of hidden and overt recorded playbacks. Typically embodied by phrases and attitudes starting with ‘how to’, ‘under no circumstances’, ‘always’ and ‘never forget’, ‘don’t lie, cheat, steal’, etc, etc. Our parent is formed by external events and influences upon us as we grow through early childhood. We can change it, but this is easier said than done.

Our internal reaction and feelings to external events form the ‘Child’. This is the seeing, hearing, feeling, and emotional body of data within each of us. When anger or despair dominates reason, the Child is in control. Like our Parent, we can change it, but it is no easier.

Our ‘Adult’ is our ability to think and determine an action for ourselves, based on received data. The adult in us begins to form at around ten months old and is the means by which we keep our Parent and Child under control. If we are to change our Parent or Child we must do so through our adult.

In other words:

  • Parent is our ‘Taught’ concept of life
  • Adult is our ‘Thought’ concept of life
  • Child is our ‘Felt’ concept of life

Modern TA Theory

PTA Good Communicationarent
Parent is now commonly represented as a circle with four quadrants:

  • Nurturing – Nurturing (positive) and Spoiling (negative).
  • Controlling – Structuring (positive) and Critical (negative).

Adult remains as a single entity, representing an ‘accounting’ function or mode, which can draw on the resources of both Parent and Child.

Child is now commonly represented as circle with four quadrants:

  • Adapted – Cooperative (positive) and Compliant/Resistant (negative).
  • Free – Spontaneous (positive) and Immature (negative).


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