Tag Archives: color guard

The Firefighter’s Ceremonial Axe Manual

See also the article, Resistance to Change: Betrayal?, for some insight that may help dealing with this sometimes rather touchy issue.
Fire-Axe-Nomenclature

Why an axe manual in the first place?
Firefighter honor guard units use two of their tools as ceremonial equipment that are normally used to fight fires. When I first began writing my book, The Honor Guard Manual, I wanted it to be as comprehensive as possible and thought that I should include law enforcement and firefighters. Law enforcement units use rifles the same as that military honor guard units. They also use shotguns sometimes. But firefighters- hold the phone!

The conversation I had with myself when something like this: “What in the world? Let me zoom in on that picture of the firefighter color team. Hey, they’re holding shiny axes! And what are those staffs with point and a little hook?” Time to visit a fire station and get some hands-on training. I went to the Spangdahlem Air Base (my wife was stationed there- I had already retired but was an active member of the Base Honor Guard, probably the only retiree to do that) fire station and was given a tour and explanation of the ax and pike pole and the loan of a real fire ax. The Airmen there were great and I so appreciated the time they took with me, from the Senior Master Sgt to the Senior Airman, they could not have been more pleased to have someone take an interest in the tools of their trade.

I took the fire ax home and began creating a manual of arms that I hoped would mirror the honor guard manual of arms for the rifle for a color team. I took pictures of myself with a timer on my camera setting it up on the back porch of our home in Germany. I also asked my wife to sit in the middle of our hallway and take many pictures while I posed in several different positions of the developing manual with the fire ax. In steps difficulty at this point.

The issues that I encountered were 1) Safety, there is a pike on the opposite end of the blade (the blade is dull on ceremonial axes, but the pike still comes to a four-sided point) and, 2) Creating a series of “strong” positions.

Right/Left Shoulder
Safety: Port is the position most teams use when marching and it can make the ax guards wish for interchangeable arms during long parades. To my knowledge at that point (2009) no team had used an ax like a rifle and put it on their shoulder. (I have since found one or two pictures of firefighter color teams with axes on their shoulders- the same way I created, which gave me validation.) I really wanted to use a shoulder position to provide a relatively restful position, especially when using a real fire ax with a heavy head. To do this and to maintain a safe and ceremonial image, I could not put the ax handle on my shoulder with the ax head next to my ear. That position looked “weak” and actually, a little dorky. It also created the problem of moving the pick near my head, about which I was not all that enthused.

Port and Present Arms
Weakness“: My second concern was positions that may look “weak” or “non-ceremonial” even in transition. When you bring a rifle from Order to Port, the movements are straight forward: you bring the rifle across the torso and then move the right hand to the small of the stock. When trying to mimic this movement for the fire ax, keep in mind that the hand is on top of the ax head and as you bring it across the torso, you must bend the right wrist creating a “weak” movement/position. Or, when at Present Arms and both hands are flared to the front with just the thumbs holding the handle- it does not present a “strong” image.

Rejection!
I have seen firefighters perform several of the positions of an ax manual of arms, positions that I eventually flat rejected for the reasons stated above. I didn’t just play around with an ax for a few minutes and settle on whatever came to mind, the ceremonial manual that I created took weeks of hard work of hands-on time with the ax, bouncing ideas off of my wife and then also firefighter Mark Zamora who played an integral part in the revision of the manual that I first developed with which I was not happy. Mark’s expertise as a firefighter and a member of his department’s honor guard was crucial in the manual positions that are in my book and in the video at the bottom of this article.

Here is the manual that I created which is explained extensively in my book:

 

Drill Team and Honor Guard Training

ff785d98-1551-4a5f-a934-bb218127ea61.jpgTraining, Practice and Rehearsal, three different types of well, practice. Here is an article on the Difference Between Practice and Rehearsal and an article on the Difference Between Practice and Training.

Whether you are on a first responder or military honor guard or a JROTC/ROTC drill team, your responsibilities are the same to a point: develop your skills, keep them sharp and, if you can, learn new skills.

How to Run a Competitive Drill Team Practice
You must cover these areas at drill team practice: Inspection, Regulation Drill and Exhibition Drill. There is one other area to cover whether drill team members or other cadets, color team (color guard). If the color team members are also drill team members then, obviously, you will have to have these cadets practice their sequence either on their own or for part of the drill team practice.

Scheduling your time between platoon/flight and squad/element regulation sequences, then moving on to the exhibition sequence and even then working in color team(s) into the mix can be quite a challenge.

Inspection
Find out the layout of the next competition’s inspection area and work to enter and exit the area with the team.

I remember when I marched on my JROTC team and we had a very small room (on purpose) for the inspection area. We marched 17 members with fourth squad entering first, then third, second, first and me last, the commander. The team formed up at the back of the room with just enough space for the judge to walk behind 4th element and we opened ranks perfectly and then it began. What I do not remember is how we exited. Practice marching into a small area/room by squad/element using “(Column of Files) File from the Right” command.

We did very well my four years on the team because we had dedicated cadets and, what was even more important, we had dedicated instructors.

Regulation Drill
Armed and unarmed platoon/flight and squad/element sequences can take the least amount of practice if you have created a solid foundation of drill and ceremonies in your JROTC program. All cadets should at least be familiar with all stationary drill (standing manual), flanks and columns. Proper execution of each movement is key and then working on alignment and distance should follow.

All team members should read applicable D&C manuals and the Commander(s) should eat, sleep and breathe the regulation sequence command list until it is completely memorized.

Colors
The color team is part of regulation drill, but needs very specific attention. The uncase and case parts of the sequence must be accomplished per a mixture of the Army Training Circular and your service’s D&C manual. Yes, a mixture. Click here and read this article for a complete explanation.

First responder honor guards need to practice their procedures for competitions and performances.

Exhibition Drill
This is also where that solid D&C foundation will help, plus personal practice time. Creating an effective routine takes time, teaching it takes time and, finally, practicing it takes time.

All of the parts of a drill competition take a great deal of time and you must find a balance. If your teams practice for two hours every day after school, you will be able to find that balance with relative ease. If you practice Tuesdays and Thursdays for an hour-and-a-half, that balance will be more difficult- but it is doable.

What do I recommend? Start early- even during the summer and teach new cadets all they must know for regulation drill to be perfect in their execution. Then, run through those regulation sequences twice a week to keep them fresh in everyone’s memory, with the rest of the time spent on exhibition.

Lastly, give 100%, 100% of the time. Each time you practice make that practice seem like a performance on the competition field and be professional. If you can do your best with the resources you have and come in 8th place and still know that you gave your all, trophies will never matter.

The Military Cordon

Military cordons (two lines of people, armed or unarmed, facing each other) are used for arrival/departure ceremonies and awards banquets. Here is a video I created with my outstanding cadets from Merritt Island High School in Florida.

If you have any questions, please ask.

Drill Team and Honor Guard Unit Training, Part 1

Training Pic Doris DayIn the military, we train. And we train, and train and train. We have major training scenarios (exercises) that involve multiple services and other countries, we have them for a single military installation, single unit training, all the way down to military specialty and ancillary training for each individual. It’s time consuming, but well worth the effort. After all, lives are at stake.

This amount of training is what you would expect from a superb military- training to ensure everything goes according to plan- from the big-picture war games down to the single individual who needs to upgrade to the next skill level. And as a former Air Force Unit Education and Training Manager (UTM, for short), I am well aware that training forms the foundation of all we do.

The Master Task List/Master Training Plan
One of the key tools that every shop or office has is the Master Task List (MTL). As you can guess, it is a list of all of the tasks, broken down by skill level for each military job: MOS/AFSC (Military Occupational Specialty/Air Force Specialty Code).

Sometimes combined with the MTL, the Master Training Plan (MTP), as the name states, is a description of the plan for upgrade/recurring training that each member of the shop/office follows.

The Training Record
The other document of which every single service member has a copy, is their On-the-Job Training Record. This stays with you while in the service and has every task imaginable for a specific specialty. Many are electronic now with very few probably still in a folder in a file cabinet.

What all of this has to do with you
If you are on an honor guard, I have already created a downloadable PDF Training Record for you, one that covers every aspect of honor guard duties. Here is the MTL/MTP for download.

If you are on a drill team, you can use the same kinds of documents to track training. In JROTC/ROTC it may not be the most practical since cadets are on the team for four years and then gone- however, if schools adopt this system, those who move from high school to college could take their training plan with them. Here is a sample Drill Team Training Record and here is a sample MTL/MTP to get you started.

Have  plan, that is what is going to be your best bet in the long run. Write things down- even drill move ideas or additions you think should go into the training plan. Discuss training: who, when, how long. The more planning you do, the less running around you will do later.

Stand by for part two coming soon!

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Honor Guard Training Q and A with The DrillMaster

Do you have an honor guard question?

I am happy to answer it!

Q: We already have 9 people committed to being on the Honor Guard. Is there a minimum/maximum that is desired?

A: For my courses, yes, 20-25 trainees. For an honor guard, no, not really. Most of what you will do will be colors presentations for ceremonies and parades. A color team needs 4 people as the minimum. Actually, you could march a 3-man team, if need be, with just the American flag, but that is not usual. Six or 8 members are required for pall bearers and a firing party is made up of a minimum of 4: one commander and three to fire. Pall bearers can make up the firing party, so if you had a funeral, then you would need at a bare minimum, 4 for the color team and six for the pall bearers/firing party. If you have a LODD, I’m sure you won’t have any problem finding more volunteers that you could train to carry the casket and then post off to the side somewhere while the rest of the trained honor guard perform the ceremonial duties. Part of the course is training in the six-man flag fold and you can record it and use it over and over for your internal training. I’ll also teach your team the 2-man flag fold which is much easier to perform, especially at the last minute.

Q: We were hoping to coordinate with a local pipes and drums band to be present for some of our services, is that something you could provide feedback on during the academy as far as how to go about including that?

A: Pipes and drums are part of the honor guard family, but perform separately. It would be relatively easy to include them in any kind of ceremony as you would just work out a certain signal with the drum major for them to play. I don’t think you would need my help with that, although this is a legitimate question (as are all of your questions) for a team that is just beginning.

Q: We as of yet have no equipment.

A: I suggest purchasing equipment first. Equipment is very necessary, distinct uniforms are not (read below for my explanation).

Q: We will be purchasing uniforms, and I am wondering if they should differ from our Dress “Class A” uniforms? Should the uniforms be purchased and tailored prior to the training?

A: Having completely different uniforms requires quite a bit of money (www.lighthouse.com is good). I think this should be last on your list, here is what I recommend: 1) obtain equipment; 2) secure training; 3) distinctive honor guard uniforms at some point in time. You could make your Class A uniform distinctive by adding an Honor Guard arc to the left/right shoulder and a shoulder cord or aiguillette to the left for a fraction of the cost of outfitting your team with new uniforms.

Q: Regarding the rifles, should one be purchased for every member?

A: A color team requires two rifle guards. I think it would be a good idea to have four or even six riufles so that more members can train at the same time with the rifles. I also suggest that you obtain the same number of colors, staffs and harnesses.

Q: How much time do you need ahead of time to prepare for the course and scheduling?

A: I can be ready in as little as two weeks and think it would be good for you to order your equipment, setup a tentative training date, advertise it to other state departments to get 20-25 trainees and then get with me when you have the funding to take care of the training- I want to emphasize that, if you want to, you could run two one-week academies and have half of your team trained each week while having the other 10-15 trainees coming from other departments, thereby defraying your costs considerably while having only half of your team off their normal duties. Just food for thought.

Q: I just want to verify for our training that the cost is all inclusive for your fees/travel/room and board?

A: Yes, everything is included in the cost: course fee, travel, room and board.

Q: Would we be conducting the graduation mock funeral at a cemetery?

A: I’ve had a mock funeral at a funeral home and one at the front of a public library. Anywhere you would like, we can probably work it out.

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Putting Things into Perspective

“We won!”

Those words are great to hear and sometimes even better to yell. I knew the feeling of “winning” at drill meets throughout my four years of high school AFJROTC; my team swept every meet and so did I as the team’s commander for my last two years. It was hard work, fun and I learned quite a bit. But what did we really “win”?

I went to Agua Fria Union High School in Avondale, AZ (’79-’83) and our most intense rival school was a MCJROTC unit from Tolleson High School. Our unarmed teams were always neck-and-neck. It was a good rivalry and kept us on our toes the whole school year. The other schools in the Phoenix and surrounding areas attended most of the same meets that we did. The only school to come close was our rival that I mentioned above, the other schools always came in behind us. Our instructors (CMSgt Broomhead- not making that up- and Lt Col Lorenz) always had some great music waiting for us on the bus ride home and we would sing/yell the words to We are the Champions by Queen and Celebration by Kool and the Gang.

Then we went to the Southern California Drill Meet and had an attitude adjustment. I think we took home a third place trophy in one of the phases of the competition. We left dejected, but guess what our Chief did? He had the same music waiting for us on the bus? “But, we were ‘losers'”, we thought. We were never “losers” in the sense that the world sees it. We practiced for two hours every day after school all through the school year and even had some Saturday practices thrown in. When we went to SCIDM, we entered a competitive area to which we had not been exposed and we learned great lessons from that experience and applied those lessons to our training so that we could be a better team than before.

The same goes for you and your team. I am very happy for teams and cadets that post pictures on Twitter and Instagram showing off their trophies. The same goes for the teams that post pictures after a competition without a single trophy, but smiles all round. You did it, you both “won”! Kudos to you!

Drill Team

Picture from Twitter

Now let me explain how to put things into perspective.

The world is all about “winners”. Ricky Bobby’s father said, “You’re either first or you’re last”, as he drove away in that silly movie Taladega Nights. But later on, he made the comment that he had been wrong in his thinking. Now, I’m not suggesting taking meaningful life lessons from every movie that you can watch, but sometimes there are very pertinent ideas that can come across. Sometimes.  But his second statement later on in the movie was absolutely right on the mark of truth: there is no such thing as, “first or last”. Competition is great and it is meant to, as I wrote earlier, keep you on your toes.

You are meant to keep training, keep studying and be the best that you can be. THAT is winning. Getting up early to exercise and get in some extra practice. THAT is winning. Paying attention when you are practicing regulation drill for the millionth time. THAT is winning. Not losing your cool when training new cadets who just can’t seem to figure out that you pivot on the left foot for a right flank. THAT is winning. Not getting angry, not throwing your rifle when you still can’t get that Hawaiian Punch. THAT is winning. Knowing that you did your very best in a performance and, “leaving it all on the drill deck”. THAT is winning.

You don’t need a trophy or ribbon to know that you are already a winner when you are going that extra mile and if that is all you are going for, then there is something missing in your approach to the what the World Drill Association calls, the Sport of Military Drill.

Don’t fall into the trap that society tells you: “You’re either first, or last.” It’s a lie. Everyday accomplishments make you a “winner”.

Now, go practice.

Romeoville High School JROTC Drill Meet

Yes, I did. I drove from Melbourne, FL to Romeoville, IL to judge a drill meet. Seriously. I love to do what I do and Don Dunning asked me if I would come up and judge about a week and a half before the competition. My answer: “Sure!” And now it’s over with, but it was such a great day!

I was blessed to judge colors and then tandems. I made my DrillMaster Audio Performance Critiques for each of the performances and let everyone know they could download them. When I first began judging in the morning, I received some strange looks; “We thought you were talking to yourself!” was the feedback I received while I was giving my feedback! Once I explained, I saw nods of approval.

So, without further unnecessary typing, here are my critiques in no particular order.

Color Guard Regulation Drill

Tandem Exhibition Drill Performances

Unarmed XD Squad (I wanted to give the cadets some feedback)

Military Drill World: March Fourth!

Happy March 4th, or I should say, #MarchFourth, to everyone on a drill team, honor guard, color team, color guard, marching band, drum and bugle corps, winterguard, indoor percussion ensemble- anyone who marches and loves it.

Today is YOUR DAY!

March Fourth

 

Announcing the First Annual Rebel Rifle Review!

Drill team training and honor guard training at its best!

This Review will be just like a drill meet, just like performing at a competition, but you get live feedback while the performance is going on with a downloadable MP3 DrillMaster Performance Critique.

Rebel Rifle CorpsWho can enter the review?

Armed and Unarmed:

  • Drill Teams (Exhibition and Regulation Sequences)
  • Squads/Elements (Exhibition and Regulation Sequences)
  • Tetrads (4- or 5-man*)
  • Tandems (2-man*)
  • Color Guards

All of the standard drill meet rules apply for your service. Along with the Performance Critique, your team will also receive a score in the World Drill Association Adjudication System. That score will correlate with written definitions for the score range meaning, you will be able to read what the team is doing well and what needs improvement.

To submit a video of one or all of the above performances, upload them to YouTube and post it on this Facebook page: Facebook.com/Rebtosuccess for the month of March- yes, the whole month! As they are uploaded, The DrillMaster will watch, rate and comment on the routines, upload the MP3 files and then link to them here at this website and also in the above mentioned Facebook group.

You may upload a video that is/was made between 14 Feb 15 to 28 Mar 15. Direct all questions to the Review Director, Cadet Michael Nicholson, at the Facebook group.

Keep Drilling

By DrillMaster Guest Writer: C/CSM Daira M. Padilla
Charles H. Milby High School JROTC 4th BN

Milby jrotcIt’s 4:00 in the afternoon, drill team practice started at 3:30, “can we get a water break?” asks one of the drill team members. “You sure can…NOT!” states the commander. The Charles H. Milby High School drill teams have an upcoming competition, the goal: BE CHAMPIONS.

There was a move, our original school building is getting renovated, for that reason we had to temporary move to another building, with this move we lost about 40% of our school population, and with that loss we also lost drill team members. Recruiting was the first option, “we’ll recruit and get enough people”. Didn’t happen. Yes we recruited people, however not enough to fulfill the requirement of 13 people for exhibition drill. But who said that was going to stop us? Just the year before we were the only school in our district, the only school in our city to attend the National High School Drill Team Championship in Daytona Beach, Florida. We attended and we placed, being national champions, a lack of people is not a problem. People told us we couldn’t do it, our school is not necessarily the wealthiest, we didn’t have a fancy drill deck, we practiced in the student parking lot.

Practice
Practice is one of the greatest things when it comes to being on the drill team. However to get to the level of “practice” it takes that moment when you ask yourself if you really want it, if you want it from the heart, if it’s your passion. If you answer “no” to any of those, then drill team is not for you. Practice, it is such a simple word isn’t it? Well PRACTICE is not simple, not easy, but it sure is the best. Hot sunny days when you have to take off your shirt and just leave a muscle shirt on, seeing the sweat roll down your eyebrow as you stand at attention, feeling your hands sweaty and nasty, begging for the time to come when we get that break to drink that well-earned ice-cold water bottle. Then there’s the cold days, having to put on your hoodie with a wind breaker on top, wearing extra socks, ear warmers and everything you can to prevent you from freezing.

Practice doesn’t mean hanging around, it means making the best out of every second, blisters, bruises from the weapon or from doing unarmed drill moves. Practice means, “we need to get on sync or we need to go home”. Getting those thirty-inch steps right and that 45-degree angle perfected. Practice means we are aiming for perfect. Still the one goal: BE CHAMPIONS.

Competition
Now competition is another of the best parts of being on the drill team. “As soon as you get off of the bus, you are to carry yourself as champions, march with your head held high and DO NOT look around”, words that have been passed on by Milby JROTC drill team commanders to the team members as they exit the bus for competition.

INSPECTION
The inspection phase comes first. There is nothing like intensity of a drill sergeant screaming at you while you stand at attention, the sarcasm in his questions thinking he will break your bearing. Little does he know, you have been preparing for this moment longer than he thinks. However it is not just that, it’s your uniform being perfectly ironed, those straps that itch but make you look good, it’s the whole day you took to fix your uniform and last but not least, the weeks you studied a packet of questions to only get asked 3. But the main thing is FOCUS and CONFIDENCE, if you have those two, it will not matter that your “enemy” school is looking at you as you get inspected, because you know that you are making them intimidated. It’s just 7 minutes long and those 7 minutes are the most intense in your whole lifetime.

REGULATION DRILL
Regulation phase is the second phase of competition most of the time, here is when every marching detail counts, perfection in 30 inch steps, alignment while marching, looking straight ahead at all times, making sure you don’t step out of the boundaries, the intensity of regulation drill is the best intensity you can feel. My first year on the drill team I had two goals only, to take the commander position for the upcoming year and to be better than my then-current commander. This year I am the regulation commander and I got first place over all commanders of my district. As I said before, if you have focus and motivation you will get anything you want.

EXHIBITION DRILL.
Yeah, I bet as you read that you remembered the ripple line moves you and you team were working on. Exhibition is almost as it sounds, exciting! Whether you are tossing a Quad or a Rising Sun with your weapon, a mock weapon or demil, or you are slapping your legs and arms or stomping your feet for an unarmed sequence, all of it is exciting, without a doubt you will end up begging for a drink. But we all know that in the end, the counts, memorizing the sequence and perfecting synchronization will ALL be worth it.

The competitive level of military drill is expressed in one word: INTENSE. In the end when the results come in and you realize how you’ve done, the happiness is extreme when you find out you placed, but it doesn’t stop there, it shouldn’t stop there. You are to always strive to make yourself and your team better. Drill is a hobby in high school, it will pay you, either indirectly by the life lessons you have learned, or directly: there are those who have gone on to the ever-emerging post-high school, professional level. You, keep doing what you love, KEEP DRILLING!