Category Archives: DrillCenter News

News from around the drill world including, Drillers, drill teams, honor guards and more.

The “Silver Brass” of the Silent Drill Platoon

In the late 1970’s, the number one rifle inspector
with the Marine Corps Silent Drill platoon passed on his
brass, or the buttons and emblems from his uniform, to his
successor. The brass continued to be passed on, and over
time, the cleaning and polishing turned the once gold-colored
brass silver.

“Being able to wear the silver brass and to be
privileged to fill the prestigious roll of rifle inspector is
an honor,” said Cpl. Tyler Dutton, the number one rifle
inspector for the SDP. “It took a lot of hard work and
dedication over the past three years to get to this point.
My time will soon be up and it’ll be my turn to pass on the
brass.”

Dutton isn’t the only Marine to display the coveted
silver brass. Each member of his inspection team, or the
Marines that perform during the rifle inspection, display
the brass in their own unique way. The first Marine in the
inspection, or the “single,” has silver slip rings on his rifle.
The next Marine, known as the “throw out,” has a silver
gas tube on his rifle. The last Marine in the inspection, or
the “double,” has a silver charging handle on his rifle. The
inspector himself wears silver buttons, emblems, waist plate
and screw posts.

“Being on the drill team is an honor. Being on the
inspection team is a privilege,” said Dutton. “My team put in
a lot of time and hard work to make it. Knowing the amount
of responsibility they have, they practice every day after
everyone else is done to make sure they are at their best.”
This year was a memorable one for the SDP.

Captains Ted Hubbard and Matt Smith, previous and current
parade commanders, familiarized Col. Christian G. Cabaniss,
commanding officer of the Barracks, with the tradition.
Shortly after, Cabaniss brought it up with Gen. James F.
Amos, commandant of the Marine Corps, who then officially
presented the silver brass back to the SDP, reviving the
retired tradition.

When crowds flock to the Marine Corps War
Memorial in Arlington, Va. or pack the seats at the Barracks
for a parade, a sense of history and tradition is clear. What
isn’t are the little details, practices and traditions Marines
cherish most.

“I will never forget the time I have spent on the
platoon with my brothers,” said Dutton. “The silver brass is
the platoons; I’m just the lucky one who gets to wear it.”

From Pass in Review, Apr-Jun 2013, WWW.BARRACKS.MARINES.MIL

How to Halt from Right/Left Step

With me spending 27 years associated with Air Force drill and ceremonies, the Marine Corps style of D&C has always been unusual to me. Having said that, I’ve studied the MCO several times and have worked with a couple of Marines who have been a great help for me.

Not long ago, A Navy Master Chief NJROTC instructor had a very good questions for me.

Question: USMC Drill Manual Right/Left Step.
I have been a NJROTC instructor for many years. To this day we argue about the proper way in which to command HALT during right/left step march. Some say the entire word “platoon” is given as the heels come together…which is counter to every other command of “platoon” while on the march which is broken in two….Pla on one foot, toon on the other.

Others say Pla is given when the heels come together, and toon as the heels are separated. I say it’s Pla heels together, toon heels together, halt as the heels come together.

The problem is that the manual uses the word Squad as a reference where of course it would not be broken in two. Can you help? A reference would be great to settle the debate.

Answer: Master Chief, I most definitely help! My reference is the MCO. While it doesn’t specifically explain this situation, it does infer what you were talking about where the word platoon is always separated which gives us a clue to separate it in this instance. That eliminates the possibility of saying the whole word on one count, the Army and AF technique.

In your question, you state that another suggested technique is to separate the command beginning with “Pla” when the heels are together, “toon” when the heels separate, and then “Halt” the next time when the heels come together. This technique does not allow for the pause that is present in every other halt command.

The proper technique, as presented to me by my friend, GySgt Aaron Calderone, the Drill Master at Marine Barracks Washington and former DI, is to not only separate the command, but also to give the one-count pause before calling halt and allowing for the customary two-counts after the halt command to execute the halt.

NOTE: This technique is only for the Marines, Navy, and Coast Guard. The Army and Air Force give Platoon/Flight when the heels are closed and Halt the next time the heels are closed.

What a mouth full. Here is a diagram to better explain the actions.

Exhibition Color Guard? Consensus Says it’s OK!

Firefighter Color Guard Axes at Right Shoulder
DrillMaster Honor Guard Academy Graduation Chino Valley Fire 2016 Firefighter Color Guard Axes at Right Shoulder

I cannot even bring myself to insert a picture of a color guard performing exhibition moves. Instead, here is an awesome firefighter color guard, the members of which were trained by yours truly.

Reference: Training Circular 3-21.5; Marine Corps Order P5060.20; AF Manual 36-2203; The Honor Guard Manual

I have heard from several cadets that their color guard has performed exhibition moves while presenting the colors for many VIPs and everyone seemed to be OK with it since the cadets did not hear of any negative feedback. It looks as though we do not need to follow service regulations, instructions, and manuals after all. We just need to decide which ones are not necessary to follow and which ones are.

It’s not about us, it’s about rendering proper respect and honor to the flag.

Or, we could consider an issue with which everyone in each of the armed services is quite familiar. Standards. Let’s consider something innocuous, underwear. When an individual goes through Basic Training/Boot Camp, they are told to either roll or fold everything in their wall/foot locker to a certain size. While I don’t remember what we had to do as college cadets going through six weeks of what was then called Basic Camp, at Ft. Knox, if I remember correctly, all of the members of my flight in Basic at Lackland AFB had to fold our t-shirts and underwear into a six-inch square. Sounds silly, right? It’s not. There are two reasons why this is done: 1. To get you to conform to service requirements; 2. To get you to pay attention to tiny, seemingly insignificant details. These requirements and small details save lives, I’ll give you an example.

Standards Not Maintained
In Germany in the late 1990s, two USAF Staff Sergeants were on trial for possible negligence. They had crossed two metal pieces incorrectly in the wing of an F-15 or F-16 and that incorrect crossover caused the aircraft to crash with the pilot staying in the plane long enough to guide the aircraft away from a village and into a field. The pilot died and the villagers were spared. Inattention to detail and failure to maintain standards. Military standards are written and pictured in many regulations, pamphlets, and instructions. We need to pay attention to both the words and the pictures.

Hidden in Plain Sight (at least for some)
There is a reason one does not see, in person or in a manual, a service color guard spin rifles or do ANYTHING other than what is specifically written in a service drill and ceremonies manual or internal honor guard manual.

There is a reason one does not see, in person or in a manual, a service color guard use swords, sabers, or bayonets (the MCO does specifically bans bayonet use for a color guard).

Consensus means zero when there is a written standard.

Guidance by a negative? While we cannot fully cover what is not acceptable for a color guard, we have the guidance by a positive- what is written and pictured in the Training Circular, Marine Corps Order, and the Air Force Manual (get them here) for the military services and, The Honor Guard Manual, Second Edition, for first responders. What is written and pictured is what we are supposed to do. Period. We do not add to manuals, especially when the goal is to look “cooler”.

Look at and heed the pictures and wording in your service drill and ceremonies manual.

The Minimum and Maximum Number for a Color Guard

Firefighter Color Guard Axes at Right Shoulder
DrillMaster Honor Guard Academy Graduation Chino Valley Fire 2016 Firefighter Color Guard Axes at Right Shoulder

Two of the questions that I receive quite often:

  1. How many flags can our color guard carry?
  2. What do we do if one of our four team members do not show?

The Maximum
With two rifle (axe) guards you can have what the joint service color team carries (in this order):

  1. US
  2. State (not usual with more than one service color)
  3. Army
  4. USMC
  5. USN
  6. USAF
  7. USCG

The USCG is a military service and during times of war serves as a component of the US Navy. Any other time, it is a law enforcement agency serving under the Department of Homeland Security. Please read About Joint Service Order (which includes information in the comments section regarding the Public Health Service- PHS and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration- NOAA) and Military Service Order of Precedence .

Or you could have:

  1. US
  2. State
  3. City or Service
  4. Department or Service JROTC

The standard color guard:

  1. US
  2. State or Service

So, the maximum number of colors would be eight flags with the minimum being two flags. Remember, this is not the maximum “authorized” or “appropriate,” this is hypothetical and you may have occasion to carry a variation of the above.

Notes:

  • The US is ALWAYS on the marching right or at the front for a military color team (NEVER in the center- not even if it is taller)
    • The only exemption to this may be a Tribal Nation color on Tribal Lands (which would be all of the US, technically)
  • A state color is ALWAYS before any service flag, right after the US

The Minimum
Now we get to a sticky point for some. This section answers the second question of what happens if someone does not show up.

For the military service honor guards in and around Washington DC, it is quite common to see a color guard of three members at various ceremonies. The flag for this setup is an American (funeral for the President) or a foreign nation’s flag (an arrival ceremony). Each service color guard, any other time, will always carry the American and the service flags. While ceremonial units overseas will carry the US, host country, and service flag, stateside installation teams may carry the state at certain times.

There are situations where a personal color (flag) is carried, but that color is only for that individual and never has rifle guards. A personal color is a general or admiral’s flag, a US Secretary’s flag (armed service, etc.) and even the POW/MIA flag.

Does this mean that your team should never march three members on your color guard? Not necessarily. Here is an example:

Three-man color guard
Three-man color guard courtesy of Honor and Remember

Four members of your team are set to march a parade, you have all practiced and all team members know, as they should, the manual for for the flagstaff and the rifle (axe). The morning of the parade comes and one member is unable to show for whatever reason. Do you now march with one rifle (axe) guard? No, march with the American flag. This is making the best of a potentially bad situation.

What About the POW/MIA Flag?

Color Guard with POW/MIA flag in formation
Color Guard with POW/MIA flag in formation courtesy of US Army, Ft. McCoy

This is a contentious topic. The POW/MIA flag always/never marches with the other flags in a color guard. Just ask some very well-intentioned veterans and service men and women in different parts of the country and you will get either answer. My advice? The US military honor guard standard is to carry and post it separately. I recommend carrying it separately.  Read the article, Can the POW/MIA flag be in a Color Guard, here. There isn’t any official guidance for carrying the POW/MIA flag in a color guard, the Flag Code guidance is for flying it on an outside pole directly under or next to the American Flag.

Color Guard with POW/MIA flag outside of formation
Color Guard with POW/MIA flag outside of formation courtesy of maritime.edu

Back to Basics

lombardiVince Lombardi, the legendary coach of the Green Bay Packers football team, never liked to lose a game. The team lost one particular game that Mr. Lombardi thought they definitely should not have. The game was lost due to the team making several mistakes on the field. On the bus ride to the airport the coach said nothing. On the plane ride home again, he said nothing. The next day at practice, the coach gathered the team around him on the field, reached into a canvas bag, and said to the team, “Gentlemen, this is a football.” The team then proceeded to go through all of the basics of the game of football.

I few years ago, I was hired to work with a prestigious military college drill team. The team had been showing poor results for several years and a member of the staff thought it was time for a change. That staff member and I spoke at length through email about the issues he felt the team had and from that discussion I formulated a plan for a weekend’s worth of rigorous training. By the end of the weekend, I took the team through regulation and color guard drill according to the Marine Corps Order under which most colleges drill. I had also written a two-minute sample exhibition routine that I taught them.

That drill season, the team did better than the previous years, but there was still one big issue that had to be addressed – attitude. The definition that best describes this term in this instance would be, a “truculent or uncooperative behavior; a resentful or antagonistic manner”. It not only came from the older members (juniors and seniors) of the team, but also from alumni who got wind of my presence at the school and wondered why I was taking the team through regulation drill. For them, what I really should have concentrated on was perfecting the exhibition routine that had been marched year after year after year with poor results. I encouraged the cadets to concentrate on the task at hand and to hopefully take and “run with the ball” of training this refresher course offered. It didn’t happen completely. (Insert the music, Tradition!, from Fiddler on the Roof.) With continued concentration on and respect for the principles that the cadets received throughout the season, the weekend would have had a much bigger impact.

It’s not just that your team revisits the fundamentals of your service’s drill and ceremonies manual, it’s that you help your team realize that it is extremely important to keep those fundamentals with you, to understand that fundamentals have a great impact on what you do in a performance. For instance, we would never take a new cadet and put him/her on an exhibition drill team during the first week of school and expect a solid performance. Nor would we take a new member of the fire department ceremonial team and expect perfection without a solid grounding in the fundamentals of ceremonial drill.

High school cadets would do well to revisit their service drill and ceremonies manual yearly, is not each semester. The same goes for first responder and military honor guard units, a yearly (at least) review  of the manual, would be a great refresher to keep those fundamental facts fresh.

The DrillMaster Drill Team Improvement Seminar

DrillMaster Drill Team Improvement SeminarJROTC units across the country send drill teams and colors guards to drill competitions for many of the school year’s Saturdays. Whether your team is competitive in World Class events or can only afford a couple of hours of practice each week, everyone can benefit from this course.

Download the flyer from my Downloads page under the DrillMaster University heading.

What you receive when you attend a seminar:

  • Books! One copy of each of the DrillMaster books, the canon of exhibition and regulation drill. Ceremonial drill books extra.
  • Foundational education to help improve your drill team: armed, unarmed, regulation and exhibition
  • An introduction to movement
  • A presentation of exhibition and regulation drill videos with a breakdown of performances according to the World Drill Association adjudication standards
  • Techniques on applying the fundamentals learned
  • PLUS! DrillMaster Diagnosis sessions throughout- bring recordings of your team

Where and when can I attend?

  • Seminars are conducted throughout the year.

What about hosting a clinic locally?

  • A classroom with a projector for a computer
  • Ten to twenty instructors
  • Clinic host discounts apply which means a clinic is also a fundraiser!

 

 

 

The DrillMaster DrillUp! Clinic

DrillUp! Movement Clinic
DrillUp! Movement Clinic

I’ve been teaching in various official capacities since 1986 and since 2009, I’ve been teaching various elements of what I have developed into a formal clinic for cadets, mainly, and JROTC instructors. The best news is that the clinic is free! I teach it to JROTC units as I travel the country instructing first responder ceremonial units.

The text of the flyer that I created is below and you can download the flyer at my Downloads page under the heading DrillMaster University. The best thing to do is get cadets from all over your area to attend the clinic that last three to five hours, depending on how many cadets attend.

What you get in the clinic:

  • Command voice principles
  • Movement mechanics and principles
  • Effort qualities
  • An understanding of unarmed exhibition movement
  • An introduction to armed exhibition movement
  • Teamwork activities

What does it take to host a clinic?

  • A gymnasium or some place similar
  • Access to an electrical outlet is helpful

What do the cadets need to bring?

  • Water and snacks for the breaks
  • Sturdy shoes for marching
  • Comfortable clothing
  • Any kind of drill rifle

What is the price for cadets?

  • A positive attitude
  • A Desire to learn
  • A willingness to improve
  • $0

How many cadets can attend?

  • 20 minimum, up to 100