Tag Archives: drill rifle

Service Drill Teams Attend Annual Training Camps

Each year around the end of February and the beginning of March, each of the service drill teams (Army, Marines, Navy and Air Force- not sure about the Coast Guard*), leave their duty station and head out to train for about 30 days to work on the upcoming season’s routine.

USMC SDP Challenge DayBefore the teams leave for training there is a challenge time or, at least for the Marine Corps, Challenge Day. Honor guard members wishing to be a member of the team can perform the drill team’s manual, which they have practiced for weeks, and be graded in the hope to make a performing spot on the season’s team.

The Army, Navy and Air Force Silent Drill Teams, separately, go to different installations around the country and the Silent Drill Platoon along with the Drum and Bugle Corps heads to Yuma, AZ each year.

The photo is courtesy of the Marine Corps and shows a Marine performing for a grade by his inspector.

*Unlike the other service drill teams that have permanent members who are assigned to the team and usually do not have other honor guard duties, the Coast Guard’s honor guard is very small and all honor guard members are cross-trained and certified on the different ceremonial elements. Members volunteer to march on the drill team but the assignment is also part of their regular honor guard duties, so they have double and triple roles to perform in any given day with funerals, VIP arrivals, etc. including drill team practices and performances.

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!

Beating a Performance Plateau with New and Improved!

new-improvedDo you know why products are constantly puting new labels on them with words like: “NEW!” or “NEW and IMPROVED!” Comfort. We become comfortable with the things we have or use and we may be happy with using XYZ dish washing liquid for the rest of our lives, but the advertisers want to make sure you can’t live without it! new-improved2Our society is driven on making people uncomfortable with whatever they have so that they feel they must have the latest version or the newest outfit.

new-improvedThis also applies to a solo or drill team performance. Comfort can set in part-way in the season and, while we may not notice it, the performance can become a little “lackluster.” This is called a plateau. Think of a hilltop, you can’t go any higher- or so you may think.

So, how can we prevent this?

Schedule a break or three during the season- but stay together. You must keep team camaraderie and cohesion going strong and having team members going off in different directions will work against that. Cut a practice short and do something fun as a team: have a BBQ and play games, do something that doesn’t include drill, but do it as a team. Are you a soloist? Spend time on another hobby or with family instead of a full practice.

Change something in the routine- This is the New and Improved! part of the solution. A slight change (new drill sets, increase/decrease tempo, different direction to face, a slight pause here, etc.) to a certain part or parts can make a world of difference.

Renewed focus- When a drill team performs, the team members are displaying simultaneous responsibilities* and, depending on the performers’ experience, those responsibilities could be many. And that gets tiring both physically and mentally. Renewed forcus is when you say to the team (or yourself, after watching video of your practices), that their hand position at this point or their feet at that point need to be this or that way, better posture. Something else to consider.

*Those responsibilities include, but are not limited to: posture, arms swing and angle, step height, foot direction and angle, alignment forward and to each side, drill set memorization, staying in step; hand, arm, foot and equipment work, etc., etc.

Astronaut War Eagle Drill Meet Performance Critiques

MIHS at War Eagle first place over all 2015Astronaut High School’s Army JROTC hosted the 2015 War Eagle Drill Meet at their school in Titusville, FL on the 21st of February. I judged Unarmed Squad, used a new score sheet as a trial and recorded my usual commentary as the performances progressed.

These recordings are standard in pageantry arts with music and visual judges giving feedback. My recordings are the first of their kind for the Military Drill World.

The picture is of Merritt Island High School AJROTC with their trophies, including first place over all. I’m proud of my cadets! Actually, I’m proud of all of the teams that have taken their time to learn and then practice. It can be a tough road, but the journey is well worth the effort! It was great to see Palm Bay High School’s MCJROTC teams perform this morning and to judge alongside a Marine again.

I must apologize, my introduction to each of the teams sounds just fine, but after that, you cannot hear me. The commander’s voices are clear, I have no idea what went wrong. Again, I am very sorry that you won’t be able to download and listen to my critiques.

In any event, look at the new score sheet that you were given today. See how this begins to get the judges thinking of the performance as a whole and, most importantly, thinking in the positive: teams start with zero and build up based on their performance. The other sheet has you starting with a number (400-something) and taking points off each time a “mistake” is made. Negative scoring doesn’t allow anyone to learn.

 

 

The DrillMaster JROTC Competition Study Sheet

JROTC inspection stripesdotcomThis is a beginning for you, it is not the be-all and end-all of study sheets. Use it or take it and modify it and use that. Whatever you do, you need to be prepared for your inspection and have answers at the ready. Actually, your response and not just the answer itself, is more of your grade.

Download the study sheet here. Image courtesy of stripes.com.

Drill Teams and Honor Guards: Considering Your Hands

Competitive drill is very much a different world than the drill and ceremonies that are taught in America’s military services, unless one is part of a specialized unit. Even in JROTC, the drill taught to each class during the school day, is not to as high a standard as the competitive drill teams and color teams (why, “Color Teams“?).

Minute details make or break champion-level teams. To me, a “champion-level” team is a group of individuals who do their very best, 100% of the time with the resources available to them. It doesn’t necessarily mean the team has a long history of winning first place, although that does also come into play as well, obviously.

So, it is these minute details that set teams apart. Here is a one that can be easily overlooked, your hands.

All services are more or less the same, wanting “cupped” hands with fingers joined and curled into the palms. In their drill and ceremonies manuals, the Army and Air Force show what I call, “The Point,” with the second knuckle of the first finger or tip of the thumb being the lowest in the position. The thumb is along the trouser seam and all fingers touch the trouser leg. All and services must use this style in all regulation drill events.

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The service honor guards show a slight variation to this with horizontal knuckles like this. The middle finger is along the trouser seam.

Marine Corps Hand Style

Marine Corps Hand Style

 

 

 

 

 

 

Both styles have the palms facing inward which means all of the fingers must touch the trouser leg. You must follow your service’s guidance as closely as possible. Even if a judge does not recognize the tiniest of details, those tiny details build into a whole package and when each detail is addressed, the whole package takes on a whole new, higher standard that makes onlookers wonder how you have accomplished such amazing precision!

That takes care of the services, but there is more:

Exhibition Drill gives a performer/team room to explore!

Army Honor Guard Hand StyleArmy Honor Guard Hand Style

The Army Honor Guard’s “C-Fist”

Navy HG

The Navy Honor Guard’s Thumb Tuck

Exhibition Hand Style

Exhibition Hand Style

Exhibition Hand Style- “Pinky-out” (front and side views)

Exhibition Hand Style- "Blade"

Exhibition Hand Style- “Blade Hand”

The Not-so-New Problem for JROTC DrillTeams

Canadian Air Cadet DTNumbers and attendance. It’s nothing new to JROTC or some other high school activities. However, when it happens during your four years of school, it seems like a brand new problem has popped up. Over the years, I have received pleas from cadets who so badly want to march on their school’s drill team, but cannot seem to generate enough interest in the program among other cadets.

I received two messages within two days last week, one through Instagram and one through Kik, about drill team practice attendance numbers dropping.

I posted a question on Instagram and Facebook and received some interesting replies like these:

  • More community service hours opportunities are given in reward.
  • I started with a squad and did an exhibition routine with them and presented it to my Battalion. After they saw the things that we could do, it encouraged them to join.
  • I think drill teams should do more small performances in middle schools ms elementary schools. They should do basic stuff within the routine but still look super sharp and cool. They should also wear a nice beat uniform. Appearance attracts also

There are lean years where the extra-curricular activities in JROTC are scraping to get by and then there will be several years of more than enough cadets to fill all of the positions. Many schools experience this phenomenon almost cyclically.

I began to see a pattern, though, with the complaints of instructors not being fully involved tying in with poor attendance at drill team or color guard practice. For those who said their numbers were dropping, I asked if the instructors were involved and received these comments:

  • Not really. [Drill team is] mostly cadet run. It just seems commitment with the new cadets and seniors is just non existent.
  • Our instructors are not really there when we are training. They’re never there during drill. They do however get involved in certain functions, but I don’t really see them as being heavily involved, which is what we really need.

Lack of instructor involvement is an issue that needs to be addressed. But, here is what I see as a possible culprit to this issue: lack of drill and ceremonies awareness. When it comes to senior NCOs and CPOs, they are more management than anything else. While some do have experience with being a Drill Instructor, many do not and, even so, competitive military drill is very different when it comes to advanced training requirements. JROTC instructors who do not have drill experience are more likely to want to stay away from the drill pad when it comes to a drill team because of a lack of knowledge in this area. Something that I truly hope to change through my books and educational clinics.

Click here for all of the articles with the tag, Drill Team Training.

Relevant articles to this issue:

Team Training Difficulties
How to Restart a JROTC Drill Team
Drill Team Drama
My Drill Team Needs to Get Better!

I’ve written articles with suggestions on how to try to conquer this problem (listed above), but here I offer another, very different, suggestion: a community drill team and/or color team (see why I put “team” there instead of “guard,” here). Even partnering with a local Civil Air Patrol, Sea Cadet or Young Marine organization is an option.

The Community Drill Team
Here is a possible situation: You have a certain number of high schools in your area with maybe 5 or 6 cadets who are really interested in forming a team, not enough members for a team from that school, but pool those members into one team and you have a district or community team ready to march in competitions and parades.

There are several issues that come to mind from the beginning:

  • Where to hold practice?

Rotate between schools or hold practice in a central location.

  • How to get to practice?

Car pool to the central location

  • If different services, what manual to follow?

The senior service takes precedent in this order: Army, Marine Corps, Navy, Air Force & Coast Guard

  • What uniform?

Having a squad of each service would work well. It’s different, but then so is this whole situation.

  • Who is in charge, instructor-wise?

This could rotate on a weekly basis.

  • Who is in charge, cadet-wise?

As with the service honor guards, rank will always be respected, but the most competent of the members, regardless of rank, should be in charge. Is there more than one cadet who could lead well? Then have different formation commanders for phase of the competition: exhibition, regulation and inspection.

There are probably more questions to answer based on your unique situation, but I think you get the idea.

Could this work? I believe so, with patience and a willingness to work together, all hurdles can be surmounted.

Exhibition Drill Application Levels

Performance Measurements
Drill Application LevelsThere are five standard levels (“Boxes”) with corresponding number grades and definitions for each box that the World Drill Association Adjudication System grades, for each class: Junior, A and Open. The labels for each box represent the achievement of the performance: Seldom, Rarely, Sometimes, Frequently and Constantly. For WDA World Class, there is a sixth box which is labeled, Sets New Standards. For this example, though, we will simplify the measurement standards and use, Basic, Intermediate and Advanced.

When a Driller or team performs, there are four aspects of a performance that should to be measured.

The level of education, training and skill is evidenced in a performance. You need to ensure that your solo or your team’s performance has all of the following aspects locked in at your team’s level of performance.

Performance Aspects

  1. Drill: the choreographed design of what you march; your position in the drill area and the direction you face.
  2. Body work: whether you are marching armed or not, you must consider incorporating your body in movement, or even keeping your ‘cross’- I assure you, others will.
  3. Footwork: how your feet fit in with your performance. Do they accentuate certain moves? Or are they just there to keep you from falling over?
  4. Equipment Work: rifle, sword/saber, swing flag (for the Cali teams) or guidon, what you spin needs to be a seamless extension of your body.

Measurement Examples

Drill Application LevelsWhat I see in the majority of solo performances that I judge is displayed here at left. Drillers concentrate so much on their equipment work (rifle or sword/saber), that they tend to forget, or they don’t know about, the other aspects of a performance.

This is not necessarily a bad thing- one has to begin somewhere and the process of improving the performance begins with knowledge.

Drill Application LevelsAs another example, some drill teams will have a performance that looks like the picture at right. An unarmed team might look like the picture just below.

Drill Application Levels (3a)You can see how each performance aspect is at a different level. This makes the performance unbalanced and not as effective. Communication from the soloist/team to the audience, including the judge, is not clear. Clear communication is the standard to meet.

Disparities like these two examples show that training is unbalanced- either because the team does not know of each aspect, or because the team does not know how to address and improve the different aspects that are lacking.

The Sum of the Parts- Greater than the Whole

Drill Application LevelsThis image at left is, obviously, what you want. The synergistic affect of all of the performance aspects coming together at an advanced level gives the team that intangible feeling of performance perfection.

But how do you achieve it? Through the different techniques used in precise Training and then Practice and Rehearsal.

A trained judge can see training and practice come through in a performance.

What about the Team that cannot make it to the Advanced Level?
Drill Application Levels (4a)This is a great question! It is OK, to attain a certain of proficiency and remain there.

January: Drill Season is Here!

While some JROTC units have a busy first semester that includes drill meets, for many across America January is when the competitions begin. Some states, like Florida, do not have any drill meets until the end of January, leaving the first semester to Raider meets.

Drill O-clockMaybe, like the school where I teach, Merritt Island High School, you have been having a once-weekly practice to get your first-year cadets up to speed with standing manual and the manual of arms or, as in MIHS’s past, you might begin that work on the first day back to school in January- that is a tough way to begin; having to wedge in enough training to give the cadets their foundation to then start practice. If that is the case, you may already be behind the power curve or eight-ball , as the saying goes. Time is working against those who are unable to begin training at the beginning of school, or better yet, before school starts in the summer. Click here for more on the differences between Training and Practice and here for Rehearsal.

Maybe you need to restart your team? Click here, then.

In any case, military drill season is here! Do you have a training plan? Do you have a schedule to follow with schedule checkpoints along the way? Get going!