Yes, it is true! The DrillMaster has been international for years now, but my travels have not taken me outside of the country until today. At 1 pm Eastern, I will fly with my good friend and exhibition drill colleague, Matthew Pereau. We are truly excited and blessed for this opportunity!
Our first stop is Qatar where we will train a group for three weeks. Matt will fly back home and I will continue on for four days in Johannesburg, South Africa. I will publish the many details about the trip complete with video and pictures upon my return.
If George Costanza (from the TV series Seinfeld) can have “The Summer of George!” Then those of us in the military drill world can have The Summer of Drill! Every summer! But our summers will be filled with training and performances!
Each summer, I am heavily engaged with the Cadet Joint Service Honor Guard Academy in Flemingsburg, Kentucky at the National Cadet Training Center at Camp Sousley, training cadets at drill camps, and working with first responders teaching Honor Guard Ceremonial Unit Academies across the country. I even travel internationally, at times, writing and teaching exhibition drill.
Competitions: Solo exhibition drill competitions are just about everywhere. Seek and you will find. If you would like to advertise your competition on this website contact me!
If you contact me, please be patient as I will be working long, thoroughly enjoyable days. I will get back to you as soon as I can!
My best advice? Read, read, read, read, read. Knowledge is key!
There is quite a bit of information and several situations that every color team needs to know to maintain the American flag in the position of honor – on the marching right or in front. The American flag never marches any other position. Never. Military and para-military (just about every organization that has it’s members in uniform) should follow military guidance and never march the American flag in the center.The position of honor is to the right- not the center.
What Flags do we Carry and in what Order?
Military, Civil and Citizen teams have different requirements. The colors listed are in order from the marching right (viewer’s left):
Militaryteams (the US military, ROTC, and JROTC, and other cadet organizations) carry the American, (state,) and service colors. The organizational color would be last.
Civilteams (law enforcement, firefighters, and EMS) carry the American, state, municipal, organizational and even fraternal colors. The fraternal color can be omitted when presenting for loval government functions.
Citizenteams (Scouts, fraternal organizations) carry the American, state, and organizational colors.
Tribal teams , on Tribal lands, would carry the Tribal Nation’s color, American, and state colors. Outside of Tribal lands, the American would be first and then the Tribal Nation’s color. Some Tribal teams also carry service colors.
Side note: If a military color team is going to carry the following colors, this is the order. No exceptions.
Military service flag
Carrying more than one national flag?
Let’s say you are part of an Emerald Society Pipe and Drum Corps and Honor Guard(a first responder fraternity). Many of these teams carry not only the American flag, but also the Irish flag. Why? The first cops and firefighters were Irish. The tradition continues. Back to our situation of two national flags: All national flags are treated the same on American soil – they are never dipped in salute. Ever. Both remain upright even during both national anthems, if they are played. All other colors dip in salute.
Note: While service color position remains the same, if all service personnel are not able to be present for the team, their order should go as follows as far as knowledge is concerned: regardless of service or rank, the most knowledgeable (as far as color guard experience) member should be the US color bearer and the second most knowledgeable should be the right rifle guard. Third in this sequence should be the left rifle guard with descending familiarity following from there.
Joint Service Order for First Responders
Full disclosure: I developed this. While this is not a hard-and-fast rule, I thought it necessary to create an order of precedence based on the implementation of each service. From my limited research, I came up with the following:
Law enforcement officer (LEO)
Using the guidance from the military, team make up might look like this:
Right/lead rifle guard: LEO armed with a rifle/shotgun, second-most experienced member
American flag: LEO, most experienced member
Other flag (State, etc.): Firefighter/EMS, can be least in experience
Left/rear guard: Firefighter/EMS armed with a ceremonial fire axe, third in experience
Keep in mind the guidance that the most experienced member should be the US color bearer, regardless of service/profession.
LEO/Fire Working Together
I encourage and enjoy joint work, but there is an issue that must be addressed: Technique.
Does Height Matter?
Experience before aesthetics. Not if you have the luxury of each member of the team being around the same height, but for cadet and civil teams, it should come second to knowledge and experience. Yes, the team might look “off”, but it’s best to have knowledgeable members of the team in key positions rather than have aesthetics. Click here and read this article.
Flag Stuck, etc.?
Problem during the Performance? That’s why God invented the right and left guards for the team! The guards are there to fix whatever issue they can. For more, read this article here.
Waiting for the ceremony still requires proper protocol.
Arrive at the site at least one hour early
Practice while in your travel uniform (this ensures no one thinks the ceremony has already begun and gives the team time to figure out their movements)
Change into ceremonial/Class A uniform
Hang out* with equipment ready in-hand and all team members in their proper place (American flag at right or in front of other flags- yes, even just hanging around – cameras are everywhere)
Ten minutes prior to show time, line up at staging position at Stand at Ease (or Parade Rest) ready to perform
*An example of how NOT to hand around. This is a USAF Base Honor Guard team, I have pictures of other services, this is just an example.
Left Wheel, Right Wheel and About Wheel. These are terms that honor guards use to describe turns accomplished by the color team most often outside. Right/Left Wheels use the center of the team as the rotation point which means half the team marches forward and the other half marches backward to rotate the team 90-degrees in an average of eight steps for teams with four to six members. The team executes the About Wheel in the same direction as the Right Wheel rotating the team 180-degrees in 16 steps.
Note: As a rule of thumb, colors enter at Right Shoulder (Carry) and depart at Port Arms. Entering at Port is fine if necessary.
Halt in front of and facing audience
Present Arms for National Anthem or Pledge (never both)
(Color bearers move to post colors and rejoin guards)
Standard entrance and departure.
To Present or Post, that is the Question!
Posting the colors is for special occasions. How special? That is up to the organization. Graduations are a special time, that would call for posting the colors. Weekly events would probably warrant pre-posted colors at the least or presenting the colors only.
The Show-n-Go. This is the honor guard term for presenting the colors for an informal/semi-formal event. The colors are pre-posted on the stage/front of the room and the color team enters, presents (Anthem), and then departs. No posting.
With the Show-n-Go, the colors do not matter. As long as the American flag pre-posted, the color team can present whatever they carry as their standard colors (American, State, etc.).
How to Enter
The standard entrance is to enter from the viewer’s right, present to the audience (then post) and depart. See the image above.
The standard exit is to the viewer’s left. See the standard entrance/departure image above.
To exit to the viewer’s right, use Every Left Off. The commander calls, “Step!” and the left rifle guard steps across, as close as possible to the team member on their left. Step any further away and the departure for the team looks terrible.
When to Retire/Retrieve the Colors
Retrieving the colors is reserved for the extra, extra formal occasions. Use the posting sequence in reverse.
When I was in AFJROTC (’70-’83), we didn’t have scoopers right behind horse entries in a parade. They were the unsung heroes who brought up the very rear, just in front of the police car with the flashing lights signaling the end of the parade. This meant that everyone in the parade had to dodge, duck, dip, dive and… dodge certain remnants from our equine parade entries.
Now, scooper are placed throughout parades and are making a crummy job fun.
there should be people, sometimes Scouts, who clean up during the parade walking behind horse entries in parades. However, there is the possibility of encountering one or more situations where you and your team may need to either March through or around an obstacle. The choice is yours. Manure won’t ruin shoes, but it’s not nice stepping in it and carrying a certain amount down the road with you especially when you are in front of the public, the whole parade is your performance. But, that’s what we do: adapt overcome and carry on. On the other hand, the team always has the option of separating and individually moving around obstacles and then coming back together. That movement should be as slight as possible – no major movements.
The first time one shaves is the beginning of a never-ending cycle when you wear a service uniform. Say hello to nicks, cuts and the occasional abrasion depending on your skin type and especially if you have acne.
There are shaving powders, creams, and soaps, but probably the best shave you will find is from oil. You can buy a relatively expensive specific blend of oils that create a better shaving experience, or, you can go into the kitchen and pour a little olive oil into a small bottle and use that. Olive and hemp oils (what I use) are great for shaving because oil protects your skin better as you run that steel blade across your skin and these oils do not block your pores which is even better. Using an oil is less expensive and healthier for you by avoiding the chemicals that can be in the soaps and creams. Here is how to implement oil in your shaving regimen.
Best in the shower: get your (face) skin nice and wet, wash your hair and then turn off the water (a cut-off valve is great). Now, put about six to ten drops of oil on your fingers and massage it over the area to shave. Put water on your razor and get your fingers wet on your non-shaving hand. Put this water on the first area to shave; you now have three layers of liquid on your face: water-oil-water. Shave the area that you just wet. Rinse the razor OFTEN. Here is an example:
Wet fingers, rub that water on your right cheek, shave right cheek with a downward motion of the razor, turn your water on so that it is forceful and rinse your razor, wet your fingers again and repeat for the next area to shave.
When you rinse your razor, the water must be quite forceful since the oil and stubble are a little sticky and messy. If you need to re-shave a portion of skin, add more water to that area, don’t just shave it again. The floor of your shower might become a little slippery, that is why you shave toward the beginning of your shower and then let the soap during the rest of your shower take care of the floor, to some degree.
Which direction to shave? Great question and only you can decide that. If you have very sensitive skin, shaving closely will irritate and possibly make your skin bleed with dozens of little red dot all over. Shaving against the growth of hair (“against the grain”) is the best way to get as close as possible. Shaving with the direction of hair is close, but the least irritating. Shaving sideways to hair growth produces in-between results.
Key points: no matter what you shave or how: use copious amounts of water, a little oil- add more oil if necessary, and more water. Rinse your razor constantly.
Ears, Eyebrows, and Nose
Guys, you will probably end up trimming all three of these at one time or another. It’s just part of getting older. However, trim them you must! You need to be as professional as possible and this is part of it.
Safety razor, straight razor, electric shaver, or hybrid (electrical wet shaver): It is up to personal choice. Try different methods and see what is best for your lifestyle and skin.
Speaking of oil
Get some coconut oil and oil pull for 15 to 20 minutes first thing each morning with a large teaspoon of the stuff. It will be extremely beneficial for you.
In the movie, Ghost Busters, Egon Spengler says, “Print is dead.” To some extent, I agree, but words on the screen are alive and well.
In the military, we know how to communicate and how to show respect in all forms of communication. After all, the military relies heavily on communication and it must be done the right way the first time, every time.
Social media has literally destroyed communication while creating an overabundance of it. It is just words on a screen and anyone can write anything they want and send it to anyone or even everyone. No longer, are people dealing directly with other people, it is now through a screen and many are so flippant, they spew their vile hate-filled words at its worst. I’m not talking about the idiotically-defined “hate”, which can be anything that “offends”, I’m talking about the incessant use of swear words thrown around with ease or, at the least, just the complete lack of respect shown to others regardless of who they are. I am not calling for a “sir-sandwich” with every comment, but to rip into someone online is just inexcusable.
Using a 45-year old adult named Alfred as the subject, if you, a high school student, follow of one of Alfred’s social media accounts, even though the social network says that you both are “friends”, you most certainly are not. You are not even acquaintances unless you have met in person. Even if you are in your 20s, address other adults by their last name or Sir/Ma’am. If you know Alfred by his rank, then that is how you address him- that is how you address everyone unless otherwise specified. I know many veterans, retirees, law enforcement, EMS and firefighters. Some of them I address by their rank- I have never asked nor have they said otherwise, and some of them I call by their first name. However, I always begin by using rank, last name or sir/ma’am. It is best to begin with respect and communicate that you think the other person deserves respect.
A soft answer turneth away wrath: but grievous words stir up anger.
You must start at a mutual basis; everyone deserves respect, regardless if you are given respect or not. I see some online accounts with a statement that goes something like this: ‘Treat me well and I will treat you well.’ It does not work that way. Sure, you can treat someone else like they are just a piece of garbage just because they did not respect you first, but that is just a big cop-out. We all have a responsibility to treat others with respect, regardless of how others treat you. Do you not like that you have a responsibility to others? That is the reality of life, even though others do not live up to that responsibility. It has to start with someone, who better than you?
It’s a windy day. Your JROTC color guard is up next for the competition. You move into position on the drill, colors at Carry and rifles at Right Shoulder, pad and give the order to go to Present Arms. The rifles guards execute the Present Arms position, the American flag is flying in the breeze, and the spade at the top of the staff for the state flag, while it is being pushed forward, catches the American flag at the corner and the flag wraps around the point on the spade. If you notice in time, you realize that if either of the flags move independently, the American flag, made of nylon, will have a nice rip, or at least, a run that will render the flag useless, requiring the purchase of a new flag. What should happen next?
Fix it! The color team commander, the bearer of the American flag (only, no one else is ever the commander), must give an informational command to have the right or left rifle guard proceed to fix it. If need be, bring the staffs out of the harness cup/socket, proceed with whatever needs to be fixed and then carry on with the performance like nothing happened. The impression left on the judge/audience will be much better then if a disaster is left to happen.
You have been trained to execute the sequence and, just like exhibition Drillers who must practice on how to recover from a drop or hit, your team should make sure they are prepared to handle a mishap or accident without breaking their bearing. Handle it in a professional manner and everyone will remember your stellar performance.
Judges! Do not fix anything that the cadets can handle! Let them learn. They need to be able to adapt and overcome and if they do or do not, score accordingly.
The “domino effect” does not accurately describe what we call a ripple in exhibition drill. Dominos fall and that’s it. Yes, it’s a ripple, but nothing else happens. Not very effective for a drill team.
This video is a great illustration of the domino effect, using books.
However, we are talking about a ripple for a military drill team.
What is a ripple?
For military drill purposes, it is an action that begins at one point and is then repeated along a line of Drillers to another point or points.
Are there Different kinds?
Not necessarily, but variation in a ripple line is very effective. These variations are
Left to Right
Center outward (starting at the center and moving out to both ends)
Out-inward (starting at both ends going to the center)
Slow-to-Fast (gradual and immediate)
Fast-to-Slow (gradual and immediate)
How does one go about teaching a team to perform a ripple?
To begin, use a metronome and go slowly. Use a metronome application on your phone, set it to 2/4 (for a tick-tock, high-low, type of beat) and set a slow tempo around 90 BPM (beats per minute). If you need to set it slower, that is not a problem; make sure that everyone is comfortable with the speed, you can always increase it as everyone improves.
The slower tempo allows everyone to begin on a tick or a tock and ensures a solid timing framework from which you can then increase the tempo. Using the metronome is only for creating timing. It is almost impossible to get the metronome going fast and have everyone follow it.Once the team can build speed into the ripple, leave out the metronome and visually get your cue on when to move.
Once the team can build speed into the ripple, leave out the metronome and visually get your cue on when to move. Here is an example: the person to my right (A) is going to go to Right Shoulder and I (B) am going to repeat it and then the person to my left (C) will do the same in a ripple. When A goes to Port, that is my cue to do the same which is C’s cue to move. We all then finish executing Right Shoulder as slowly or as quickly as needed.
When you want a very fast tempo in your ripple, using the analogy above of executing Right Shoulder, instead of waiting for the person to execute Port, my cue will be A’s initial movement of the rifle.
A Firing Party fires a ceremonial Three-Volley salute using modern or traditional rifles (military), shotguns, or pistols (law enforcement). It is not the 21-Gun Salute, that is fired by guns (canons) and only in the Army and Navy.
The Numbers: Anywhere from three to seven members firing with a commander. The smaller amount of members on the team does not mean that more shots are fired.
The Rifles: Traditional rifles are the M1 Garand and, used most often, the M14. The reason for these two rifles being used is the charging handle. The M1903 has a bolt and is awkward to operate smoothly when loading each round. Modern rifles are the M16 and variations of it. Pump action shotguns provide a similar action as the M1 and M14 when loading the rounds.
The Stance: Neds to be solid. Do not bend at the waist and do not bend your knees. You can see both of these in the Soldiers in the picture below.
“Fires” is the keyword in the first paragraph. The team fires the Salute, it does not “shoot”. Shooting requires taking aim to hit your target. The Firing party does not have a target, it is firing blanks for the Salute and not going to hit anything.
While this is a non-standard stance for the Indiana State Police, you can see their use of shotguns for the team.
I understand the natural position of taking aim when having a rifle or shotgun in your hands a getting ready to fire the weapon. However, training must involve breaking this habit. It’s a ceremony and must be treated as such. There is a time to take aim and shoot and a time to fire. “Ready, Aim, FIRE!”
In the picture above, you can see how some of these Soldiers are taking aim while using a more modern rifle to fire the volleys.
In the military, we do not mass-produce experts in drill and ceremonies (we do have some experts in D&C, but relatively few). That is not a goal. We produce experts in different specialties with some of those specialties having civilian equivalents and some specialties only appropriate for a military application. After all, civilian companies do not need a sniper or someone from Field Artillery, but those companies do need the intangible skills of leadership, attention to detail, etc.
In the Air Force (my service) aircraft maintenance crews on the flight line always have the T.O. (technical order) open when they are doing their work on an aircraft. It’s a must to get it right and those in aircraft maintenance, to name just one career field, must adhere strictly to the TO’s standard where every minute detail is outlined; lives depend on that level of adherence to the standard. It is not the same for marching in the military, you will not see the drill and ceremonies manual open to the move that the platoon or flight is currently learning. It’s just not as crucial.
Military marching is a way to move a unit from point A to point B in a timely and professional manner.
We know that drill instills teamwork, leadership, followership, response to commands and a host of other attributes that trainees learn when attending Basic or Boot Camp. Those trainees receive their training from a Drill Sergeant, Drill Instructor or Training Instructor, depending on the branch of service, who is well versed in the service drill and ceremonies manual, of which there are three: 1) Training Circular 3-21.5 for the Army; 2) MCO P5060.20 for the Marine Corps, Navy and Coast Guard and; 3) AFMAN 36-2203 for the Air Force. These manuals are not meant to create drill experts in any branch of the military. Each branch of the military has a different manual for different levels of drill (i.e. honor guard manuals).
Just because one graduates their service’s Basic Training does not mean they are an expert in drill or that they know how to judge military drill. When trainees graduate their service Basic Training course, they are at a basic level of military knowledge, understanding, and application. Application, there’s the rub.
The application of marching determines the level of expertise.
There are drill masters for each service. They are the extreme few in each service who train those who train the incoming trainees or work directly with the service honor guard drill team. Few DIs, DSs or TIs are experts specifically in drill for our needs (competitive drill). They know drill and it’s application for their service trainees and that’s all they are required to know since they have so much more information that they need to pass along. Then there are members of the service honor guard.
Installations and National Guard (NG) units have honor guards whose members perform ceremonial duties each day of their time on the team. The same goes for the Presidential Honor Guard units. While the installation and NG teams strive to achieve a certain level of ceremonial drill application, the Presidential teams maintain and even surpass the application level for each ceremonial element on a daily basis. However, there are only a certain number who could be considered experts, again, for our purposes. The general population are extremely good at the specifics of what they do, but would not be considered experts in the general sense.
It takes education, training, and practice to march. The same goes for teaching marching and that goes without saying that it is the same for judging. One does not learn how to do something and run off and become an instructor immediately. Likewise for judging. It just doesn’t happen that all the sudden you can teach or judge.