Tag Archives: drill team training techniques

To Pin or not to Pin, That is the Question

It’s all about Purposeful Movement

“You must pin your free hand!” Not necessarily. In this picture below, a still from one of Adam Jeup’s (pronounced “jewp”) training videos, you can see that Adam has purposefully pinned his right arm while executing a rifle toss with his left. There is a reason he did this: “military flavor,” enhanced power to the toss, etc.

Adam could have chosen to place his right arm at any point on the clock (let’s say 9:00) and the move would have been a variation and still looked good if he could keep his right arm steady in that position. He also could have kept it moving from the 6 o’clock position pictured to 12 while executing this movement: another variation- layered body movement under the rifle work. This is difficult stuff to do, though, and is for advanced Drillers who can easily manipulate the rifle and then create variations/other movements.

Pinned Arm

The picture below, from army.com, shows the US Army Drill Team during their performance at the Joint Service Drill Competition probably in 2009. The point of the picture is to show you the free arms of three of the soloists. Do you see how they are in different places? They all should be pinned: it looks cleaner, keeps the “military flavor” theme that is the number one requirement for the service drill teams and also does not take energy away from the toss.

Army.com unpinned arms

Muscle Memory

When executing drill and ceremonies training do you know that you are training your muscles to feel “right” when they reach a certain point?

At right is a color bearer’s movements from Attention to Port Arms. Muscle memory helps me get my left forearm to the exact position in which it needs to be each time I assume this position: parallel with the ground, 4 inches away from my torso with my upper arm extending straight from my shoulder.

What’s the best way to achieve muscle memory? When training others, have them assume the position and stay there. I’m not talking about holding a position for an hour, just 20-30 seconds should do it, maybe 3 or 4 times and then, over time, when this is continually practiced, the muscles will “remember” and assume the same position. Reinforcement of the training is a must, one cannot train for a couple minutes and be done with it- training must be a constant in your program.

When you are practicing, use a mirror to help you achieve the exact position you need.

Bottom picture courtesy strangecosmos.com

Learning by “Word of Mouth”

This year’s seniors were taught by last year’s seniors who were taught by the previous year’s seniors, etc., etc., etc. This is common in high schools across the country- unfortunately. No one reads the manual and the idea creeps in that we do it this way, meaning that at our school, we do “XYZ” like this. Where “XYZ” could be anything. Note: we’re not talking about exhibition drill (XD). When XD is the issue, do what you want, how you want! Back to regulation-type procedures.

In regulation drill (RD), you must teach from the manual. [Holding up megaphone] I repeat: you must teach from the manual. Here’s the problem: ‘I’ve been in JROTC for four years I’ve done XYZ plenty of times, I don’t need to read about it, so-and-so taught me’ and so the manual sits on the shelf for another year.

Ever play the “Phone Game”? Everyone sits in a circle and one person begins by saying something like “Your mother wears combat boots.” This short phrase is whispered only once to each person’s neighbor all the way around the circle until everyone has heard the phrase. By the time the last person hears it, the phrase in no way resembles the original, it’s completely different. So too, the “word of mouth” training technique.

How do you think training is accomplished in the military? By the book. From the book. Drill Instructors, Training Instructors and even honor guard instructors all either have the book at their side while training or they are boning up between training sessions. Not to mention other jobs. Lives depend on people doing their jobs correctly. When it comes to drill, lives do not hang in the balance, but you need to handle the small stuff well to be able to handle the big stuff well. What does this all mean? Read your service’s drill and ceremonies manual and other manuals that pertain to drill (flags, protocol, etc.).

15-Count Manual Arms and Moving One’s Head

A question I received: how can you not move your head when your doing the 15-Count Manual of Arms?

Answer: The 15-Count Manual of Arms (the command is: “15-Count, Manual, ARMS“) accomplished either stationary or while marching is, from Order Arms:

  • Right Shoulder (1, 2, 3, 4)
  • Left Shoulder (5, 6, 7, 8)
  • Present Arms (9, 10, 11)
  • Order Arms (12, 13, 14, 15)

Where your head seems to get in the way is going to and from Right Shoulder. When executing Right Shoulder and any movements from Right Shoulder, these movements take the rifle right next to the head and many who handle the rifle for the first time try to move their head around the rifle and not the rifle around their head. It takes practice, much practice, proper technique and muscle memory.

Executing Right Shoulder
From Port Arms and without moving the rifle from the Port position, drop the right hand to the end of the butt stock, now grasp the butt stock and use the fingers, hand and forearm to move the rifle to the right shoulder while bending the right elbow so that the right forearm is parallel to the ground (horizontal). At the same time flare the left hand and move it to the end of the charging handle (depending on what model rifle you are drilling with).

Moving From Right Shoulder
The first standard movement from right shoulder is bringing the rifle to the Port position- your right hand may not move to the small of the stock to complete the Port position, but the rifle will be in that position. Again, you must use your right fingers, hand and forearm to maneuver the rifle from the right shoulder to the Port position. The left hand will meet the rifle at the Port position.

All of this takes the proper training and lots of practice.

I fully explain non-standard/ceremonial movements for Right shoulder in The Honor Guard Manual.

Why do we Practice the way we do?

Fran Hunt Simmons

Sometimes students have a hard time understanding why it is we spend so much time working on individual skills, when it’s easy to see that most of the team can do the skills. I tell them it’s a lot like a sports team. Every experienced baseball player has skills – they already know how to run, how to hit, and how to field. A lot of athletes are self-taught, and they are good at what they do. But when they join a team, they have to learn their coach’s way of doing things, and it may not be what they are used to. We are not individuals performing alone. As a team, we have to develop “the team’s way of doing things” in order to have what’s known as “good technique.” Here are some important terms that apply to this concept:

Skill – The ability to perform a function that has been acquired or learned with practice.
Examples of skills: spins, tosses, exchanges and tricks.

Practice – doing something repeatedly or continuously in order to master it.
– The purpose of practice is to master your skills.
– Achieving individual precision requires knowledge of a standard (such as FM 3-21.5) and unfailing adherence to that standard in performing a set of skills. You learn the rules, and work within them.

Technique – Using the same method to achieve a skill. Every team has its own techniques.

Fundamentals – Groups of techniques
– The purpose of learning fundamentals is to practice our technique.

The Work Ethic Behind Precision
In exhibition drill, you learn a routine between 6-10 minutes long with a team of 9 to 26 people. Team precision requires performing maneuvers that may or may not be explained in any manual with the same technique.

Precision – ability to perform fundamentals with good technique.
Precision is achieved through knowing team fundamentals and through many hours of learning, practicing, adjusting and analyzing the routine. It takes cooperation to achieve a thorough understanding of each move and your individual responsibilities within it.
It will be hard, but you will have help. Remember, we want you to do well. Your professional attitude towards the leadership of the team and towards the many adjustments required will be an important contribution to the effort to maintain high standards.

– In team competition, the judges measure whether skills are performed with precision.
– The team practices their skills with their specific technique using fundamentals in order to achieve precision.

Fran Hunt Simmons a long-time guardie, instructor, adjudicator and coach of the Ansbach High School AJROTC Cougar Battalion Drill Team