Tag Archives: fancy drill

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

Making Things More “Ceremonialer”

“Ceremonialer” is the term I created as I’ve watched members of the military, first responders (many who are veterans), and cadets perform movements that do not bring any more reverence or honor to what they are doing at ceremonies .

Similar terms would be:

When it comes to the American flag and rendering honors, never should anyone use the thinking, “It’s not specifically prohibited, so we can do it.”

While the following may seem like more of a personal pet peeve of mine (which they are) than anything else, there is reasoning behind why a team should not perform these movements and techniques.

The Head Bow

  • Description: During Casket Watch, the Watch Guards posted at the casket bow their heads until the Relief Watch Arrives for the changing of the guard(s). This is also applicable to other ceremonies.
  • Why not to do it: When at the position of Attention, Parade Rest, or Ceremonial at Ease, the head and eyes are straight forward. Period. Another reason not to do it is, communication. It can be very difficult to nearly impossible to communicate with posted Watch Guards during a memorial service. Communication is crucial during ceremonies and the Watch Commander needs to make eye contact with the posted Guards and those guards need to be aware of what is going on around them. I also highly recommend “unarmed” guards (no rifle, or fire axe)
Casket Watch Preferred Technique- Heads up. Courtesy of Today.com

The Colors Presentation

  • Description: the rifle guards spin their rifles in between positions or the team moves into a completely unauthorized configuration for a colors presentation.
  • Why not to do it: The Flag Code and a service drill and ceremonies manual/The Honor Guard Manual are the resources required for the color guard to perform its job properly. That’s it. Never add any flamboyant movement or team configuration. There is a reason for the minimal standards that are written in the guidance; less is more. Stick to that.
Spangdahlem Air Base (Germany) Honor Guard in France, 2010.

The Flag Fold

  • Description: Two team members march to the front of the room with an American flag, they unfold it, open it up fully, and refold it before presenting the flag.
  • When to do it: (with thanks to KM for his input) Military participation in ceremonies that bring discredit to the armed services or exist primarily to raise money. Civilian ceremonies that exploit the military for personal and financial gain would fall under this category as well.There are numerous occasions where individuals will need to fold a flag but the only times that require it to be performed as part of an official ceremony are Retreat and Military Funeral Honors…so if the organization is not doing one of the two, then they need to seriously ask themselves if they should be doing it at all.

    If the flag fold is not being conducted for a functional purpose, or mandated by-law then it is inappropriate. What constitutes a “functional purpose”? It would be storing the flag or giving it to another person or organization.

    Storage: during an official ceremony, Retreat, simply because you took the flag down for the evening and obviously you have to fold it. Mandated by-law: during a military funeral.

    In the AF, the presentation of the flag is mandatory for retirees. The presentation is mandatory, not the flag fold. The actual tradition is to present the flag in a shadow box. All the outlandish ceremonies over the last 20-30 years is a recent occurrence.

    So to summarize, “flag fold ceremonies” are performed all too often and their impact/meaning waters down the significance of folding the flag.

    Public Affairs organizations in all branches strictly control and attempt to prevent this from happening. Unfortunately, volunteers, and even installation honor guard units “approve” and take part in such events without them being vetted through their responsible PA office.

Long Island, N.Y. (Feb 05) – BM3 Allen performs flag folding honors for a funeral service held at the Calverton National Cemetery. PO3 Allen is assigned to the Navy and Marine Corps Reserve Center in Amityville, N.Y. which coordinates and provides funeral honor services to the Long Island region. U.S. Navy photo by PM1 Matthew J. Thomas

The Tilt During the Flag Fold

  • Description: Two team members march to the front of the room with an American flag, they unfold it, open it up fully and, instead of going directly back into refolding it (as they should), they tilt the flag toward the audience.
  • Why not to do it: While, technically, The Tilt is benign and may add some sort of emotional accent, the move is not in any flag fold guidance. There’s nothing “wrong” with it, but it is not authorized.

NOTE: The example picture below is not meant, in any way, to shame the cadets performing the technique.

The Tilt Example William Blount High School TN AFJROTC

A Reading Plan for JROTC Instructors and Cadets

Drill Team TechniqueFor many years now, I’ve received requests from JROTC instructors, especially those recently retired and new to the program, and some highly motivated cadets as to where to begin when teaching/learning drill.

For regulation and color guard drill:
  • Army- Training Circular (TC) 3-21.5. 
  • Marine Corps, Navy, and Coast Guard- Marine Corps Order (MCO)P5060.2
  • Air Force*- Air Force Manual (AFMAN) 36-2203 and TC 3-21.5

*AFJROTC cadets are to use the TC for the manual of arms since cadets use the M1903 rifle almost exclusively (if your unit uses the M14, use the MCO). For color guard, however, beginning and ending positions must look like the AFMAN pictures.

Supplement those with:
 For all exhibition drill applications:
  • Exhibition Drill For The Military Drill Team: Among other information, this book contains a complete foot drill-only routine, albeit quite basic. You can put together the moves listed and explained  into a routine that would contain variety and floor coverage. The armed or unarmed movements are left to you to create.
  • Exhibition Drill For The Military Drill Team, Vol II: More information to help in the creative process in armed and unarmed
  • Training For Military Drill Teams, Color Guards & Judges:  This book replaces the Filling in the Gaps series of books creating a specifically targeted book that includes every article on the DrillMaster Website from 2011 to February 2017, but organized into categories for better study.
  • Exhibition Drill For The Military Drill Team, Vol III, Unarmed Drill Movement: Coming in 2018!
Drill Meet competition judges are not trained, they are briefed. And, it’s not anyone’s fault. Even the judges for Nationals receive a great couple days of briefing, but there is no time to train for any competition, the training needs to be accomplished by each potential judge.
Both of these books are a wealth of knowledge not only for the judge, but for drill team coaches and team members.
  • The World Drill Association Adjudication Manual and Rule Book: This is the professional standard set for judging military drill. This manual is an adaptation of the Winter Guard International Adjudication Manual (with permission) adapted for the Military Drill World.
  • Continuing Education For The WDA Visual Adjudicator: This is a continuation of the training received by judges for Drum Corps International, Bands of America, Winter Guard International, and practically every state pageantry adjudication organization. It’s not just for music judging, it’s for all judging.
If you and your cadets are interested in more advanced applications of their training, I suggest obtaining the following
  • The Honor Guard Manual, Second Edition, spiral bound: An adaptation of the USAF Honor Guard Standard, this manual covers
  • The Honor Guard Manual, Volume II, spiral bound: scheduled for release in early 2018. This book covers specialized ceremonies (ex. dignified transfer of remains at an airport) and elaborates on many details covered in the first volume.

Using Colors Cases

JROTC color guards compete throughout each school year and part of the color guard competition is uncasing and casing the colors. It’s a very technical process involving and adaptation of Sling Arms, the uncasing sequence, an adaptation of Tighten Slings, and casing sequence. Not only that, but the team must spend several minutes executing precision movements in a box no bigger than 50′ x 50′. During the performance, the cases for the colors must be precisely folded and then stored in the ceremonial/web belts during the routine. For a ceremony, however…

A ceremony is entirely different and the cases really should be stored in a preparation room or the team’s transportation. I’ve witnessed both cadets and adult teams march around with the cases tucked in the colors harnesses or the belts. Not good. Tucked cases do not present a professional nor ceremonial image, please do not use them.

Just Don’t Do It…

The picture below was taken as an example.

While there are issues with the rifle guards’ salutes, the main problem here is the color bearers’ salute.

  1. The salute pictured here executed by the color bearers is only executed in the Marines, Navy and Coast Guard by armed (rifle or guidon) individuals when not in formation when approaching or being approached by an officer. Never in formation. The Army used to use this technique, but discontinued the practice decades ago (the 1960, I think).
  2. The American flag never salutes. Ever.
  3. The flags should be tucked between the right arm and the staff (not the staff and the torso).
  4. Everyone should be wearing ceremonial/web belts and the color bearers should wear colors harnesses- even if the harnesses are not used.

Let’s say the ceiling is too low, the colors cannot fit in the harnesses. Trail Arms is appropriate and going to Present is for the non-national color. That color dips slightly forward (this position is called Angle Port) while the American remains vertical.

If you are on an honor guard/ceremonial unit, follow the techniques outlined in The Honor Guard Manual which differ slightly from those stated above.

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.

Why is Close Order Drill Necessary in the Armed Forces?

A question from India: Why is drill necessary in the armed forces?

There are three types of drill: Regulation Drill (RD), Exhibition Drill (XD), Ceremonial Drill.

Drill, mainly XD, is life for some, but what about those basic trainees coming into the military. Why do they drill unarmed and even armed?
Close order drill, what we call, RD, instills discipline, timing, teamwork, esprit de corps*, confidence, teamwork, leadership, followership, communication (when teaching), listening, camaraderie, satisfaction in accomplishment, achievement, self-confidence, a certain amount of honor, respect, and it also helps trainees react immediately to commands, all qualities that a Soldier, Marine, Sailor, Airman, and Coast Guardsman needs to accomplish the mission. Adding a rifle into drill helps the trainee become very familiar with that piece of equipment on which their life may rely at some point. The more familiar one is with their weapon, the better able they are to use it.

Drill is very necessary in initial training and as a refresher throughout one’s career.

*It is French for “spirit of the body”, the “body” being an organization or, in this case, a military service and it’s subordinate units.